on leveling up

Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk, thinking about all the things that I want to accomplish before the end of the year, and found myself just sort of spinning: not knowing where to begin, and getting more and more overwhelmed, wondering how I was going to get it all done.  And so, I did something that I haven't done in a while -- I grabbed my camera and went for a bit of a photo meditation, and then came back inside and sat in front of my computer again.

Right then, a friend of mine pinged me on instant messenger.  While we talked, she mentioned that she was feeling the need to "level up" on her work:  she has enjoyed considerable success over the last few years, but she was feeling the need to go even farther with her work.  But she was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the idea, not really knowing where to begin.

And suddenly, I knew exactly what to say to her.  (Isn't that always the way?  Here I was, dealing with the virtually the same issues and not knowing where to begin; yet when my friend voices similar challenges, things felt clearer.  Talk about a spirit tap.)  As soon as I listened to her, two bits of advice came to me -- advice that other friends had given me in similar situations.  

First, after reminding her that every time she put her mind to something, she had shown the ability to make it happen, I suggested that she figure out what her end goal was:  what she imagined she was doing a year from now, or five years from now.  And then, when she was really clear about what that looked like, she should start working backwards.  Actually list the steps that it would take to get there.  It might take a while, but the first step was simply to get very clear on what she wanted the result to be.

The second bit of advice was something a friend of mine gave me at the end of last year.  I was complaining to him about how I was running out of time to write my book -- I'd already missed my first deadline, and this new looming deadline that would mean I'd only have a few weeks to write over 200 pages, and the holidays were coming, and we had houseguests arriving, and travel right after, and ... well, it just looked like an impossible task.  And after I'd ranted until I was exhausted, he looked at me dead in the eye, and he said:

"Karen, the way I see it, you have two choices:  you can choose to write the book before the deadline, or you can choose not to.  So pick one."

I stared at him.  "Well ... I mean, I have to make the deadline.  I can't miss it a second time."

He smiled.  "Okay, then you've made your choice.  So go do that."

I sat there in stunned silence.  "Just do it," I repeated.

He smiled again.  "Or don't. It's your choice."

I looked at him.  "But I have to do it."

"Then do it, Karen."

Do it.  Could it really be that easy?

For the record, it wasn't easy.  But I did it.  I turned in my manuscript on (second) deadline.  

My instant-messenger friend seemed satisfied with these two anecdotes, and after we signed off, I thought about our conversation some more -- and realized that it was time to take my own advice.

Figure out what I wanted to do, figure out the steps to get there, and then just make the decision to do it.

Because experience has taught me that while many things aren't easy, most things are more doable than I might think.