Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A New Default or 15 Minutes to a new you.


     Have you ever noticed how we live our lives in our heads? We exist almost entirely on ideas instead of acts. It's axiomatic that we feel by having thoughts, particularly "taking action" thoughts, that we have made some sort of significant progress towards accomplishments.

     Not true.

     Thinking and planning is not doing. It never will be. I am not saying that they don't have a lot of value. They set the artificial "map" of a possible territory. But that's really all that happens. Plus when you look closely you will see that having a "map" or "goal" does not prevent the flow of life from simply changing your chosen direction. Outcomes are never a surety. Change is the norm.

     My friend Carl told me that he had decided to do some work outside his house. It had been a couple of years since he did anything due to an injury that was now fully healed.  Now the time was ripe to get the yard and house in shape. He figured it would take several weekends and wanted to get started. So Carl sat at the kitchen table and drew out a picture of the yard and carefully labeled the areas he needed to work on and exactly what he needed to do. Then he made a list of the things he would need. Mulch, seed, some flowers, boarder bricks, and he took a walk through the garage and decided he needed a few tools.

     He was done for the day and congratulated himself on finally getting started.

     The next weekend he took some pictures of the house and decided he needed to brick the chimney,
paint the shutters, and blacktop the driveway. Again going to the garage to check his tools situation and make a list. He also went to a local mega store and wrote down some prices of materials and tools. He felt he was making some good progress at this point.

     The  next weekend he was unable to do any yard work because it rained really hard that weekend and he decided to let it go another week.

     The next weekend he had a trip planned with the family so nothing was accomplished.

     Hey! Finally the weather was good and he was going to be home on a weekend so he went to the store and bought materials brought them home and loaded them in the garage. Done for the day he really felt a sense of accomplishment.

     He wasn't "feeling well" the next weekend so he put the project off.

So at this point your probably asking yourself is Carl ever going to get this done? Well I really don't know. He hasn't started yet and as I write this June will be over soon.

     Carl was over the other day and was bitching because he hadn't accomplished anything in the yard or house. I said nothing but inside I understood how the whole event was playing out. Carl was doing a version of a pattern that a lot of us professional procrastinators use. This is what happened to me when I initially attended college and was given an assignment. First I would make "plans" to do an assignment that needed to be done. I would plan what night I was going to do it. Then I would make sure that I had everything I needed to accomplish the assignment. Then I would get my "work area" ready. All this would take up Friday and Saturday. By the time I finished screwing around on Sunday I would find myself up against the clock concerning the time. I would then feel anxious and most of the time very angry. At everything. I always managed to get the work done but hardly ever in a timely manner. Carl has his own version of this cycle.

     Most of us have been through this but it's worth looking at time to time. We need to ask ourselves "What am I doing?" Not the "thinking of doing or planning" doing but actually taking action on my thoughts type of doing. It seems that we have come to a place in time where we are starting to believe that thinking about something is doing something. It's not. I get lots of blank stares when I ask people "So what are you doing about that?" If you watch or listen to the news you run into a lot of reports on things that appear relatively out of your hands when it comes to doing anything about it. "Feeling bad" or "sad" about events shows you have some emotional connection. However it's not going to resolve anything.

     I suspect lots of people manage to feel better by feeling bad. That way they can assuage their feelings about the issue, relieve some feelings, show others how much they care (lots of people can't seem to wait to tell me how much they care about stuff) and at the same time do nothing.

     I read once that you can tell somethings a problem if it has a solution. If not you are worrying. I wasn't sure about that until I actually started using that statement as a baseline for my thinking. I have found it's true, the only difference is if you are trying to actively find an answer. Even then we usually need to become active in real life in order to find solutions. We have been learning to think for so long that we actually believe that all problems are going to be solved by thinking.

     Thinking, when necessary, is a good way to start. And almost all the time the solution is going to have an "action" involved in coming to a solution. So what we need to focus on is thinking to action. There needs to be an action part of any problem solving, not the one we see in our heads, but the actual "moving the body through space" type of doing.

     Carl had the right idea when he went to the store, it fell apart when he was unable to further his action. As you can see Carl is starting to eat up his time and like most summers they move forward at a relentless pace.

     Committing to action is fine. Do not fall into the trap of "mind actions." Saying that your committed to doing something might make you feel good but it's still not the act of doing. Talking will not get anything done and it uses up time.

     You have probably noticed that time is a precious commodity. Or maybe not. However you look at time I can assure you that it's the single and most valuable resource you have. Without time we have nothing.

      I think that spending 15 minutes a day taking action is sufficient to overcome inertia. Most of us have and can spend 15 minutes a day on things we find important. What I find is that 15 minutes will prove to me how much my intent is real. It's better to take a walk for 15 minutes than to take weeks planning out and researching an elaborate exercise program. You can always spend a little time refining and restructuring your action. But if we are unwilling to commit to 15 minute period than what are we doing?

     Why 15 minutes? No real reason. Like most periods of time it's pretty arbitrary and in itself doesn't matter. But I like it because it falls under the heading doable. If 15 seems to long try 10 or 5. You can add more time later if you want. The idea is to start setting up a new "default" system. It becomes stronger if you can use the same time of day or week as a regular time.

     I sincerely hope you find something you have been planning and try it for fifteen minutes. Do not worry about what anyone thinks or how long anyone else is doing anything. Just pick the thing you find important and give it and you the gift of time.