Provision #258: Get Going
by Bob Tschannen-Moran
The point of sitting still is not to grow roots. It's to become so clear about who you are and what you want that it's easy to get going. Many people put off and procrastinate until they find themselves buried under a mountain of impossibilities and tolerations. Don't let that happen to you. Get going, now.
Having just urged you to sit still in last week's Provision • as a strategy for coping with and managing the stress of navigating life's transitions • it's time to contemplate the other side of the coin: get going. Too often we put off and procrastinate about what we don't want to deal with. This may feel good in the short run, but in the long run it makes transitions that much harder.
Procrastination can be viewed as deferred decision making. For one reason or another, there's something we're not willing or able to invest the thought or energy to decide right now • so it gets put off to later and added to our to-do list. The result? We suffer under the growing weight of our own indecision. Our to-do list becomes a toleration list, which gradually eats away at our sense of freedom, responsibility, and energy in the world. Eventually, our failure to get going can immobilize us completely.
The cluttered desk or full email inbox graphically dramatizes this phenomenon. As I discussed with a client just this past week, there's not many things you can do with a piece of paper or email. You can throw it away or delete it. You can act on it. You can refer it to someone else by handing it off or forwarding it. Or you can file it in the archives (for future reading or access). That's not a partial list. That's a complete list of everything you can do.
Unfortunately, many people do nothing. They look at the paper or email and decide to let it sit • always with good reason, of course. Perhaps they need more information. Perhaps they need time to think about their response. Perhaps it conjures up uncomfortable feelings. Perhaps they're just too exhausted to pay attention to the matter. Whatever the case, they put off the inevitable until their desk looks like a disaster and their emails start to bounce. Eventually, they schedule a catch-up day and end up throwing out all the stuff whose dates have now expired.
Sound familiar? Chances are most of us have been there at some point. It is a natural human tendency to put off to tomorrow what could be done today, particularly if there's anything daunting or unpleasant about the task at hand. Our modern world, with so much coming at us so fast, makes that tendency all the more dangerous. It's easy for procrastination to become a self-destructive pattern. It can literally bury us under a mountain of never started and unfinished tasks.
Coaches often work with people to not only get them going, but to keep them going through the many transitions of life. My aforementioned client has just taken a new financial management position, after five years as a consultant. His resolve is to do things differently this time, including how he handles paper and email. He's in the process of developing the systems to make it so, and as these systems emerge my client reports a sense of flow that was not present before.
Next week we will talk more about the systems that make it easy to get going and effortless to keep going. What works for one person may not work for another (that's the beauty of individualized coaching over a handbook for idiots). This week we simply want to acknowledge that our resistance to change can lead to unhealthy putting off and procrastination. And it doesn't always come from within.
Two weeks ago I asked a friend whether he wanted our new address and phone number in Virginia. He said, "No!" because it made him sad to think about our departure. A day or two later, he observed that in refusing to receive the information he had made it harder for me to get going on my transition. His delay, for emotional reasons, resulted in my putting off a knowledge transfer that had both temporal (it still needs to be done) and emotional (we couldn't process the feelings) ramifications.
That's why it's important to get going as soon as possible. For more than two years, we've known that we would be moving in June of this year. After January 1, we got going on the process of buying, selling, thinning, packing, and organizing ourselves for the move. This early intervention makes it possible for us to go through this transition, even in the final weeks, without a sense of overwhelm or despair.
To get going can make all the difference in the world. Many runners will tell you that it's getting out the door, and taking those first few steps, that represent the hardest part of a long run. That applies just as well to the writing of newsletters. Typing those first few words can be the hardest part. But once you get going, things get easier. Don't put off to tomorrow what you can do today. Get going. You'll be glad you did.
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Thanks for your weekly Provisions. I don't know how you can come up with so many of these.
We met at a coaching conference a couple years ago and I'm still receiving and enjoying your newsletter. I'd like to say congratulations • it sounds like your subscriber list is growing in leaps and bounds! You seem to be having great success increasing your subscribers, and so I want to ask you about the resource you mention in your newsletter, EzinePlace.com. Do they charge you for each new subscriber and do the subscribers know which newsletter they are subscribing to? (Ed. Note: Yes, they charge 15 cents and the subscribers select your newsletter from a list with a subsequent confirming email. If you sign up, be sure to use our affiliate link: http://www.listopt.com/cgi-bin/clickaffiliate/click.cgi?lifetr.
This is the last I will be at my computer for a while as I head off to SF, Tampa and eventually my new home in Michigan.... Thanks for the relevant comments about sitting still! Yikes • what a concept. The poem by David Wagoner • isn't it by David Whyte? Just wondering. (Ed. Note: No, it's by David Wagoner but it appears in David Whyte's book of poetry, The House of Belonging.)
A wonderful provision, Bob, and so very, very relevant and palpable to me at this time, having just returned last week from a 10 day meditation course/retreat. It is perhaps the most difficult thing to sit and do nothing, except observe your breath, and eventually sensations throughout the body. I found it interesting that it took me 3 or 4 days to learn to be that still and aware of myself and my body, yet I could probably learn to do almost any physical activity in less than half that time. And even after 3 or 4 days I still had to work very hard each time I sat to meditate. Paradoxically to the image of sitting still, it is perhaps the most alert and attentive state one can be in. For more information and to experience this for yourself, I highly recommend contacting a Vipassana Meditation Center. They are located all over the world, and there are 7 throughout the US and Canada. You can find them online at http://www.dhamma.org.
First let me say congratulations on the children's graduation. Very transitional moments in your life. I also have an observation. Sitting STILL while watching movement is helpful. To sit quietly before running water, watching an ant or observing clouds helps one to remain still and ponder the ontological issues of life.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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