My friend and colleague, Lise Porter, loves to write. She actually ends our phone conversations — sometimes prematurely in my mind — so that she can go back to writing.
And I marvel, how does she do it? I would almost always stay on the phone in avoidance of writing. I have to schedule and structure and procrastinate and ruminate before I sit down and face my aloneness and the blank page. I sometimes wish I had a magic pill that would ignite my passion to write.
But instead, I must manufacture it. Good news: It’s totally doable. When all is said and done, I get to it. Over time, I have figured out a way to include my procrastination and discomfort and supportive friends into an effective model of self-leadership. The bottom line is, I do what I must in order to feel good about myself.
How do you self-lead, and get to doing what is important? Here are some factors and guidelines that make up my personal struggle and triumph with discipline when there is no external authority, structure or deadlines to motivate me. Artists, dreamers and soloprenuers, this one’s for you.
So, when you need to but you don’t wanna . . .
1) Activate the Inner Committee : The one in you who protests and rebels, the voice of defiance, often sounds like a child. The one who pressures to achieve, the taskmaster, frequently sounds like a parent. The two create a power struggle inside you that leaves you polarized, vacillating between motivation and guilt and desire and resistance.
But there are other figures in your inner world; ones that aren’t linked up to blame, punishment and approval. The muse, the director, the imp, the warrior — whoever they are — find them, lead with them, talk to them, listen, bring them in on the situation. Extract the wisdom from your own spacious heart. There is always a voice that can guide you to the best possible set of actions. And when you find it: TRUST IT & LET IT BE. Avoid cycling back into the power struggle as a way to cut off your power and stay stuck.
2) Activate the Outer Committee: Tell the people who care about you what you are working on. Invite them to check in on you. You can keep it loose, but it’s much more effective to formalize the use of an outer committee by joining an accountability group or creating a structured partnership with a peer, or ever hiring someone to nag you. (http://pronagger.com/)
3) Pick the Right Golden Carrot : There’s something to be said for a good old rewards system. It’s not for everyone, but who doesn’t love to be rewarded in some way? Sometimes you think big — the more I work on creating and launching my new product, the faster I’ll make the money to travel — and sometimes you think smaller — ice cream. I hate to admit that I occasionally use TV watching (those Netflix series are addictive) as a reward for finishing an article or other business related tasks. I won’t watch if I haven’t done what I’ve set out to do, because a) I keep promises, and b) it would make me feel bad about myself to do so. Feeling bad about myself is something I am increasingly unwilling to experience, hint, hint.
4) Master The Bitter Threshold: We live in a world of opposites — day and night, light and dark, pleasure and pain — and no matter how much positive thinking you do, you cannot transcend this fact: Some things are painful.
There is a specific phrase I use to define the type of pain that comes when leading yourself into a realm that is good for you, for example, meditation, or healthy eating, or something creative like writing. I call it The Bitter Threshold. It is the hurt before it feels good. It is the space between the comfort of rest and the passion of hard work. It is a transitional world, and therefore, like most transitional things, it is uncomfortable.
Your Bitter Threshold may include a squirminess, the discomfort of settling down, or the ripping apart of breaking through. Do you have the strength and self-love to let yourself ride through it to the place where you are freely immersed in what you are doing?
5) Resistance, Shmizistance : Stop calling your avoidance Resistance and have some fun. Has knowing you’re resisting something ever helped you stop resisting it? Not for me. The word resistance activates that inner authoritarian. Try saying I am “in creative process”; “activating my power to choose how I spend my time”; “Goofing off,” or anything but Resistance. This way, it moves much faster and keeps you out of victim, which is a powerless role. You can’t get much done when you’re feeling powerless.
I hope you find these ideas useful in your journey towards stepping into your own authority. As you may have noticed, there is nothing about creating schedules or deadlines for yourself — those tools are important and are available in abundance. It’s the inner work of feeling worthy so that you can show up for those deadlines that is the real tough stuff. It’s all good. Here’s to enduring those bitter thresholds, so they may lead us into the creativity, focus, accomplishment and openness of the new experiences on the other side. Give it time.