For a long time, years, in fact, I was a master at avoidance and procrastination. I toyed with the idea of trying my hand at creating art or writing.
Looking at the occasional painting would make me wonder if I could do the same. I imagined the classes, the easel, the tools. All this daydreaming never answered the question if I could create art, and how good I am.
In the end, I realised the answer was to bite the bullet and start.
It’s an important lesson for all the dreams we have. Trying that new job, changing careers, moving home, going on a first date. We can speculate about what might happen for years and miss the opportunity.
The speculation comes in many forms, but it’s all just different ways to procrastinate.
Anxiety, it’s the same but different
Worry may not seem like procrastinating but it can be one way we don’t make progress. Which amounts to the same thing.
Instead of a better future, we imagine a bad one. We expect something bad is going to happen. Our anxieties are in effect our minds in speculation mode.
We dream possible scenarios because our fear of the unknown is getting the better of our desire to find out.
Anxiety is negative speculation in overdrive. What-if scenarios cross our minds. The same ones again and again.
It comes from low self-esteem and feeling like we’re a fraud. Imposter Syndrome. We remain unconvinced we deserve success and happiness.
This kind of negative imagery can be really off-putting. It’s a way for us to convince ourselves that were just not good enough or worthy enough to try new things. Even those dreams we have had for a long time.
That way we have an excuse to take action.
The planning trap
More speculation comes in the of planning. It’s a way of saying that this is how I want things to happen. Whilst some planning is a good idea. Too much and too detailed plans can stymie our progress.
With plans, we can become obsessed with sticking to the plan far beyond the point where it becomes realistic.
Or that we endlessly rewrite plans as circumstances change. Out of some bizarre need to have everything go ‘according to plan’.
This is when planning becomes a form of procrastination itself.
Given the uncertainty about the future, we try to erase by predicting how things should take place. Kind of like laying in front of the train so that the engine can roll forwards.
The research trap
Another example of speculation/procrastination comes in the form of research. No sense reinventing the wheel, so what are other people’s experiences?
We want our speculation to be grounded in reality so we ask others, or search online. We also want shortcuts, a way of avoiding the problems others have faced.
So we do our research and find out in advance the truth, the facts. Reading books, watching videos, workshops, seminars, blogs and more.
It almost seems we have something against learning through practice.
The problem is we can end up in perpetual research mode. Never going beyond the theory and finding out for ourselves through practice.
We lionise university study and further education. But does all that study prepare us for a working life? Or does it merely insulate us from the real world and its problems?
To me, it’s another symptom of our desire to avoid the uncertainties of life. Read and keep on reading can be a way avoid the leap from student to practitioner
Filling your head with knowledge is not enough. It may be good knowledge. But often what you have learned will be insufficient and in some cases even misleading.
Dreaming up what you want an also a problem. Were are often advised to visualise what we want. But when does dreaming become procrastination?
Firstly there the dreams that have little basis in reality. Daydreams that are more like pipe dreams. Like a Walter Mitty character we imagine our better selves. Yet we are too afraid to act and make it real.
Further still visualisation can weaken our motivation. This goes against earlier research that tells us visualisation is helpful is motivating us to do the work.
It’s complex and it seems to stem from what kind of visualisation you’re doing.
A ‘flight of fancy’ can be something implausible to the point of absurdity. But a vision is more grounded in reality. It’s both, the goal and the steps needed to get there.
Living in the dream world of visualisation can become an escape from the world.
It’s a change I noticed within me. Looking back I see my growth was based on having my dreams more grounded in reality, more reachable. The ridiculous fantasies I once entertained, as if they were my own movie real, I cast aside.
I have heard that ideas have two births. The one inside the head, and the one where it becomes a reality.
Your imaginings will never be enough. So stop speculating about your future life, and try something out.
There has to be a time when you take a leap, and then another and another. Like your in endless freefall.
Getting your feet wet
Instead of leaving these questions unanswered, the solution always lies in taking action.
Don’t be content with leaving these questions and ideas linger in your mind. Instead, go out into the world and try some of them out.
They might go nowhere, but the point is you can’t know until you try. No amount of research, imagination or planning can get across what it will be like for you.
The unknown, the uncertainty will always exist. It’s your job to act in spite of it.
It’s taking on board an experimental attitude. Not letting yourself get carried away with too much visualisation or planning.
Instead of adopting a more incremental approach. Baby steps or Little Victories as I like to call it. With each step a small experiment.
It’s often easier than we think. The barriers to entry have crumbled.
You can have your own website and blog up and running in just minutes. You can create art with just pencil and paper. Meeting new people is possible by finding forums and being on Meetup.
Learning a new skill like a language can be done online through a Massive Open Online Course or MOOCs. The obstacles to these new skills are lower now than ever before. So what holds us back is now more our own fears and hangups. (It’s this area that fascinates me the most).
One reason we hold back is that we’re bad at knowing who we are and what we want.
Sometimes the only way to answer a question like ‘am I any good’ or ‘will I like it or not’ is to try it and see.
Taking the step from imagination and theory to practice and experience is one of the biggest and hardest steps anyone can take. Worse still it doens’t get easier.
Learning, planning and visualisation can be helpful. But your path is unique so ‘Your mileage may vary’.
No amount dreaming can ever make your dreams real.
The journey won’t turn out the way you want, and you may end up in a place you never expected. Which just shows the futility of all this excess planning, visioning and research.
Action is always a necessary step unless you don’t mind having your dreams remain dreams.
But taking that leap will lead you to amazing places. Take a step, you won’t regret it.
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Image Credit: stockasso / 123RF Stock Photo