See if this sounds familiar: I am sitting here thinking of this really big, important, kind of overwhelming, scary, exciting thing I’m supposed to be doing … and I’m deciding to do something else.
In my case, the big thing is a book proposal for an agent who asked to see it. This is like the holy grail for writers like me, and it could be the next step in the blossoming of my career that I have always dreamed about. It could mean success financially and creatively, it could mean a whole new level to my career, it could literally be the start of my Big Life Dream coming true.
Or I could completely fuck it up.
And all of that is scary. So, rather than face fear, accept it, move through it, take action in spite of it, we I … go do something else. In this case, share about it. At least it isn’t the very most useless or counterproductive thing I could do.
It’s just like when I used to be paralyzed about women and dating: it always seemed easier, and safer, and more familiar, to not ask her out than face either the pain of rejection or the fear of an actual date, much less a relationship. Better to do nothing, I’d tell myself, live in fantasy, keep her as a possibility that I could turn into whatever fantasy I wanted.
I’m doing that with the book proposal right now. If the agent turns it down, my dream dies – not that I catastrophize or anything! If, however, she says yes, then I have a shit-ton of work to do, there will be expectations placed on me, and I might have a whole new career to figure out.
And I could completely fuck it up.
Thus we descend into paralysis, offset by fantasy and ego. “I haven’t done shit on that proposal” is mitigated by “Oh, but I’m gonna” or just “Look at me, I have an agent waiting for my proposal!” But none of those things is actually writing the proposal, which is kind of the whole point. Ego wants to protect itself, so it avoids anything scary – including failure and success.
So, what to do? Well, as always, go through the Steps. First accept what’s actually going: I’m in avoidance because I’m scared. Second, believe that there’s a way out, and third, that the way out is not through my ego. It isn’t “try harder” or whatever. Fourth, I can take a look at what’s holding me back and how I’m behaving in this moment, then fifth, I can share that with somebody. In a sense, I’m up to that point now.
But, as my sponsor used to say, it’s in Steps 6 and 7 that the rubber hits the road. Become willing to let go of old behaviors? How do we do that? Um … we let go of them? We do something else? Of course it isn’t that easy or simple, so that’s why Step 7 is just asking for help with Step 6 – because Step 6 is, for me, what the program is all about.
So how would a person start on doing something new? How about just not doing the old stuff and see what happens? I can stop hammering on myself for not working on the proposal, for starters. I could show some compassion for a scared, confused dude. Then I could drop the eternal resolutions about how I’m gonna start tomorrow, or whenever. Truth is, I have no idea when, or if, I’m going to write this proposal.
Maybe all that will free up the paralysis just a little, create a little space for me to do something new. For example, I could take one simple action on the proposal – not “sit down to finally write that damned thing” but maybe just download the suggested criteria and read through them. Then maybe I could create a new file on my computer with all the headings in there. And maybe I could scratch out a few notes under some of them.
I remember telling a sponsee who was stuck on the 4th Step, just like I’m stuck on this proposal, that maybe he could just work on it for five minutes. Hmm. Maybe I could try that?
What I have learned in the past is that the best way out of being stuck is by small steps. When I go to the gym, I come out feeling like a healthy guy who works out. When I meditate, I get up feeling like a guy who meditates. When I am honest and genuine, I feel honest and genuine. And all of those things create a tiny bit of momentum for the next thing in the same direction.
So who knows, maybe if I take some of these actions on the proposal, I’ll finally become a massively successful author – I mean, maybe I’ll get a little progress going on the proposal.
And yeah, I might completely fuck it up. But I won’t succeed if I don’t try, and at least I won’t be in this uncomfortable space any more. I just need to do some simple things and get a dash of momentum to get me started.
Thanks Paul. I needed this today. Sending you good vibes for progress with the proposal.
Thanks, Glenn. I appreciate the note.