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Doing the Work

My schedule got thrown off a few days ago, and the tasks I had to complete started mounting up. It didn’t help that I wasn’t all that organized about this particular to-do list in the first place. By the time a few days had passed, the whole thing just hung over my head like a dark cloud. The materials I needed were in at least three different places, and I had to download a couple important components from some emails I’d received … sometime ... who knows when? All in all, I felt nothing but dread and resentment when the time came to actually do this work that needed to be finished.

Doing the work is where real life is. It’s where all the good stuff lies, and it’s where we get to see ourselves at our very best because we’re doing and not thinking.

Fast forward a few days and the work is done. In fact, when I finally sat down to do it, I kind of lost myself in it, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what I imagined would happen since I’d built it up to be such an onerous task. It honestly never occurred to me that, once I got engaged, I could just methodically go through the steps to complete what I had to do. I realized then that this is often how I've approached things in my life. Whether it’s a tough conversation I need to have, a household chore I’ve been putting off, or just a lot of paperwork I need to get finished, the longer I resist, the bigger and more unapproachable it becomes in my mind.

One thing I know is that I’m not great at breaking things down into manageable steps—even though I know that’s the best way to meet any task or goal. My fears and anxieties have allowed me to create some bad habits. One of those is I've tended to think of every goal or plan or to-do item as a huge hill to get over. But I’m beginning to see things with new eyes, and I’m expanding this view to many areas of my life. It turns out that making these goals into such a huge deal is one of the reasons I don’t accomplish nearly as many of them as I’d like.

Instead, I have lived a good deal of my life with goals like, “Publish a book,” or “Save more money,” or “Get in better shape.” All of those are fine and doable, but they each actually require many, many steps. And every one of those steps is an accomplishment—including the step of figuring out what steps need to occur. As I’ve explored this more, I realize that my lack of confidence has kept me in my head much more than out in the world trying some things and figuring out what needs to happen to try something else. Quite simply, my fear of failure has kept me locked in my thoughts, where things “feel” insurmountable, instead of in the real world just doing the work.

Doing the work is where real life is. It’s where all the good stuff lies, and it’s where we get to see ourselves at our very best because we’re doing and not thinking. There is certainly a time and a place for thinking things through, but I feel like I have overpaid my dues in that arena. Now I’m ready to stop thinking so much about what might happen. Instead, I'm focusing on what needs to be done to get to my goal and then, one by one, following the steps and doing the work.

Part of me feels like the word “work” makes us turn in the other direction, but now that I’m the age that I am, I relish getting down into it much more than I used to. I’m not nearly as scared anymore, of failure, of looking like a fool, of feeling silly. I love losing myself in the work now, and I am just so glad to know what I want and to feel free to figure out how to get there.


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