In this line of work, I run into too many people who are busy “should-ing” on themselves – “I should have done more”, “I ought to have time for that”, “I never get enough done” and on and on. And my heart breaks a little. I get it, it does hit close to home for me too, yet this doesn’t help anyone get more accomplished. Most often this can even derail our efforts to improve. We’re too preoccupied feeling badly, angry, frustrated, whatever and this doesn’t move us any closer to our goals. To some extent we become stuck.
“How do I get unstuck then?”
If we can cultivate curiosity about ourselves we can solve many of our struggles. One of the key pieces of this though is that we need to rid ourselves of the judgment that comes along with looking at what we do and why. Has there ever been a time when criticizing yourself has helped you get past a struggle or to solve a problem?
Instead, try to step back and examine what is causing your difficulties. Sometimes this benefits from a compare and contrast – so if it’s a particular chore – what is different about this chore compared to another chore you accomplish with minimal challenge? The answers you come up with could be a long list, as you want to consider as many different factors as possible: time of day, effort, energy, time consuming, complicated/simple, boring/interesting, dreaded/exciting, rewarding, etc.
Even if you cannot compare it to something else, you can examine what that thing brings up for you. What is it about that thing that has you resisting it? When you start to get the clues for where your struggles are, you can then start making changes to how you approach that thing.
In trying to make this applicable to many situations, this is vague. Therefore, let me give you an example. I was often procrastinating mowing the lawn. One of the major factors was the dread of lugging out of and back into the basement. Another factor was feeling like it was extremely time consuming. The first factor has now been dealt with as we have a garage, but until that happened, there wasn’t much I could do about it. The second factor – time – I could discover how much time it actually took up, so I timed it. From lugging it up, mowing the front and back yard, and lugging it back down, it took me 45 minutes. From that point onward I could easily dismiss mowing as an option if I didn’t have that much time and could plan when I would have enough time. I also began to stop procrastinating it as much, yes, I did qualify that, I will sometimes still procrastinate doing it, though it gets less and less as time goes on.
There are other chores I dislike because they seem dull, and I can take my iPad and play a show on it while I work or vacuum during commercials. Obviously I don’t need to watch it intently, it’s a way to make the chores a little more interesting. The point is that I’ve approached my quirks (my resistances) with curiosity, identified what factors contribute to my resistance to accomplishing them, and then found ways to lessen the resistance. Even when I falter and don’t get it done when or how I would like, I work at giving myself a break.
Is there another way to look at the chore (or whatever you are struggling with)? Much of our lives deal with perspectives – the way we decide to look at things. Yes, it is a choice and this means we can change the way we view things. Therefore we can decide to look at that dreaded chore differently. This rarely happens overnight, but if we discover the reasons that matter to us as an individual, we can begin to make the changes.
For me, making the bed was one of these. I didn’t care much if it was made or not and I struggled with wanting it to be near perfect if it were made. This meant I spent time and energy walking back and forth around the bed fixing it. Then I timed myself lying in bed doing a sort ‘snow angel’, slipping out from under the covers, and doing some minor straightening – under 2 minutes. Then I started appreciating the made bed when it was time to go to bed at night. I stopped looking at making the bed as a chore; rather it became something to look forward to – a nicely made bed –at the end of the day.
What is it about this situation that causes you difficulties? Thinking about the answers for yourself can help lead you to the answers you need to make the necessary changes. Don’t get me wrong, you might not find THE answer on the first try. Nevertheless it will lead you toward the solutions you need.