Back in June, I had a sudden epiphany about how what we chose to do, or not do, affects our sense of well-being, and I wrote an article about that. After paying attention to mood and productivity swings over several days (alright, over several months, maybe even years), I came to this conclusion: “… I’ve recently identified the three instances when I feel perfectly at peace, and quite uplifted actually: After a good conversation with someone positive, when I help someone and after I’ve completed a project I had been avoiding. And THIS, I know now, is the secret to happiness, since happiness depends not on outside circumstances, but on how we feel about ourselves.”
There are hundreds of gurus out there who repeatedly warn us, in books, conferences or merely by example, that procrastinating is a) a self-fulfilling prophecy and b) harmful to the procrastinator more than to the avoided task. They break down for us the mechanics of procrastination and provide step-by-step, idiot-proof strategies to be rid of it. Everything they point out is true. Every trick they suggest beams with common sense. Most of us who choose to make the effort to change our ways fall back to old patterns before we reach the last page of those books we had promised ourselves would change our lives.
We know how to not put things off. Each of us can make a mile-long to-do list and pledge allegiance to it, our hearts filled with certainty and dedication. Still, we stumble.
There is another side to this. It arises with the notion, also proclaimed by many influential authors and gurus, and by accomplished entrepreneurs, that the secret to their success is this: “I followed my heart. If you do what you love, you will have success. You have to do what feels good.”
Following a passion is indeed a key to success, and by this I mean personal success. We need not become Fortune 500 executives to have success and we do not need an audience or recognition. Success is an internal feeling, a personal stepping stone, or rather a series of stepping-stones. We know, we feel it, when we get there. That’s enough.
Success is incremental and it begins with choice. When we ask, “What would feel good?” or “Where is my bliss?” we miss part of the equation. It is as though a master gave this formula to his students, hundreds of years ago, and some of the words he spoke then were lost over time, and now the lesson is incomplete. This is why we do not know how to apply the “follow your bliss” method.
Making things, art, is part of my bliss. Yet I get stumped. Even as a hermit with little interaction with the world outside of my work and home, I can find hundreds of distractions from the task at hand. Take these new leaf pouches, for example. I started working on this new design well before foliage season. I just felt stumped every time a prototype did not turn out quite as I envisioned, so I found excuses to avoid this, convincing myself that I was following my heart by allowing more time to pass, but this only added guilt to the equation. Then it hit me…
The profound and more accurate question to ask, every time a task or choice is at hand, is not, “What would feel good now?” It is, “What would make me feel good about myself?”
I’ve played with this new strategy over the past several days and I am stunned. The moment I decided to ask, “What would make me feel good about myself?” putting this aside was no longer an option. Not only that, but something shifted, a burst of certainty boosted my confidence. I finished two leaves in a few hours, and the outcome exceeded my own expectations.
Approaching the daily to-do list with this new question (whether the list is merely a thought or we actually put it on paper), changes everything. You cannot ask, “What would make me feel good about myself?” and then choose to watch just one more TV show before getting back to a project that truly impacts your life. You cannot ask, “What would make me feel good about myself?” and then eat an entire pizza to comfort insecurities. You cannot ask, “What would make me feel good about myself?”and avoid a career move that could change everything. You cannot ask, “What would make me feel good about myself?”and ignore a neighbor who needs help. And I suspect that you cannot ask, “What would make me feel good about myself?”and then take anything from someone else or cause any harm.
Precisely. You cannot ask, “What would make me feel good about myself?” and then take anything from or cause any harm to yourself.
This does not mean we avoid restful and playful interludes, or special treats, at all cost and it does not mean we never get angry or sad either. It means we sharpen our ability to map a constructive and satisfying course.
The new Leaf Gift Pouch is available at Ornament Studio.
Related Article: Why we feel like crap