Today’s is a guest post by Annie Sisk of Pajama Productivity
There’s a special kind of heartache, known mostly to frustrated creative types.
Would-be writers with novels inside them, aching to get out and on to the page …
Timid visual artists who’ve been told one too many times their work is too “out there” to be successful …
Garage guitar heroes who are starting to believe the old man’s exhortations to get a “real” job …
Newbie entrepreneurs-in-spirit who’ve been scared shitless to start the business taking shape in their souls because, duh, the economy …
And then the next thing you know, years have gone by. And you’re still writing down the same damn dream in your morning pages. Every. Freaking. Day.
Worse? You realize it’s the same damn dream every freaking day.
And in all that time, you’re no closer – not in any measurable, significant way. (At least, that’s how it feels.)
That kind of disappointment in your self – that kind of full-on anguish – is one of the worst feelings in the world.
And I’m here to help you get rid of it, once and for all.
Think of this as your Big Dreams vs. Major Procrastination Manifesto. It’s your battle plan. Your road map. Your warrior’s credo.
This is what I know after chasing more dreams than I can count, with quite a few multi-year episodes of analysis paralysis in between.
Read it. Heed what makes sense to you. Make it your own.
But always – always – keep in mind this one unassailable truth:
Productivity means you’re producing something;
please make sure it’s something of value to you.
Producing a dream is fucking hard.
It requires harder work than you can ever imagine in your pre-producing dreaming state. Work that will stun you with its difficulties and built-in obstacle courses. Work that will leave you winded, flat on your ass, gasping for air.
After all, we’re not talking about making wishy-washy wishes come true. Wishes are easy. Dreams? Not so much.
So make sure that it’s a dream worthy of that effort and time.
Don’t be afraid to dream HUGE. Don’t edit your dreams while you’re dreaming them. Put it all on the table.
You can always trim it down later, if you need to.
But whatever you do to it later, that dream is going to have to make your heart skip a few beats, your pulse quicken automatically, your breathing become shallow, and your whole soul feel like it’s being pulled out of you from an invisible string in the front so that you have no choice but to follow.
So dream HUGE.
Gut Check the Dream
If your dream has been one that’s hung around for a few years without much action on your part, it’s time to get brutally honest with yourself.
Sure, it’s an awesome dream. It’s an exciting dream.
But is it still your dream?
There’s no wrong answer here, except the dishonest one.
If it’s no longer pulling your soul out of your body, then gently lay it aside, thank it for its time in your life and all the lessons it taught you, and dream a different dream.
If it is still your dream, then steel yourself. You have no choice but to embrace it and carry it now – and that means you’re in for a hell of a ride.
But first …
Claim Your Reasons Why
Before you lift another finger, or make one more plan – STOP.
Get out several pieces of paper and a pen.
And tell yourself WHY.
Why this dream?
Why is this dream imperative to you?
Why is it do-or-die time? Why do you have to bring it to life now?
Your piece(s) of paper with your reasons-why – that’s the super-secret weapon. That list decisively ends the war on procrastination and overwhelm. It’s the only thing that will keep you going long-term.
Forget about willpower.
Forget about discipline, even.
Those things fail and falter, because they are born out of human frailty.
But your reasons-why? They are immortal. Until those reasons change or no longer apply, they will continue to exist, value-neutral and omnipotent.
Don’t skip this step. It’s the whole ball game.
Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
You haven’t produced this great big awesome dream yet, despite years of yearning.
Isn’t it already clear to you that your current approach isn’t working?
Time for some tough love, then, and let this one sink into your bones: If you want different results, you’re going to have to do different things.
And the second part of that tough-love advice might be even harder to hear and accept, so take a deep breath … let it out … and now, understand this:
The actions your dream requires you to take will move you well outside your comfort zone.
And that’s OK.
Yes, you will have to move past the seductive siren songs of the Internet and TV.
You will have to physically move your ass off the couch.
You will have to put in additional hours of effort.
You will have to learn new things. You will have to do new things that you’re not entirely skilled at yet.
And that’s OK.
Get comfortable with the prospect of being uncomfortable – of pushing yourself past your current limits – of being in the unknown, of living in the spaces between words and in the question mark at the end of all those doubts.
You may be there for a lot longer than you’d prefer to be, or you might get lucky and sail right through that awkward period and into bliss.
But that Sea of Discomfort lies smack dab in the middle between You-Now and Huge Dream, and you’re gonna have to cross it.
This is the critical moment.
Etymology is a powerful thing sometimes. Did you know that the word “decide” comes from a root that means “to cut off”? It’s true.
Think about that. Let it sink in.
You are deciding to do this huge, scary, life-changing thing.
That means you are cutting off all other options, including the options of Not Doing It, Doing It Later, Deciding You Don’t Give A Crap, Talking Yourself Out Of It, and Letting Others Talk You Out Of It.
Strap on your chaps and pull up your boots.
It’s time to cowgirl up.
Anticipate the Logjams
You’ve been thinking about this dream a long time now. Maybe you even took some tentative steps towards bringing it to life.
So somewhere deep inside, you know where you’re going to trip up.
You know where the fear and the doubt will overwhelm your motivation and your desire.
You know what distractions will pop up to seduce your attention away from your dream.
You know your weaknesses.
Write them all down, right now.
Then figure out what you’re going to do differently this time when those logjams occur. (Remember: to get different results, you have to do different things.)
Will you call a friend for accountability? Hire a coach? Write in your journal? Review your reasons-why list? Do ten push-ups and go for a walk? Meditate?
What will it take to move past your distractions and fears and doubts and obstacles?
Write them down.
Inventory Your Assets
Every skill you possess.
Every subject you know.
Every person you know. And their skills and smarts.
Every physical asset.
Your computer and its miraculous wifi connection. (Or the free one at the town library.)
Your mile-wide stubborn streak.
Everything you do, everything you have, everything you know, everything you are, and all the people you know (and what they do/have/know/are) – these are your assets.
List them out. How can they help you birth that huge dream?
Fill in the Holes
What’s missing in that inventory list?
What don’t you know?
What do you need but are missing?
Do you know anyone who has that missing thing?
Do you know anyone who knows anyone who has that missing thing?
If so, take it off the “holes” list and put it on the “assets” list. Worry about how you’ll convince this person to help you later. For now, you need to focus on mapping out the terrain ahead.
It All Comes Down to GWAR
No, not these guys.
GWAR is the acronym for the basic, fundamental approach that will get you to your dream, whatever that dream might be:
- Get a plan.
- Work the plan.
- Analyze your results.
- Revise the plan as necessary.
Where most folks go wrong:
- They don’t have an actual plan. They don’t write it down, they don’t do the preliminary work we’re talking about here, they don’t anticipate the logjams and they don’t figure out what they don’t know.
- They have a plan but they don’t consistently work the plan. They’re great on the preliminary stuff, but when it comes to moving over the hump between planning and doing, they stumble. They falter. Most probably because they haven’t yet gotten comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- They have a plan, and they’re working it, but they’re not paying attention to their results. They keep stubbornly insisting that the first plan is the only plan, and they just have to keep doing those things over and over and sometime, eventually, they’ll see different results.
- They have a plan, they’ve worked it, they know they’re not getting the results they want—but instead of revising the plan accordingly, they give up. Game over.
Imperfect Action Now Beats Perfect Action Later
Keep It Front and Center
Life will conspire to keep you where you are. Life tends towards chaos and entropy. You will have to fight hard to keep these forces from overwhelming your battle plan.
One of the saddest truths about why people fail to accomplish their goals: sometimes, it’s simply because they forget to care.
They forget they’re “supposed to be” doing something else.
Life conspires. Life intrudes. Life devolves. Life demands.
Dig deep – deeper than you have ever dug within yourself before.
Put reminders of your dream everywhere. Sticky notes on the fridge. A scrolling text screensaver on your computer. Motivational posters on the walls. A vision board. Whatever.
Do not let it slip to the back burner.
Keep it front and center.
No Longer a Dream
And now, it’s no longer a dream.
Now, it’s your mission.
A mission you chose to accept, with your eyes wide open, with a clarity of focus and a rock-solid foundation of expectation and commitment beneath your feet and your integrity on the line.
And you know this to be true: one day, you will stand tall in the center of what you have created.
On that day, you will say “Mission accomplished.”
Photo credit: © Goran Turina
About the Author:
Annie Sisk, a writer and marketing consultant, is essentially lazy by nature, so she’s learned from necessity how to do more crap before noon than most of those folks in the snazzy corner offices do all week. And yes, she does it in jammies (actually, yoga pants and t-shirts, but since she often sleeps in yoga pants and t-shirts, it totally counts). You can read more of Annie’s get-your-crap-done advice at Pajama Productivity, the go-to productivity site for creative workers. Annie lives in the North Carolina mountains with her daughter, as well as the (possibly imaginary, but don’t tell them that) llamas who make up her support staff.