When we look at the total energy required to get something done, the stories about the work always take up so much more energy than the work itself. The diagram below captures this idea — except it may not be to scale because the green circle is too big.
For instance, when we look at frogs (the work we don’t want to do), the dread:work ratio is always way out of whack; we can spend weeks dreading a 15-minute task. Many people’s stories about marketing and sales cause them anxiety when it’s time to talk to other people, even if those other people want to hear from them. Our story about what a reader will think makes us rewrite a passable passage 17 times when we should have sent it to an editor or peer reader after the third attempt. Your story about your self-worth being tied to how hard you work makes you work harder than you need to or makes you feel guilty when you’re not working.
There are several ways you can bring the total energy required down, closer to that smaller circle of work required (in no particular order):
- Prove your yaysayers right rather than focusing on the naysayers
- Assume you’ll succeed when you’re planning while acknowledging that it might not work
- Let go of the outcome and focus on the doing
- Keep your eyes forward
- If all else fails, just get up and take care of your people
- Take the next small step and build from there
As a case in point, I could’ve gone through and written new bullet points, but the only reason I’d do so is because of my story about needing to write more new stuff rather than reference stuff I’ve already mentioned. That doesn’t seem to be a particularly good way to model the message.
If you were to zoom up to your life as a whole, I bet you’d see that there’s a whole lot of unnecessary work caused by your stories, that you then attach even more stories to. If you’ve ever caught yourself in the suffering-martyr trap, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Changing your story about the work is often a much better way to get more work done than changing the work itself. After all, your story is taking up considerably more energy anyway.
p.s. It’s hardest to remember this when you most need to. Having friends who can ask you about your stories helps a ton. Please share this post with them so you have an easy reference point next time any of you need it.
Thank you for the 30 posts. They were all very helpful. Now, please get some sleep!