Procrastination has become a dirty word in an economy built on productivity, product life cycles, and publication deadlines. We may admit we procrastinate, but rarely about the specifics. Procrastinating on impressive projects like a dissertation, a book, or a big project at work is o.k. Cleaning out the cat box, getting our kid to the dentist, or changing the oil in our car: Not so much.
I have a vision for my life. We can see if you and I share this dream. Would you indulge me as I make a rough sketch of it? In the vision, I live in a home that makes me feel like I just left a Swedish massage each time I walk in the front door. It is as if no one lives there, it is so tidy. And best of all it smells of waffles — with butter and real maple syrup. My friends swoon at the vibe I’ve got going on. My dinner parties are the dinner parties where the food is trendy and the philosophical conversations stimulate thoughts and raucous laughter. Magazine photographers ask to capture my eclectic style for their glossy gossip rags. And my dream life is funded by a flourishing writing career complete with a best seller. My blog has a mind blowing number of readers awaiting my next installment. My ideas fly from my fingers unto the computer keyboard as wholly-scripted witty prose. I am thin too. The kind of thin where clothes look better on me than on the hanger. And I do not have lumpy thighs.
The problem is that between this vision and my current reality there is a gap the size of my thighs. The ones that have not seen a yoga room since 2010. While nesting in an unmade bed joined by a basket of unfolded laundry and my cat (who actually is ideal), I struggle to compose my muddled thoughts and limit my run-on sentences. I am grumpy and I don’t feel witty. My kitchen does smell like waffles, but the stack of sticky dishes and a batter-drenched mixing bowl is overwhelming.
It is December 27th, the gifts I looked forward to giving are with their new owners, and I am feeling as deflated as the unstuffed stockings. I can’t tell if I am just feeling disappointed, or if I am the disappointment. These are dark days before January 1st that have me wondering if I should make resolutions, but fearing the future disappointment. Living here in the gap, no make that the chasm between my ideals and my real life, has me underwhelmed, overwhelmed and just flat out annoyed.
Being an idealist, a romantic, is not an easy thing to be. In my last blog post: Thriving as an Intuitive Person During the Holiday Season I noted that this idealism often leads me into just these situations where my idealism only highlights the less desirable aspects of life. The grey looks dull next to high def color.
There should really be word for this place. A place where my feelings take me by the hoodie, toss me unto the cold stones, slam the iron gate, and laugh maniacally. My sparkly visions only serve to remind me of the depressing reality of my life. I am convinced that the energy I so desperately need in order to fold laundry, run errands, and generally be a productive human is draining out of tiny holes in my butt (a likely culprit of the lumpy thighs). Regardless of how the energy leaves, it is going, going, gone. Or it never showed up in the first place.
Oh wait, there is a word for this place.
This is the place where goals waste away in the desert winds, where it is decided that New Year’s resolutions are a dumb idea anyhow, and where Wile E. Coyote never wins. It is a dissolute place of scorched, cracked earth.
And here is the kicker: the width of the gap directly correlates to the brilliance of the vision. The greater the idea, the more steps, the more grand and impressive, the more I feel overwhelmed. The greater the chasm. The bigger the gap. I wonder how I will ever get over there, or up there, or down from here. Will I ever make it?
An intuitive person is a visionary person. Our minds riff off simple stimuli to create more and bigger thoughts. Grand ideas. Some might say grandiose. But all impressive ideas are grandiose until they are achieved. The World’s Tallest Building. Moving pictures. Machines that fly.
Madness is what genius looks like to tiny minds.
– Steve Moffat
Intuitive minds think differently than the convergent thinking taught to us in the school system. Convergent thinking sifts through and dismisses many answers until it can convert the pile o’ information into The One Right Answer. The intuitive mind naturally prefers to use divergent thinking. By association and abstraction, one thought generates more possibilities that branch out even further into still more possibilities. Like a snowflake of ideas or images. I call this a Brainstorming Brain. Only we don’t need to have a meeting around a white board to brainstorm. It happens at 2 a.m. when we woke up to use the bathroom, right? Boring meetings around a white board might get things going too, only typically it’s not on topic. Our brainstorming brain is working away on whatever our intuitive mind thinks is cool right now.
And being a visionary is cool. J.K. Rowling is a visionary and both she and Harry Potter rank as cool. Frank Gehry is a visionary and his buildings are cool.
(Check this one out. It is on MIT’s campus.)
Steve Jobs was a visionary and ipods, ipads, and iMacs are cool. Tom’s shoes. Wholefoods. The Muppets. Clearly the imagination is a fantastic thing. Who could deny that? But do you know what happens when a visionary is not patient or persistent enough to buck the critics or make it past their own self doubt? Let’s just say it is a lot like lumpy thighs that have not seen a yoga room since 2010:
When we create a fantasy in our mind’s eye but lack the ability to manifest it in the world, the gap becomes an inescapable, multi-tentacled sarlacc swallowing our creativity and motivation as we drift helplessly past its needle sharp teeth and into its hungry beak.
The clever thing to do would be to limit the vision. Make it smaller. Make it doable. Build square buildings. Don’t make waves. Stay quiet. Write a respectable blog. Live as others live. Except that these things are not worth dreaming about. The fizz fizzles. Inspiration withers. The go-juice dries up. The only thing more depressing then the chasm between our visions and our reality is not having a dream in the first place.
People with small imaginations do not procrastinate.
It is specifically because we have Brainstorming Brains that we do procrastinate. Each idea broadens the gap, widens the chasm, which in effect lowers our motivation. The bigger the perceived gap between today and our desired future, the less motivation, the greater the inertia.
Please don’t limit your dreams. You might live in our shared dream house one day. It would make me happy that one of us can live there. I’ll see in it a glossy magazine or read about it on your blog. Don’t try to squish your amazing voice or grandiose idea into a square box.
But what are we to do with our romantic notions? Our grandiose ideas? Here are three things you might do in order to begin to build a bridge that can one day be draped over the chasm.
1. Make a game of it. Our creative brains love a problem to solve, a game to play, and a way to win. Arrange a challenge. Can you write 1,000 words today? Write five songs this weekend (no extra points for good songs!) Watch an hour less of TV?
2. Break the inertia. Perhaps this is what Mary Poppins meant when she said, “Once begun is half done.” This may have been derived from Pythagoras who is credited with “The beginning is half the whole.” One way to do this is to break your vision down into the smallest step you can imagine. Turn the power of your Brainstorming Brain towards that gap. Think of all the possible ways you could break the inertia. A basket of unfolded laundry. Could I pull out one thing to fold? Then one more? If I can’t get to the yoga place, could I walk around the block? Take the stairs?
The more grand the vision, the stronger the inertia.
3. Enlist others. Find someone with a brain with different strengths. One that loves to break things into tiny, linear steps or organize or schedule or whatever yours doesn’t like to do as much. Every executive needs a brilliant administrator to back them up oxycontin high.
When we are driving 100 miles per hour we need to look straight ahead, but our passengers can see and keep track of all of the places along the way we could stop. Some of the most prolific intuitive minds surrounded themselves with talented others to help them manifest their ideas.
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