HENRY DAVID THOREAU
ADVERTISEMENT FOR RUNNING SHOES
The mind and emotions (your passion) are now in alignment behind your Dream (or moving in that direction more and more).
Now it's time for action--to DO IT!
The biggest lie we tell ourselves in the area of action is, "I'll do it later." As C. Northcote Parkinson said, "Delay is the deadliest form of denial."
Putting things off is known, of course, as procrastination. I know that "pro" means for, but I don't know what "crastination" means. Maybe it means laziness. Maybe it means don't go after your Dream, but kid yourself into thinking that someday you will. Whatever crastination means, I'm against it.
You could say I'm pro anticrastination.
(I looked it up: crastination comes from crastinus , Latin for pertaining to tomorrow. Pro crastinus is "putting things off till tomorrow." "Never put off till tomorrow," Mark Twain said, "what you can do the day after tomorrow." Procrastinus-crastinus?)
The interesting thing about "later" is that a statement containing it can never be proven false. One can never reproach us for not doing something. If confronted, we can always say, "I said I'd do it later. It's not later yet."
In this way, we can put off and put off and put off indefinitely. We only run out of laters when we run out of breath. Death is nature's way of saying, "No more laters left."
We know how many laters we have stockpiled from the past. We know that adding another later to that pile is like adding a grain of sand to a beach. Somehow, we know we're probably never going to get back to that particular grain of sand. We know "later" is a lie.
WILLIAM BLAKE 1791
ZERO MOSTEL THE PRODUCERS
If you can do something now, do it. If it can't be done now, (a) decide if it is going to get done. If yes, (b) choose when it will get done.
If something doesn't get done, and you decide you will still do it, reschedule a specific date and time . Write it in your appointment book. If it's not worth the amount of time it takes to schedule it now, it's probably not going to get done "later."
When we put necessary activities off until some mythical Laterland, we drag the past into the future. The burden of yesterday's incompletions is a heavy load to carry. Don't carry it.
A Dream is an ephemeral thing. In traveling to it, you have to travel light. "I travel light;" Christopher Fry wrote, "as light, that is, as a man can travel who will still carry his body around because of its sentimental value." Getting in the habit of doing what needs to be done as it presents itself to be done--whether it needs to be done in that moment or not--creates aninner freedom for the next moment, the next activity. Such as pursuing your Dream.
How do we learn? By doing. As Aristotle said, "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." Yes, everything is best learned by doing.
A primary reason people don't do new things is because they want to do them perfectly--first time. It's irrational, impractical, unworkable--and yet, it's how most people run their lives. It's called the Perfection Syndrome.
Whoever said we had to do it perfect?
Our parents. And if not our parents, there were those bastions of perfection--school teachers. (The ones who would point out that the last paragraph should read, "Whoever said we had to do it perfectly? " They would also point out that paragraphs should be more than one sentence long.)
For the most part, we weren't taught to set our own goals and to achieve them. In addition, we had to achieve someone else's goal in "the right way." Merely reaching the goal was not enough. The goal had to be attained the way someone else (whoever was teaching us) thought was the "best way" (that is, their way).
I say, don't worry--just DO IT!
Don't worry about "right way"; don't even worry about doing it "my way." DO IT! When it's all said and done--when you've reached your goal--you can look back and discover what your way really was. As Margaret Mead said, "The best way to do field work is not to come up for air until you're done." Amen.
Most people have an ideal image of themselves. If they can't perform according to their own imaginary standards of perfection, they "take their ball and go home." As Cardinal Newman observed, "Nothing would be done at all if a man waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault with it."
"Men would like to learn to love themselves, but they usually find they cannot," Gerald Brenan explained. "That is because they have built an ideal image of themselves which puts their real self in the shade."
This "ideal image" of ourselves--the one that's "perfect" and won't let anyone see us as other than perfect--we must send on a long field trip somewhere. Maybe Alpha Centauri.
The only way to even approach doing something perfectly is through experience, and experience, as Oscar Wilde observed, "is the name everyone gives to their mistakes."
Mistakes are excellent teachers. Sir Humphrey Davy wrote, "I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes." Make as many mistakes as you can, as quickly as you can. "Show me a guy who's afraid to look bad," said Rene Auberjonois, "and I'll show you a guy you can beat every time." Set out each day to look foolish, stupid, blundering, awkward--anything you consider the perfect representation of im perfect. In this way, you shatter the false image of a "perfect self," and get used to being a stumble-through-it, catch-as-catch-can, make-do, seat-of-the-pants, mistake-making human being--just like every other successful dreamer.
After all, it's not perfect being perfect.
When we put ourselves on the path of expansion by committing to a goal that's outside our comfort zone, we're going to be given a lot of opportunities to expand. We are not going to be able to choose all those opportunities for expansion.
Our choice is either "expand" or "contract." If we choose "expand," we will expand--and we'll always wish there were more comfortable ways of doing it.
Let's say someone's goal is to get her body in shape. The way this would happen, she imagines, is in a sparkling health club with chrome-plated barbells and Tom Cruise holding her feet while she does sit-ups. How, she wonders, will the money "materialize" so she can pay the queen's ransom of a membership?
Meanwhile, in the first week after committing to her goal, her car runs out of gas, and she has to walk five miles to the nearest phone; an emergency happens at work and she is asked to fill in, packing boxes in the warehouse; her freezer is accidentally unplugged and all her ice cream melts; and, on the weekend, she goes on a spiritual retreat, hoping to get some rest. All weekend, however, is devoted to what they call "dharma yoga," which sounds nice in principle, but in reality is digging ditches, cutting down trees, and helping a pair of not-so-busy beavers build a dam.
At the end of the first week, she has lost two pounds, taken an inch off her waist, and looks better--but feels sorer--than she has in years.
This is how it happens. We get the Dream, but we don't get to dictate every step toward the Dream.
We can, of course, refuse to do an uncomfortable activity placed before us. When we know something might move us a step closer to our goal and we choose not to do it "because it's uncomfortable," we are also choosing not to pursue our goal. It's that simple.
This refusal has two results. First, we are not one step closer to our goal. Second, the opportunities to expand--to reach the goal--will, in the future, be presented less frequently. When we un commit through inaction (honoring the comfort zone), the goal-fulfillment mechanism backs off, too. Our goal-fulfillment mechanism is not there to hurt us; it's there to help us. If we indicate--through nonaction--that we aren't ready to take the steps necessary to reach the goal, it says, "Fine. Let me know when you're ready."
It's as though we went to a friend's house for the evening. After asking three or four times in the first hour if we wanted anything to drink, and receiving a "No, thank you" each time, our host would, naturally, ask less frequently, and, eventually, stop.
Whatever you find most uncomfortable in getting to your goal, be willing to do it. You may not have to do it, but be willing to. Your willingness will be tested. If you say, "I'm willing!" and the opportunity arises and you're not, then you're not being honest with yourself.
When a portion of the comfort zone is being expanded, it always seems as though expansion of any other part would be more tolerable, more acceptable. We want to put it off, postpone, and do it later, so some other part of the comfort zone can be challenged.
In fact, when that other part is challenged, it will seem as though this is the worst part of the comfort zone to expand, and any other area would be better than this. Discomfort always seems more tolerable anywhere other than the place in which it's being felt.
The solution? Plan to be uncomfortable. Understand that it's a necessary part of success. Learn to be comfortable with discomfort. Have compassion for the part of you that's growing. The first step is a willingness to be uncomfortable.
The next step is to realize which emotion from the comfort zone you're feeling each time you feel "uncomfortable." Fear? Guilt? Unworthiness? Hurt feelings? Anger? Observe it. See if you can locate it in the body.
As I mentioned earlier, fear is probably the most frequently felt of the comfort zone's emotions. Not only do we feel fear, we also tend to fear every other comfort-zone emotion. Unworthiness, for example, seldom has to make an appearance. The fear of unworthiness is enough to keep most people in check. If you feel fear, ask yourself if you're fearing something, or if you're afraid of feeling some other emotion.
The final step is turning your perception of each "negative" emotion into its positive counterpart. Learn to see fear as excitement, guilt as the energy for personal change, unworthiness as the discipline to live your Dream, hurt feelings as caring, and anger as the energy for outer change.
This reprogramming can take some time. Do not, however, wait until you have the "conversion technique" mastered before moving--steadily and persistently--toward your Dream. Some people are past their first Dream and well on the way to their second before they can even locate the comfort zone's feelings in the body.
For now, be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it's a small price to pay for living your Dream.
Copyright © 1991-1996 Prelude Press & Peter McWilliams