How to Do Hard Things
One of the harsh little realities of pursuing a dream is
that sooner or later, you’re going to have to do some
stuff you don’t like very much. It’s just plain
Enter procrastination. Dread. Meltdown. Complete
But the prospect of doing the tough stuff doesn’t
have to stop you cold. To that end, I’ve been teasing
out some different ways you can keep going. Here are a
few of my favorites:
Play music. I learned this when I started running, or
‘jogging’ as we called it back in the 70’s.
Clamping on the headphones made it go so much better.
Even today, as I pound the treadmill, it’s just so
much easier if I’ve got country music videos playing
along while I work out.
In fact, there’s a remarkable moment in Michael
Moore’s documentary, Fahrenheit 911, in which a
soldier talks about overcoming his fear and going into
battle by listening to heavy metal music piped into his
helmet. Neurosurgeons, emergency room docs, and others
in high-pressure operating theaters often play lightly
upbeat, soothing music to keep stress under control as
‘Bookend it’. This is a phrase the 12-steppers
wisely use for calling up a supportive friend before AND
after a tough task … just so you’re accountable out
there to someone. Use the phone or email and make that
connection. You’ll be less likely to procrastinate
your way out of it.
Delegate. Got a task you just can’t somehow do? I
always have three or four lurking around the edges of my
desk, until the day I rise up and give it away. Hire a
local teenager, elderly person who wouldn’t mind a
little light work, a family member, or even a local
odd-jobs person to come in one day and give you a hand
with all or your ‘hard stuff.’ If the problem seems
to be on-going, hire a Virtual Assistant, from one of
the on-line sources like AssistU.com. This is a person
you hire on an hourly basis, usually in some other part
of the country, who helps you electronically with all
kinds of administrative needs. If you can’t afford to
find help, buddy up with a friend and offer to do each
other’s ‘hard stuff’ in an even swap.
Plan a big, juicy reward. We’re talking one you
seriously want …and the nastier the task, the bigger
the reward. If you must, combine this with book-ending,
to make sure you not only do the task, but reward
yourself as well.
Dare yourself to not do it. Really imagine life
without this particular task completed. Then see what
the consequences are. Truly dire? If not, maybe you can
actually drop the hard thing from your to-do list. On
the other hand, will you be disappointed? Will things
just not seem right somehow? Better use that image of
disappointment to move your dream along.
Jump in, first thing. We tend to be fresher, and less
conflicted, stressed or distracted first thing in the
morning (post-coffee, of course.) That’s the best time
to seriously seize the day and do the hard thing.
Success manuals all preach doing it first, and they’re
right. It works.
Envision the goal. Is it 1000 new subscribers to your
ezine? Is it a potential big sale that will change your
business, or leaving a job that will help you live your
dream? Make a little note and park it somewhere that’s
frequently in your line of site, such as a Post It on
your computer screen. (You can word it obscurely to
protect your privacy in an open office environment.) By
keeping you attention on the big picture, you’ll
naturally get less hung up on the day-to-day small
Impose a temporary goal. One of my dreaded tasks is
vocalizing, or exercising my vocal cords every day in an
effort to keep my singing voice in shape. Just about the
only motivator I’ve found that works is always having
a small performance just ahead … especially in times
when I’m working on a long-term project that doesn’t
‘need’ my voice anytime soon. Knowing I have to
perform, even at a dinner party, keeps me interested in
staying in shape. The same would apply if you want to
work out on a regular basis. Find a charity fun run or
walkathon you can get yourself in shape for.
That should give you some fodder for facing the harsh
realities of life, and getting on with those annoyingly
procrastinated to-do’s. Feng Shui experts insist this
‘mental clutter’ keeps us small and inefficient;
once we actually go through the hard stuff, and clear
out our anxiety and procrastination, we thrive.
And guess what? They’re absolutely right!
Suzanne Falter-Barns Barns is the author
of the new book, Living Your Joy: A Practical Guide
to Happiness (Ballantine) and How Much Joy Can You Stand? A Creative Guide To
Facing Your Fears and Making Your Dreams Come True (Ballantine
Wellspring.) You can learn more about guided
visualizations at www.howmuchjoy.com/tangdysp.html.
Suzanne Falter-Barns’ free ezine, The Joy Letter,
brings you practical tips and tools for your dream every
other week. Sign up at www.howmuchjoy.com/joyletter.html
and receive her valuable report, "Thirty-Five
Guaranteed Time Savers". It helps you create time
to finally live your dreams.