Working with Stuff

Doing Things can suck it: why obsessing about productivity may not work

I am glad that Paul Jarvis wasn't "doing things" and instead chose to take this photo.
I am glad that Paul Jarvis wasn’t “doing things” and instead chose to take this photo.

Doing things. To-do-lists. “How are you going to get there?!?!” “It won’t just happen, you know, you have to act!”
Do things!!! DO-THINGS!!!
Etc.

This is how most of the coaching world sounds like to me.

Now, let’s be clear on something: for some people, this kind of “motivation” to “action” works a treat. It is precisely what they need.
The want to do something, and then someone reminds them to act… and they go and act.
They may even hire a coach to motivate them.

Well. Good for them.

For other people, this kind of emphasis on “action” has the exact opposite effect of “motivating” us.

In fact, it crushes us. Completely.
Ouch.

This kind of pressure to “get moving already!” destroys me

And it leads me to paralysis.

I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. Apply pressure to me and I will most likely curl up in a ball, close my eyes and start rocking back and forth, repeating “make it go away, make it go away”.

Not productive, to say the least.

For those of us who are Highly Sensitive People, who are emotional and prone to depression and anxiety and all kinds of “emotional turmoil”, I believe giving attention to our pain is the first step.

We will never move past our “suck” or a “stuck” otherwise. Trying to force ourselves to “get moving already” will not work.

See, it is much better to give loving attention to a suck or a stuck than to ignore it and try to force yourself to “do” what you think you “should” be doing.

In my worldview, “mindfulness” trumps “action”. Everytime.

Here’s the reasoning behind it.

If you give attention to a suck, you will heal it. You will help it dissolve. Then it’s only a matter of time before it goes away on its own. After that you will be able to act, almost without noticing.

If you give attention to a suck and you’re really lucky and it gets dissolved *right in front of your eyes*, then you will know what needs to be done straight away. You’ll be able to act with this internal knowledge of what you need to do.

If you don’t give attention to a suck, you might be able to act, through “pushing” and “force”. And if you’re lucky, the actions you take will lead to what you want.

If you’re unlucky, though, you now have 2 problems: the suck you didn’t give attention to plus the thing you didn’t want.

If you ignore the pain and you go and do something and it flops, you will be left aghast.

How are you supposed to know what you need to do if you’re not checking with your internal guidance?

Your compass? Your “intuition”?
How can you know what is good for you?

If you do follow your inner guidance and what you do flops, as it happened to me last Sunday, then at the very least you can say “hey! I followed my inner guidance, and I felt that what I was doing was in alignment, and in “flow”. So at the very least, I have that”.

If you don’t give attention to a suck, and you force yourself to act and it does lead to what you want, you still have a suck… You still have the pain you didn’t acknowledge.
You might think “well, at least I got what I wanted”.
Not so fast.
It may be what you wanted, but it may not be the best thing for you at the time. There’s that…

But also, if you ignore pain and push yourself, you reinforce this subconscious pattern of “ignoring my pain is clearly the way to go”. And pain that isn’t acknowledged comes back bigger.

At some point, we all have to stop in our tracks and acknowledge our stuck, our suck, our pain.

We can do it in small ways, whenever we get “stuck”… Or we can wait until it becomes one gigantic badass mess that blows up in our face. It’s usually known as a “life crisis”. And you don’t want that.

Mindfulness trumps action. Every time.
Observe, notice, pay attention to the pain.
Give it legitimacy.
It’s trying to tell you something, after all.

* An anagram of “action steps” is “panic totes”. I believe that says it all.