Monday, January 7, 2013

Showing up and getting to work

Oh, the blank page before me. The glaring white is piercing my eyes.

Not really actually. I was just saying that for dramatic effect. I was staring at my screen for about thirty seconds until I started writing this gibberish and the blank page was no longer. Alright, I’ll admit it’s too early to speak of any Substantial Writing as of yet , but I did put an end to the blankness of this page with my random, merciless letter typing. So let’s agree I’m making progress, shall we?

I really shouldn’t tell you this, but my new year’s resolution is to write. The reason I shouldn’t tell you is not so much the indisputable fact that new year’s resolutions are inevitably destined to die a lonely and quiet death – that is, until the point (usually around the following new year’s) someone reminds you of your once mighty plans, you have a look at their miserable, neglected state of being and you decide it’s time to put them out of their misery forever, afterwards feeling slightly disgruntled that you ever told anyone about them at all, because it clearly would have been better for the ego if they were kept eternally in oblivion, as if you didn’t fail to execute any of them because they seemingly never existed in the first place.

Really now, that’s not the reason I shouldn’t tell you about my mighty plan for 2013. Or well, not the primary one. The main reason is that by telling you about it, the chance that I’ll actually keep to it becomes even smaller than it already was. At least, that’s what Derek Sivers says. Apparently, repeated psychological tests from 1926 onwards have shown that telling someone about your goals makes them less likely to happen. The supposed explanation for this is that the social acknowledgement you receive when you express your intend to do something is quite enough to satisfy your feeble, affirmation seeking mind, thereby eliminating your motivation to put in any actual blood, sweat or tears. Or, as Sivers puts it:Imagine deciding right now that you’re going to do it. Imagine telling someone that you meet today what you’re going to do. Imagine their congratulations and their high image of you. Doesn’t it feel goo…

Hold up there, mister Sivers. What if people aren’t all that charmed by your resolutions? What if they don’t congratulate you? What if it doesn’t feel good to tell them? What if it actually feels slightly embarrassing, rather uncomfortable and very much as if they expect you to explain a) why you would cherish such boring/cliché/laughable goals in the first place, and b) why you would think that you are the sort of person capable of pulling them off? Would that have a reverse effect and boost your motivation to proof them all wrong? In other words, the next time my mother gives me one of her motherly reality checks, should I feel less frustrated and more grateful instead? Or is frustration a necessary ingredient for the reverse psychology to work? I must say Derek, trying to keep to your resolutions can get quite exhausting once you start getting all meta about it.

Alas dear reader, I’ve told you about my writing plans and there’s no turning back now. You may wonder why I did it, considering I have it on good authority from a TED-speaker that talking about your resolutions is a big no-no. The truth is, I didn’t really know what to write about, but considering I did make the resolution to write a piece every weekend, not writing about anything wasn’t really an option. Then, somewhere in the back of my head, Chuck Close popped up and spoke to me in a suitably stern voice: “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” And it may be healthy to doubt the authority of TED-speakers every once a while, but one simply doesn’t doubt the authority of a man who is face blind yet still succeeds at painting resembling portraits of people’s faces. So I was like, “Alright then. Chill Chuck. I’ll get to work.” And he nodded affirmatively.

Now I’m left wondering whether an affirmative nod from an imaginary life-coach-mentor-kind-of-guy counts as social acknowledgement. If so, I was doomed from the start. It’s all very confusing. I guess I’ll just keep telling myself to live the questions. Amidst the bustle of all the surely well-meant, yet sometimes contradictory life advice I admittedly expose myself to eagerly, this may be the single sanest advice to follow.

If all else fails, there’s one thing we can almost certainly count on. The remarkably short life cycle of new year’s resolutions is indeed practically inevitable, so the happy news is that – whether you tell anyone about them or not – it is actually quite unlikely you’ll further diminish your chances at making yours happen. I mean, your chances were probably zero in the first place.

Happy new year’s, dear reader. Until next time. Or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment