As I look back through my photo library, I am able to see the timeline of change in the garden in its most raw form. It has now been seven weeks since our volunteer weekend with my family. We produced a fence, diminished trash piles, established garden beds, and bonded relationships. As far back in the past as it is and will continue to be, I am grateful for the very tangible evidence of the fruitfulness of that gathering of people to work toward a common mission. Gardening continually provides me a plethora of analogies to growth, exploration, and nourishment.
These sprouts are the result of a very labor intensive, fundamental project. In a matter of weeks to come, pretty distant from the establishment of the foundational pieces, we will reap the benefits of that work. How does this relate to your life?
I’ll tell you how it relates to mine. Just as I spoke of planting tons of tiny little seeds of carrots and actions in hopes of yielding benefits, those seeds can also come in big packages. In the beginning, it might feel like a whole lot of effort for no immediate gratification, yet from this initial dedication and prolonged patience sprout the prizes we seek.
From experience, I have seen that the front-loaded initiative may not produce what you’re looking for. Maybe you don’t even know what you’re looking for, because the outcomes are not defined.
“Instant gratification” is a buzz term these days, and I’m still trying to understand what exactly we mean by it. Does scrolling through Facebook posts really provide that gratification? Perhaps, but is it the gratification we are truly capable of seeking?
It’s so hard to break out of our trained, effortless inaction. The gratification we gain by watching a video through to the punch line triggers a surprised reaction, spiking dopamine levels for an instant, which somehow proves enough for our addicted brains to remain crippled to its hold on us.
Okay, so many of us understand the science or simply the effects of feeling, or not even noticing being trapped in some of these cycles. So what does it take to snap out of it? We have to define for ourselves what we find valuable to us. What kind of changes do we want to make in our immediate world, in the greater world, in our own life?
I mentioned to my friend that I felt crippled by a terrible cycle of inaction. Any time I would think of something I needed to do, I would sit there doing nothing productive, and definitely not do that task. He said, “Maybe you’re addicted to Not Doing?” And surprise! He’s right. We train ourselves into habits – habits of doing and habits of not doing. I was training myself to, every time I identified a “To Do” task, to effectively Not Do it. This almost guaranteed perpetual inaction, no matter how imminently important the to dos became!
So how do we fix such a problem? You’re not going to like this answer. It is the most infuriatingly simple solution, an obvious answer, but is the crux of the problem.
That’s right. Make the choice to Do it.
How do I implement this change?
I train just the opposite of what I have been training. Every time I know I should go on a run, or go out to the garden, or write up a report, or make a nerve-wracking phone call, get out of bed in the morning, no matter how resistant, tired, lazy I feel in that moment, I do it. Right then. Right there. My intention is that training myself to dive in to the initial steps of productivity will some day provide an incredibly useful, much grander gratification than sitting on the couch with Netflix in my lap. It takes thirty repetitions to form a habit. Challenge accepted. Are you in?