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On Self-Sabotage and the Importance of Carrots


Instant gratification is the god of my idolatry. Because I am a human person and we human people enjoy getting things right now. The problem with wanting everything now is that life rarely works that way. So when you insist upon right now sometimes you don't get anything at all. Whoops.

Since worthwhile accomplishments often take time, sometimes a great deal of time, time in which you're not sure if your work is paying off, time spent in plateaus where you wonder if the thing you're doing is really the thing you should be doing, the best thing you could be doing until you're tempted to wander off and find something better and now years have passed and nothing is complete.

Often I get so focused on the what that I forget about the why. Sure, the things we do are important or intriguing - we wouldn't be doing them otherwise - but the things themselves aren't that important. What's important is how you feel while you do them. Because if you hate the habit of something, you either won't achieve the end goal or you'll hate your life as you do. For me, my projects are now officially less important than my emotional landscape as I'm doing them. Because I'm beginning to realize that a lot of what I do gets hung up on my feelings. Not because I have them, but because I don't value them. I want to get rid of them, I want to stuff them into a tidy cubby-hole where they won't distract me from my oh-so-important adult work. But I'm beginning to realize that my emotions are actually the key to being an adult, the key to doing the things I want to do in life.

In a rather obnoxious twist, I think that ignoring the goal and focusing on the feelings around it will help me actually reach that goal. I mean, it's just a theory, but productivity books don't seem to help me and maybe it's because I was focusing at the wrong problem.

When I ignore or berate my feelings, I ignore and berate myself. I am not my feelings, but my feelings are there for a reason. They want to be heard. I get that. I want to be heard too. We all want to be heard, we all want to be loved, and I think our feelings are a good indicator of how well you're loving or hearing yourself. You don't convince a donkey to haul you and your heavy cart over mountain ranges by whipping it with a tree branch. You dangle a carrot from that tree branch and hold it in front of the donkey's nose. And you damn well better be forthcoming with that carrot at the end of the day.

My emotions get a lot of whippings and not a lot of carrots. No wonder they're not terribly inclined to help me out.

When I stifle feelings because I don't have time for them or I'm on a deadline or I just don't want to deal, it has a real impact on me. An impact I'm only now beginning to appreciate. Life starts to get foggy. I lose my momentum, I lose drive, I lose focus, and I'm not sure why I'm doing any of the things I'm doing. Sometimes I stop all together and crawl into bed. And that's when shit gets bad. Humans are built to do. We get cranky if we go too long without making something, even if it's just making the bed. When it gets to that point, you push even one of my buttons and I go nuclear. Like a toddler denied her afternoon nap and cheese crackers.

But the beauty of the meltdown is that after I've sobbed on the carpet for three hours and taken the rest of the day off, the following day is the best day. I've released everything that's been stuck in my system and I feel light, clear, happy, motivated. I'm ready to do my workouts, eat my vegetables, attack my spreadsheets, and eat the frogs.

Where I've fallen down on the adventure project is in getting so focused on the what that I forget the why. The why was to notice my feelings around these things, rather than the results. Because I am deeply susceptible to measurable results (like my bank account) and deeply disturbed by feelings, I began ignoring the very thing I meant to track - and that's when it all started going off the rails.

But the beauty of free will is that you can always make a new choice. Look at where you are and, if it's not where you want to be, re-direct your carrot. And figure out how to track and release the emotional pressure before it blows sky-high. Or if it blows, despite your best efforts, remember that today's tears make tomorrow the best day.

Yep, still doing these. In case you have any desire to watch my face talk about stuff.