Tonight, I was walking my dog at dusk when I finally had an idea for something that had been escaping me all day. I had been trying, unsuccessfully, for the previous couple of hours to come up with a podcast topic for this week.
Usually, I really enjoy marinating on a topic in the days before I record. I look up research, I talk to other people, I explore previous thinking on the topic. It’s fun- and I see ideas and inspiration percolate in my brain before I record. But this week, I started and stopped ideas on several different topics. I was just feeling uninspired.
So earlier today I felt myself slipping into the mental slump of indecision (which is also a topic of podcast episode 24), so I gave up for the night and decided to enjoy the warm weather and take a late walk. I’d look for inspiration again in the morning.
As I was walking, I was listening to Tim Ferris’ podcast and in this one he was interviewing world champion magician Simon Coronel. Simon was telling a story about the many years he spent in a corporate job, where he was saving money and dreaming of another life where he pursued his passion for magic full time one day. He realized this practice of planning was actually working against him, and he said he wrote this phrase one day in his diary: “Fear and enthusiasm battled. And fear kept winning.”
It was at this point where I stopped my walk and turned around to come back home so that I could record this episode. Because I realized that there isn’t anything that’s going to improve my planning more so than by doing.
The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that action taken today will take you further than the plans you intend to make tomorrow.
Our indecision, research, procrastination or whatever we chose to call it in the moment of pausing is very likely another shade of fear casting a shadow over our enthusiasm.
And those things we keep polishing in our minds are just extending our to-do list. It’s like carrying a backpack full of rocks, and every time we look at the mental or physical pile in front of us that we haven’t finished, we are adding another rock.
So this episode doesn’t offer stats or quote research studies. This is a real-time example of the case for being unscripted. That message you haven’t sent, the idea you haven’t shared, the words you haven’t spoken – these are the rocks piled in our brain. Those actions not taken pile into subconscious barriers. Our brain is tracking this trail of broken promises, even if they’re not visible to anyone else.
Episode 61 talked about the theory of Occam’s Razor and the added weight we carry by overthinking. Drafting, revising, researching and delaying are close cousins of overthinking. We tell ourselves the extra effort is worth the investment when, really, it’s our enthusiasm that keeps losing the battle.
So how do we stop the spinning? One way is to look to the principle of Parkinson’s Law, which is the idea in time management that work expands to fill the time allotted to it. So if there is a deadline in a week, most of us will take the whole week to get it done.
Part of the challenge here is that we are the one who most often assigns deadlines to our ideas and dreams. Flipping the timer forces the action. And the action doesn’t have to mean completion. Episode 33 talked about the momentum behind Ridiculously Small Steps. Starting something is a signal to your brain. And sometimes that spark is all that’s needed to push you past the pause.
Once I heard that quote from Simon Coronel, I flipped the dial from fear (meaning not being able to pick a topic) to enthusiasm (talk about this very thing). And then I moved the timer up to now.
When we stop the cycle of the swirl, even for a few moments, there is a better chance we can hear the whispers of wisdom. When we’re so busy creating our own inspiration, we might be missing the magic that’s already available from another source.
There are certainly times when extra care is needed but check what’s behind the desire to hit the pause button. Enthusiasm usually shows up as energy whereas fear often feels like work.
Not everything has to be hard to be worth doing. And you don’t have to always work hard to show your worth.
Here’s to finding new ideas in unexpected places and the simple magic of taking action.