I have this thing in me. Certainly not a physical disease or handicap, but debilitating none the less. This thing holds me back, it drags down on my initiative like an anchor, and allows my laziness to rein supreme. I call this thing 'procrastination'.
I've spent quite a lot of time studying success. I've read the books, listened to the great speakers, and talked with successful people. While I always thought that success was basically luck or something inbred I have come to the realization that it is neither of those things at all. Success isn't something innate, or at least these learned and
experienced people don't think so. Success is driven by two overriding factors: Perserverance and Desire.
Desire is obvious. You must want something in order to get it. If you don't want it, you will never put forth the effort it takes to achieve. Success is especially subject to this rule as very few people have it just drop into their laps. There is a considerable amount of work involved no matter how talented a person is. Which leads into the second factor, perseverance.
In order to achieve success every successful person I've talked to, listened to, or read agrees that simply not quitting is a huge factor in becoming successful. Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) says that we are taught from an early age that failure is to be avoided. Failure is the opposite of success. He and every other student of success agree that this is the worst belief anyone could be taught.
Failure, as seen by the successful, is simply a part of the learning process. It should be welcomed for its lessons rather than feared for its setbacks. Without failure there is no success. Without learning, no one can move forward. It is in this that this 'thing' in me holds me back.
Objectively I understand failure as a part of the learning process. In my head I know it will happen and that I need to welcome it as simply a stepping stone and not a brick wall barring my path to success. In my head I know this, and yet this 'thing' hinders me, drags me back whenever I fail.
An example: I received a rejection notice on one of my stories. While I had no illusions of never getting one of these, still somewhere in me I wilted. My mind knew it was simply one letter, and I did find another publisher to send the story to that same day. Yet, this 'thing' in me went to work.
I love to write. I always have. What has kept me from it is this subtle rationalizing part of me that finds other things to do first. Oh, I'll just read my email first then get to the story. I'll just play one game of spider solitaire before getting into that story. No, today I think I'll read. Tomorrow I'll write! Pretty soon, it's Friday and I haven't so much as typed one word.
I don't know how this 'thing' gets control of me. As I said, my head knows how I SHOULD deal with failure, yet I still shrink away from my road whenever failure pops up. I make excuses, I hide from my writing as though it were some loathsome task that must be done, and I procrastinate over getting started. I love to write! I really do, and once I force myself to start, I absolutely keep going until I have to take break. I often get up from the computer with an aching back and tired muscles from sitting so long.
So, what is this 'thing'? Why can't my head overcome the lazy, scared, procrastinator that lives so strongly inside me? That, I believe after six years of trying, is tied to how I was brought up and what was considered successful by my family, teachers, and peers.
We are taught from such a young age that career, job, and paycheck are the things we need to have. A paycheck is security, a career is our contribution to society. It is so prevalent we don't even think about it. It is a given, like breathing. We assume everyone strives to hold a job. It's just the way it is. Because of this attitude, we also hold some deep rooted assumptions about ourselves.
The deepest, perhaps, is that we need to be told what to do. I grew up with someone always telling me what I needed to get done. When I entered the work force I had a boss who told me what my duties were, and how much I needed to accomplish in a given time. If I performed incorrectly or did less than required, I was subject to either reprimand, more instruction, or termination. For thirty years, that was my life. I knew what needed to be done, or if not I got clarification, then I did it and my boss reviewed. Even when I became the boss and had twenty people reporting to me, this did not stop.
I was rooted in the system of delegation and control so strongly that when I got booted out, I had no idea what to do other than find another job, get another paycheck. When that didn't work, I began my journey towards self-employment.
When I struck out on my own in insurance sales, as my own boss, the 'thing' really went to work on me. Failures are a natural part of sales. You simply can not sell to everyone you meet. Some don't need what you are selling, some don't care if they do need it, and some just plain don't like the way you are talking to them or whatever. Every sales person runs into people daily who tell them 'no'.
I knew in my head this was part of the process, but I let this 'thing' in me take over and paralyze me. I quit, basically, without ever allowing myself to say so. I'd go so far and then I would find some excuse to procrastinate a little more. Then a little more...
With my writing, I'm still dealing with this monster. If it were a huge hairy beast with sharp fangs and drool on its lips I think I could deal with it much easier. The fact that it is a part of me makes it close to invulnerable. So what do I do?
I don't give up. Plain and simple, I keep fighting it. Sometimes the beast wins, and I won't lie, it happens a lot even though I know what is happening! Yet I won't just give up. I will keep fighting it. I will find ways to overcome and keep going.
I schedule myself. I make sure that every morning after breakfast I write something. It doesn't have to part of the story I'm currently working on, but it is something. I don't let myself quit until I have a piece written that I think someone will want to read. Then I reward myself and play a game.
I set goals, I decide how much I will write, and how much I want done by lunch time or by the evening. Sometimes I let myself off the hook, and sometimes I have to admit I set goals that are just too easy to obtain, but I set them and I work.
Basically, I act like my boss would. I agree to what I will get done, and I work towards that until I get it done. It is far from easy, and getting a rejection notice still feeds the procrastinator in me. I've gone days without touching a story because of it. But I will not give up. I will not just quit.
It might be too much too hope that I will someday subdue or perhaps conquer this beast in me. It might be silly to dream that someday I will be perfectly industrious and write until I have to quit. Yet, I know it is not too much to ask of myself to not quit. I will keep fighting even knowing I will probably spend the rest of my life doing so. I do this because I love to write. I do this because I WILL be successful at it. There is no question in my mind.
I will succeed!
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