Everyone has them. Most people’s lives are spells of inertness punctuated by a frenzied bustle before the deadline. For the Fry-cook, it’s the person staring through the drive-thru window; for the editor, it’s the time the typesetter needs to start layout; for the student, it’s the exam.
More than half (probably) of the people I know have real trouble motivating themselves to work at something if a deadline isn’t lurking close by. I often find myself putting something off for too long, then thinking of how I’ve ruined something that would probably have been enjoyable, had I spent the time I’d budgeted when I received the job.
The broader thread is that we (if you’re in the group I put myself in), struggle to be productive of our own volition. We need the threat of consequences to earnestly work, whether those consequences are a failed test, a pissed off client or (if you’re a slob,) having to use the same plate twice because you haven’t done the dishes.
For me, discipline is replacing ‘consequence’ with routine. It’s when you’re able to put one foot in front of the other, a step at a time and enjoying the scenery, rather than trying to sprint the whole hike in the last day, missing its beauty and hurting yourself in the process.
Working towards your dreams
You’ve seen motivational images or gifs about a man rolling a boulder uphill and failing, then getting up and trying harder until he gets to the top. You’ve seen pictures of people with pickaxes giving up their dig centimetres before they find the treasure. The ideas are that you have to keep working, ceaselessly and diligently to get the things that are ultimately the most worth having.
These are nice cliches that won’t really penetrate to anyone not wanting to see them. Few people I know have ever worked all day, every day, ceaselessly, towards their dreams. But we’ve all worked tirelessly for someone else’s dream. Your job, as an employee, is a piece of a business that is or was another person’s dream. You’re potentially doing that fastidious 40-70 hour week to see someone else achieve their goals, their hopes and their dreams, but you can’t spend an hour a week working on your own novel, your body, learning a new language, or learning an instrument.
You can’t get yourself to work for yourself because the only consequence is some vague might have been; whereas the consequence of not working for your employer’s is next month’s rent.
What might have been doesn’t tug at us nearly as much as it ought to. I’ve begun trying to work towards mine again because I don’t want to perpetually feel like I’ve lost something along the way. This blog is an expression of that.
One step at a time.