Thinking Makes It So

It was a weekend in which I learned a lot about the ways I get in my own way. I kicked it off by making a lot of great progress at work on things I had been putting off. I would say that I’m better about things than I have ever been, but I tend to procrastinate projects especially where I don’t know where to start. I have a couple of those that were starting to make me anxious, at work, and so I finally just dove in. Once I got the ball rolling, I could understand what to do better, and I started to get a much better sense for it. It was such a relief. I left the office with “once begun is half done!” ringing cheerfully in my head.

And then I went home and started thinking about what to do first. And arguing in my head with myself: “Well, yeah, I could do that, but then the appraiser’s coming and I have to make the place back into near-showing conditions, so I can’t have boxes out…” or whatever. And I spent way too much time arguing with myself unhelpfully. And punishing myself for not making better progress (this doesn’t work, by the way. You can just stop doing it because it’s never going to make you feel more like doing the thing you can’t make yourself do).

When I finally got out of my own way and just started doing things that I knew needed to be done, things came together pretty quickly. I went back to feeling good about my progress. I left the house pretty much ready— I have a few dishes to hand-wash and throw into the oven (dishwasher’s full of clean dishes and I have to hide the dish rack) and the dog’s stuff to deal with as I shuffle him off to doggie day-care over my lunch hour, but the house looks (knock wood) pretty presentable. The process is still utterly ridiculous, but I digress.

I made the house stuff much more complicated than it had to be. I made the work stuff much more complicated than it had to be. I think I’m going to have to go back to a motto I used briefly, about 15 years ago. I read a quote attributed to Mark Twain that said “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.” I think the quote works on a number of levels, as most good writing does, but I use it to remind me to do the thing I’m dreading first, before I make it worse by piling more dread on it. I’ve found that when I face the thing I’m dreading, many times, it takes less than 5 minutes to get it out of my life forever, and I’ve piled hours of utterly pointless dread on top of it. Even if it takes longer than 5 minutes, usually the anticipation is much worse than the actual task.

So that’s my advice to you today. Stop right now, and go swallow your live frog. Get it over with, so you can move on to the next thing. I know you won’t believe me, but you’ll be glad just to be on the other side of it. And sometimes, the emotional reward for doing it is much higher, because you know what it took you to face it. Do it now!

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