This Could Be the Biggest Obstacle to Doing Your Best Work
My last post, How to Not Be a Slave to Your To Do List, was written just as much for me as it was for you. So I’ve taken my own advice. I cleared space on my calendar. I eviscerated my to do list and calendared time to do the stuff I’ve been wanting to do for so long now. I cleared space and scheduled time to work on my next book. And I finally sat down to do it.
I opened a document and typed a few words. And then I stared at the blinking cursor for awhile. I took a deep breath, read what I had just written, then deleted it and typed something else in its place. But I didn’t like that either.
I reviewed some notes I had scribbled down a few days prior to see if I could get any inspiration. It didn’t help. My gaze went from my screen to my keyboard, where my hands were perched, ready and agile. Still nothing.
I saw an email notification in the corner of my screen. Resisting the urge to check my inbox, I closed my Outlook program.
And I sat for several more minutes. Stuck. Maybe this isn’t the best time. Maybe I should go do something else for awhile. At that moment, anything sounded preferable. I could trim my fingernails, reorganize my desk drawers, mow the lawn. Or the neighbor’s lawn.
But no. I am committed to this. It is something I have been wanting to do for a really long time. Why is it so flipping hard?
Have you ever felt that way?
It’s no wonder that we let so many other things get in the way of taking the time to do our real work. Our real work requires us to face our deepest fears and make our way through our toughest resistance – in the presence of our worst critics.
As soon as you make the commitment to do something important – for yourself, for others, for the world – rest assured anything that has ever stopped you before will come back in your face with an exponential force.
I didn’t get a whole lot written in that particular block of time. But I showed up. I didn’t run away. And I have to say that after awhile things did begin to flow. I strung a few paragraphs together and once I let go and gave in to the experience, I was delighted with a couple of really great insights that came spilling onto the page. It went in a direction I hadn’t anticipated and began to take on a life of its own.
Talking with a friend a few days later, I began to realize what it was that got me stuck.
I was fixated on results at the expense of the process. I had become too attached to the end product and what it was going to get me. I had ideas in my mind of what it would – should – look like. And I was judging every little thing I was (and wasn’t doing). If you can envision a small child being led to a table and told to do something, while a rather large, imposing figure stood over her with a club at her head yelling in a booming voice – you have a pretty good idea of the dynamic I had created for myself. My child was rebelling. My critic was becoming more and more agitated. And neither of us really wanted to be there at all.
Perhaps you’ve heard artists or musicians talk about how they could never quit their day job to earn a living doing their craft. “It would just suck all the joy out of it,” they may tell you. The problem isn’t so much that they would be paid for doing what they love as it is that they risk having their focus go from the joy of being in the process to becoming too dependent on the result.
The irony is that when you detach from the result altogether and become immersed in the experience, the results tend to take care of themselves. Superior work is created when you are engaged in what you are doing rather than what it will lead to or where it will get you.
If you have ever played golf or tennis, think about what happens when you allow your attention to go prematurely to the target before you’ve hit the ball. You will have a crappy shot. (You may even miss the ball altogether.) But when you devote yourself to the process – when you are present in your body through every part of your swing, when you follow through and trust that the ball will go right where you intend it to – you have the opposite experience.
The same is true with just about anything. Companies that focus solely on profits often neglect their customers, their employees or both and spend more time worrying about how to increase their market share and their bottom line than on the quality of their product. Conversely, those who make it a priority to listen to their customers and employees and create cultures where people do their best work are often rewarded with a loyal following. Comedians who desperately need a laugh often aren’t all that funny or entertaining, while those who stop worrying about what people think and have a good time on stage end up captivating their audiences and leaving them wanting more. Artists who sacrifice their passion to pander to the crowd risk producing shallow, uninspiring work, while those who pour their hearts into what they do engage the hearts of others.
When all your attention and energy goes toward the end result, you vacate the process – along with all the energy, passion and unique gifts that go into creating something really special and valuable. Your end product will feel somewhat empty or hollow. And it is very likely that you will too.
The good news is that the wall created by a fixation on results at the expense of the process is self imposed. Which means that you have the ability to dismantle it. In my next post, I’ll share seven tips for breaking through that wall the next time you are stuck.
If you need help overcoming the obstacles that keep you from doing your best work, check out my new video program, On the Road to Real or pick up a copy of my book The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be,available at Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com. If you are interested in working one on one with me, visit https://dianebolden.com/coaching.html to learn more or contact me to schedule a complimentary coaching call.
Stay tuned – next week’s post is Seven Tips for Getting Out of Your Own Way and Doing Your Best Work.
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.