Stay Focused, Consistent and Concentrate!
This has become my mantra of late.
I desperately want to create this book that I have inside of me and it’s taking every part of my determination to stick with it. I’ve never stuck with a single creative project for this long before now. My creativity is a fickle thing.
Over the last few months it’s been hard to keep going. I could blame my lack of progress on the bereavement process, or starting my new job, a lack of time or any number of different excuses. But when it comes down to it, if I really want to write and create my book, the only person who can find the time, the energy and the enthusiasm to continue is me.
That’s not to say I haven’t been writing because I have. However, this last month have been challenging to say the least. It was my sons innocent question last weekend, “How’s the writing going mum?” that made me question myself.
I answered him honestly, “yes I’m still writing”, but there was an element of guilt in my reply too. I knew, deep down, that I hadn’t been writing as much or as consistently as I should have been. And the reason I knew that, was because I’d already begun researching the subject of consistency.
Several of my creative entrepreneurial friends have asked this question too. How on earth do you pull yourself out of the funk, the doldrums that inevitably descend when you’re working on a long-term project or even a lifetime goal? How do you stay focused and make on-going progress? What do you do when there’s no wind in your sails?
In the early stages, when you’re full of passion and enthusiasm for a project, it’s easy to make loads of progress. At this stage, I personally get very carried away with my ideas for things I’m going to do. My poor friends and family have heard of my latest ideas for a new dream or venture over and over again. Bless them, none of them seem to get overly exasperated with me when I’ve changed direction for the umpteenth time, to chase the latest shiny, shiny project. It’s rather sad that in the process I’ve become a life long dreamer rather than actually achieving anything of my creative entrepreneurial dreams.
I laughed when I discovered there really is such a thing as Shiny Object Syndrome! Yes, there really is such a thing and I fit the description to a tee. However, learning this also made me want to beat the affliction. It seems so childish. So at the grand old age of 55 I’ve decided its time for me to grow up and to achieve this all-consuming, burning ambition I have inside of me. I want to create my dream book.
But first I need to finish writing the damn thing! And even once I’ve finished my draft manuscript there will be the long editing and re-writing process to contend with. So how? How can I keep going? How can I make consistent progress? How can I remain consistent and completely focus my energies to concentrate on my one big project?
I found it fascinating that as I researched, I discovered parallels in my thinking with my understanding of how the brain works, knowledge that I gained from researching depression. It’s my understanding that we learn by forging new neural pathways in our brains and then reinforcing that learning with repetition. If we enjoy or get some emotional reward (good or bad) for the learning, then it encourages us to keep repeating the action.
I realised that Cloud Watching (my nickname for observing my thought patterns in a way that enables me to disengage from them in an emotional way) and meditation; in particular focusing on clearing my mind of unwanted thoughts, by gently reminding my brain of the task at hand when it wanders or becomes distracted; are the exact methods that I need to employ. Both these practices have taken me time to master.
In addition, I’ve now learned that every time I’ve given in to my imaginations desire to throw out my latest project rather than see it through, I’ve inadvertently given myself a get out. This cancelling of plans when they’ve become boring or simply too much hassle, gives me an immediate sense of relief that I’ve become addicted to.
So I need to break the addiction.
In the exact same way I broke my ‘addiction’ to my rumination and depressive thought patterns. I need to learn to learn and reinforce new healthier brain habits. In effect, I need writing and creating my book to become habit almost to the point of addiction.
I’ve just read an article by James Clear. In it he recounts a tale of a coach who asks an Olympian athlete the question: “What’s the difference between the best athletes and everyone else. What do the really successful people do that most people don’t?”
His answer provided the final answer to my own questions: “At some point,” he said, “it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day and doing the same lifts over and over and over again.”
So if I really want to do this, then only I can keep myself going. Only I know if I’ve got the determination to keep making consistent progress on this marathon task I’ve given myself. And for the first time ever, my answer right now is yes! I can do this!
But will I?
I’ve decided to begin by putting some measures in place to support my efforts. To begin with I have given myself a new mantra: Stay Focused, Consistent and Concentrate. I am repeating this to myself daily in my affirmations, as a reminder of my new-found discoveries about myself.
In addition I’ve set myself the challenge of establishing a new habit. Since it takes anything 30 days of consistent behaviour to become habit, then I am challenging myself to write consistently for 30 days.
Today is day six of my 30 day habit making goal. If I break the 30 day chain then I will need to begin all over again. And again. And again. Until it becomes habit.
The third measure I need, but am currently shying away from, is accountability. Perhaps I should hold myself accountable to my children? Or publicly announce my contract, like a marriage proposal, that I will stay committed to producing my book? Perhaps I should simply be accountable to you, my lovely friends and ask that you keep urging me on?
What’s stopping me? Well I’m scared that my attempts will fall victim of my old project abandoning addiction habits.
I really, really, want to achieve my book. Not just for you, but for me too. It’s as if I’ve a score to settle with my wilful brain and creative imagination. It’s becoming an internal battle of will for me. I’m determined that my down right stubborn, addiction to project abandonment and procrastination monkey loving brain, will be better behaved!
Oh, haven’t I mentioned the procrastination monkey before? No? Oh well, perhaps I’ll tell you about him next time!
Thanks for reading my rambles lovely friends