The grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, and sometimes it is.
The grass is always grey and tastes like shit the InBetween-land. That’s where the uncommitted, undecided and undisciplined people live.
It is a place of great misery.
If I don’t watch it, this is what happens:
I have about twenty five things scattered on my mind, stuff that I’d love to do. Then life happens and it consumes some of that time and energy that I had available to me.
No problem, there’s still some left!
Then I start first one of the twenty five things.
I make an half-assed attempt, and get something at the most halfway done. Then I switch to some other thing. Then to another thought, another video, another activity. Soon I find myself laying on the bed with a phone in my hand, browsing the web and following links from a site to another, reading and watching a whole lot of nothing. Time flies.
That’s choosing the path of least resistance.
Surprisingly, this way of being does not bring about satisfaction or happiness, even if the “activities” themself are somewhat pleasant, or at least not challenging.
Does this sound familiar to you?
On a bad day I am anxious that I don’t have time to do what I want to do, or I am anxious about how to use the time in the best way. Everything I could commit to doing is away from something else. Then I roam like a ghost in this realm of nothing, in the in-between, in the UpsideDown, in the land of undecisiveness.
I become numb, yet it all still hurts.
It’s like being spiritually paralyzed; time and opportunities fly by in a low velocity.
We are all different, so one solution may not work for all.
I can only speak from my own experience.
This is what I have found:
Freedom is in the planning, in the doing and in the discipline.
To avoid the forementioned trap of falling into the inactivity and postponement, one needs to know what they want.
- What results are you after?
- What do you find valuable?
- How do you want to spend your time?
- What things do you want to interact with?
My regular daily Practice Routine begins with a “morning meditation”, which includes setting the intentions for the day. There is also a little task to ponder on some important questions that may help me out clarifying what it is that I want. But most of the time, I plan my day around a few key activities that I’d like to be part of my life.
This plan can be revised in the head, just thinking it through, but it is best to write it down. I use an app to create my daily list, but any piece of paper would do just as well. As long as you see it laid out, black on white or white on black.
The list is just that: a simple unordered list of things to do, goals to pursue, people/things to interact with today. If you need to, put them in some perceived order of importance. I don’t bother to do that.
It can have mundane but mandatory things in it, like “pay the electric bill”, but first and foremost it has things that make this day the day I want to live.
Having a plan also makes things easier. Decision-making is hard work, since you have to dump so many other options, and the fear of missing out often creeps in. It is easier to decide once and then act.
The Plan is now made.
If you did not have a plan, then decisive action would not necessary be a good thing, since you might end up doing stupid things. But now you have plan, and it is your best estimate of a good plan for you!
Go knock down items from that list.
The doing-part includes some mindfulness and vigilance. There is a need to keep an eye on what you are doing at each moment; is this the best thing to do now, is this in line with the plan?
Do not fall prey to the seirens of perfectionism. They sing to you that “if you can’t do it perfectly now, it’s not worth even trying” and “you’re not up to this task”.
Go and do things badly, but cheerfully. Give it your best shot and be proud of your shitty results! You will get better only by doing, everything always starts by doing it poorly.
Concentrate on one thing at the time. Exclude everything else. Remember that trying to do everything leads to doing nothing. To decide is to cut off the other options. Don’t be greedy! It’s a trap: if you you try to divide your attention over many goals, you will reach none of them, and get no satisfaction from your efforts.
If you get one thing done with good concentration, that is your best work right now.
Don’t overthink it.
Remember that life is not limitless.
In the scope of your own lifestyle, you can only choose between limits
- set by you
- set by the nature and circumstances
If you want to be free, feel proud of yourself and suffer as little as possible from consequences imposed on you by nature and circumstances:
- Control your food and alcohol intake.
- Control your behaviour.
- Go to sleep on time, wake up early.
- Keep your living environment clean and ordered.
- Know what you want.
- Follow your daily plan.
- Do not believe all the bullshit your mind feeds you in the form of fears and desires.
Paradoxically, up to a point, one may say that more discipline you have, the more freedom you will experience. This is because then you get to (mostly) set your own limits, choose your own direction. You do not just wait helplessly and let things slide to where the nature finally sets you limits.
Eventually, the nature will set the ultimate limit to us all. The right question is: how do you want to live before that happens?
You should track your success on a daily level, to keep a close watch at how things are going. I do this in an evening reflection, which is again, part of the Practice Routine.
Evening reflection gives you an opportunity to review your day and how did you do, against the goals you set in the morning. It is also a good moment to scetch out some preliminary intentions for the next day.
Than plan is not a prison. Changes do need to be made once in a while. Also, not all items on the list get completed every day, for many reasons. You may have overcommitted, or unexpected things happen.
Sometimes one needs to pivot, but do not pivot into inactivity, loitering or undecisive task-switching. The train must keep rolling, and the show must go on!
Confession: right now I am operating outside my today’s list. I did not intend to write this particular blog piece today. Since blog writing is safely inside the set of my desired activities, I am looking at this exception with delight. I am not right now laying on my bed with phone in one hand and a beer in the other, and feeling bad for doing so.
Who is this for?
I have seen and known people who are naturally very industrious, full of hustle and just seem to get things done.
They may not be in need of the advice given in this post.
I am, according to the Big Five Model of psychology:
- Low in conscientiousness.
- Low in industriousness.
- Low in orderliness.
- High in neuroticism.
If you are too something like that, and struggle with procrastination, low energy and various insecurities, you may benefit from what was said here. Give it a try.