Both menial and significant things are worth tackling this way. Chores evaporate, and the big tasks become easier when you don’t give yourself time to worry about them. We all know the logic behind these things: doing things is the only way they’ll ever get done. If you want to improve yourself, then do things to improve yourself. The reasoning is so obvious it’s almost a truism, so why do we still struggle? Why flood ourselves with mental noise and engage ourselves with petty distraction?
There was an episode of Arthur (the aardvark) that I watched when I was a kid. One character (I think it was Buster the rabbit, but don’t quote me) went to see a scary movie, and when they revealed the monster he covered up his eyes in fright. He couldn’t bring himself to look at it. He resolved to see the movie again, and look this time. When they finally showed it, he started laughing! The costume was so shoddy that the zipper poked out of the monster suit. It wasn’t scary at all!
The moral of the episode: we make things out to be worse than they are. The same goes for thinking of our actions ahead of time; we hold ourselves back because we fear what may come of them. Anticipation paralyzes us, and we convince ourselves that the risk just isn’t worth it. It’s much easier to become absorbed in instant gratification, identifying with a facebook status or the latest TV show.
I think we’re afraid to take action because we fear the future. We’re conditioned to avoid taking risks because, whether they succeed or fail, they bring about the uncertainty of change.
We fear failure because we don’t want to think of ourselves as weak. If we try and fall short, we are flawed, powerless, hopeless. Isn’t it better to take a small loss now, and not risk a huge loss later? Shouldn’t we fold our hand sometimes? Not really; life is not a cost-benefit problem. “Failure” is just a label we paste to a certain result, a fabrication created by our expectations. Drop these expectations, and you’re left with a new experience, which you can use to learn and grow. The worst-case scenario: an uncomfortable situation, i.e. “what not to do next time.”
Success is harder to figure. What’s so scary about getting everything that you want? We fear the future, and the unfamiliar person we may become.
Marianne Williamson gave us the famous quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Embracing the knowledge that you are a wildly capable, powerful individual means accepting the burden of responsibility to live up to that potential. If the stars are within reach, and you’re not reaching, then you fucked up. Realizing that you are truly powerful means that you can never be content fooling yourself again, identifying with trivialities, or selling yourself short. There is a problem of incongruous identity. An individual cannot be simultaneously great and small; we cannot embrace our potential and busy ourselves with nonsense. From the present, looking to the future, we wonder: If I become everything I’ve ever wanted to be, will I be able to bear thinking about the shallow person I am now? So we are left with a choice: wake up, or stay asleep. Knowing that we are capable is the greatest motivator, but living up to this knowledge takes a lot of work–work we would rather not do. Too often, our solution is to stay meager. We delude ourselves, becoming complacent in our thoughts. “If I cared enough about it, this is the time when I would ask that girl for her number. There she goes… Eh, I didn’t do it. Must not have been that important to me.” We convince ourselves that our life is already pleasant enough.
We are also afraid of getting exactly what we desire, and then being exposed as frauds, of being secretly “inadequate.” If you seek power, and you achieve it, will you ever be called out as weak? If you get that person’s phone number, will you screw it up in the future? If you desire social grace, and find yourself at an elegant ball, do you need to worry about being exposed as a pauper at heart? I don’t think so. If you know yourself, and if your actions reflect your deepest beliefs, then the identity you build will be consistent. Be yourself from the start, and there’s nothing to hide. That person who you’ll become is 100% you–is genuinely, joyously you.
If something has been occupying your thoughts, then do it! Follow your heart, and there’s nothing to worry about. The worst that can happen, I think, is you see the zipper on the monster suit, and you abruptly realize that your fears were laughable.