The Last Thing We Remember to Do
Nathalie Goldberg's priceless advice to writers is something all of us can use, whether we are writers or not. Her advice was, "Keep your hands moving." That's all! That's it! That's usually the last thing we think to do! Doing things really isn't the problem. Thinking about doing things is the only problem. It's always worse in the mind than it is in the real world. Look out there at all those things we dread doing! There, that wasn't so bad, was it? How many times have our teachers, our parents, our doctors, or our friends said those words to us? Hundreds. Thousands. Did we make a note? Did we let it sink in?
Don’t dread anything anymore. Just jump in and do it. Over the last few weeks, I've noticed that I don't think long about what I have to do anymore. What I do is notice that when I see something in front of me that needs to be taken care of or a thought of something I have to do, comes to mind, I just do it. I get it completed simply by starting. I find that I have anxiety and stress the more I think about doing something that I really want to do instead of spending the enjoy just doing it. For example, for you, if you’re stuck with what you’re writing, keep your hands moving. You are the author of your life. Keep your hands moving. You are co-writing your co-written love song with the universe today. So, keep your hands moving. Motivation is inner movement. People get confused about motivation and think they need to have it before they can get their lives into motion. Not so. Motivation most often shows up later, when you’re already halfway into things. Yet I run into people all the time who are trying to figure out ways to get motivated to do something they have been putting off. One of my clients was just such a person. She was a client of mine who was going to write a major corporate proposal, and she kept putting it off.
Client: How do I get myself motivated to do it?
Me: You don’t have to.
Client: What? How do you mean?
Me: It’s one of the great misconceptions of life that motivation is to occur before you do a task. I’m going to prove to you that it does not.
Client: Okay, I’ve got to see, because I’ve been trying to get myself motivated to do this thing for two weeks now.
Me: Good. So, are you ready to experiment?
Me: You have a proposal to write, correct?
Me: How long do you think it will take?
Client: Maybe four hours. Maximum. If I do a final edit.
Me: Good. So, are you ready to experiment?
Me: Okay. Here’s what I want you to do. Ready? Will you do it?
Client: Of course.
Me: Hang up the phone and write the proposal and call me as soon as it’s finished.
And then I hung up the phone. Why waste more of her time? The next morning, she called me.
Client: It’s finished. I sent it off by FedEx.
Client: But I wasn’t very happy with you for a while there.
Me: No doubt.
Client: Why did you have to do it that way?
Me: I wanted the drama. Sometimes I like it when we do things together that you will remember always.
Client: What was your point in doing that?
She already knew what my point was, but she wanted to hear from me. She wanted to talk it through because beneath her irritation she was actually excited. She had found something she didn’t know she had. What was it? Was it her actual switch? Was it a little button she could push to get the whole body moving? Well, yes and yes! She found out she had the ability to move into action anytime she wanted. Only a thought stood in the way. And when she saw it was only a thought and not the truth about life, she could let it just arise and dissolve as all thoughts do when you don’t cling to them. She now knew she could do things with or without the motivation or even the desire to do them. She found she could just do it. Allow it to be done. She also found out something equally exciting about 15 minutes into writing her proposal she was filled with fresh energy for writing it. It was as if a pump at been primed.
People think the mind must first shift, before any bold, creative action can be taken. It’s nice when it does, but it’s not necessary. You can shift the body first instead, and the mind will eventually follow. That’s why Natalie Goldberg says that a writer simply needs to move her hands. The mind will catch up. Emerson put it this way, “Do the thing, and you shall have the power.”
People tell me, “I don’t know if I have it in me to write a book.” I say, “I know what you mean, I never had it in me, either.”
“Then how have you written your book?”
“It started long hand on paper and then on the keyboard of my computer.”
“That’s not what I’m asking.”
“I know but that’s what I did. That’s how I did it.”
“Where did you find the motivation?”
“Somewhere during or after the pen strokes or keystrokes.” Sometimes after five minutes, sometimes after fifty. I realized it never mattered. It was just a superstition to think that it mattered.
Do everything you want to do in this life. Don’t wait till you find the motivation to do it. Stop looking for the passion. Self-help evangelists are always crowing about finding your passion and living with passion and intention, and I get tired of listening to all that. All that inflated rhetoric is quite unnecessary. Just do the thing you want to do. The mind shifts while you’re doing it. The philosopher Shims Morris said “effort is good fortune. He realized that satisfaction in work came not so much from finding the perfect job but rather from doing the job in front of you perfectly.
If what I've shared resonated with you or you have blog topic recommendations, then I welcome you to leave a comment below or reach out to me for a free consultation to get help in an area of your life or a change/transformation you want to begin next year!
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