My challenge.

by Jeb

tree-brainWe have a highly specialized mechanism to alert us to the things that require our urgent attention. I call it the ‘avoidance redirect’ move, and I’ve reached master-status (akin to a black-belt in karate, only somewhat less useful).

By way of example, let us consider the highly under-rated task of paying bills. Now, I don’t actually pay the bills in my household, but there was a time when I did, and I can tell you this…I routinely brushed the task aside (avoidance) and, conveniently, decided in that moment that nothing was quite so important as cleaning the kitchen grout, or dusting the curtains, or hitting my thumb with a hammer (redirect). Admittedly, these are low level tactics hardly fitting for a ‘master’ of my level, but this was years past folks…I’ve had time to perfect my craft.

Oddly enough, completing this task had many benefits, whereas not doing so had many costs. I find this particular bit of irony one of the more irritating humanisms, if you must know. But alas, I haven’t the time to re-write the genetic code, so it appears it’s a flaw I’m going to have to live with. In any event, it’s usually a pretty good indicator that something important needs doing so, for that, I suppose it has it’s place.

All of which brings me to the point of this post. The illustrious Zoe Westhof of Essential Prose recently issued a challenge to those willing to accept. “Come one, come all”, she (digitally) shouted, “Get off your rather large behinds and get down to the business of creating.” And then she pointed directly at me. (In retrospect, the above quote might not be entirely accurate…it’s hard to say for sure as it’s been several days [avoidance] since the alleged shouting and pointing occurred).

Nevertheless, I picked up on her subtlety and, if somewhat delayed, have decided to accept the challenge. Below lie the details.

I’m a big fan of creating (aka producing), actually. Perhaps you know this about me. But I’m going to do something a little different with this challenge. While I love writing and running and making houses for raccoons with my kids, those are primarily physical acts. I’m pretty decent at those.

But my brain? That’s a different story. Mental focus/discipline is where things tend to break down for me. Short spurts are fine, but sustained effort on the path to a specific goal has eluded me more times than I can count on my fingers and toes. So this is where my challenge begins. 

What I’m Committing To:

I am setting short-range goals and creating a mental vision of my life, in all respects, as I expect it to be. I am reviewing my goals, and my vision, daily, and I am spending 30 minutes quietly reflecting upon them, imagining their completion, picturing my vision and feeling how it will feel to be living in accordance with it. I am then spending another 30 minutes on a specific task that relates to one of my goals (in addition, of course, to the many other things I do throughout the day that also bring me down that path).

In 15 days, I will post about my many great successes, and I will reiterate my gratitude for all things Zoe. Cheers.

Photo Credit: Lars Sundstrom

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Zoe 01/23/2009 at 8:20 am

I love this commitment. I’m currently in the process of doing very deliberate thinking on directions I will take and broad goals to keep on the horizon. It’s very exciting, and of course, a bit intimidating.

This is a great take on the challenge :)

Get Zoe’s content here..Reclaim Your Dreams: An Uncommon Guide to Living on Your Own Terms


2 Detlef Cordes 01/24/2009 at 2:26 am

Hi Jeb,so isn’t that a meta-goal your are setting there? Your goal is to set short range goals - or do I get that wrong?

I recognized myself in the first paragraphs of this post. I am painting the kitchen-walls and all the doors in the apartment: I urgently have to do my taxes. I think there are lots of people in the boat with you/ us.

I think it’s wired deep into our psyche to avoid awkward tasks and situations. It makes perfect sense.

“Who steps forward to save the horde from the attack of the saber-toothed tiger?” - “Me, me, me!”
“Who steps forward to clear out the cave from old stinking bones?” - “Certainly not me.”

So maybe the solution for me is to recognize the taxman as the saber-toothed tiger. But that might result in me acting hostile - which is not advisable.

Get Detlef Cordes’s content here..ISP Not Providing Proper Service


3 Jeb 01/25/2009 at 12:08 am

Hi Detlef,
I guess my main point is to stay mentally focused on the goals. I’ve set plenty of goals before, but the breakdown usually comes when I finish writing them down…I set them aside and forget about them. So this is an effort to stay keenly focused on them, that I might establish the habit of mental focus and discipline.

These are the plans…Cheers!


4 Jeb 01/25/2009 at 12:20 am

Hey Zoe,
Yes, it is intimidating, but I think only at first. Which is why it’s so easy to avoid it. But it’s so important and, I think, it will prove to be one of those things we look back on and say ‘why did I wait so long to make that a priority?’

I forget the exact quote, but I read something once that has stuck with me for a long time, and it goes something like this…”There is no task from which the human mind shrinks quite so much as mental discipline”. The point I took from it is that if we can gain some measure of control over what we think about, and focus on, if we can create a mental discipline with regard to what we want in life, the doors will open willingly.

I’m ready.


5 Detlef 01/26/2009 at 9:31 am

Jeb, I’m circling the problem like Joshua circled Jericho. I hope the walls will be tumbling down some day. Presently I’m trying to tackle it in a humorous way. But in earnest: I think it’s always helpful to look at “strange” behaviour under the perspectives:Under which circumstances would this behaviour make sense?Did these circumstances exist in the individual (or genetic) history?Do they still exist or is the “strangeness” triggered by something that is no more - but once was a huge threat.In this example: What does it mean to pay bills? Where is/ was the menace?

This comment was originally posted on“>Detlef Cordes


6 Richard Reeve 01/26/2009 at 3:37 pm

…bravo…bravo…a fabulous put.

This comment was originally posted on“>Detlef Cordes


7 Detlef 01/27/2009 at 12:24 am

Thank you very much, Richard. I’m feeling my way here, having a vague notion how to move on.

Your feedback is much appreciated.

This comment was originally posted on“>Detlef Cordes


8 Michael Caranza 01/27/2009 at 4:52 am

So, evolutionarily speaking, they’re like pinky toes or tonsils or my little nub of a tail. They served a purpose at some time, but now, they’re merely remnants of a past imperative. Interesting. I like that.

(just kidding about the tail)

This comment was originally posted on“>Detlef Cordes


9 Detlef 01/27/2009 at 9:48 am

Hi Jeb, is it curled?

Those organs are easy to detect, but what you have learned is difficult to unlearn.

There is an interesting article in the New York Times about children prefering to learn by imitating adults - even if it’s clearly counter-productive.

This comment was originally posted on“>Detlef Cordes


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