Nothing but obscurity

by Jeb

That’s how I’m beginning to think about fear. Of course, I’m not talking about “A bear is chasing me” kind of fear. That’s the sort of fear that serves us well. I’m talking about habitual fear. By far my worst habit.

I recently discussed my lack of online activity, but what I didn’t mention was that I replaced that time with productive offline activities. Spurred by an eBook I’m reading (courtesy of Tim Brownson - and I’ll be reviewing it here as soon as I’m done), I created a schedule. I’ve set a few goals. I’ve written down my vision of life as I want it. In short, I’m getting organized and purposefully working toward things.

I’ve done this all before, mind you. And I enjoy the process. It creates a sense of control, which suits me fine. It also reminds me how achievable things are. It’s simple, really…we all know you can’t get there from here, unless you start walking, right?

But as with so many simple truths, the practical application of this knowledge is a bit more complicated. As I mentioned, I’ve done this all before, yet here I am needing to do it again. WTF?

I’m left to consider this habit I have of starting, but not finishing. Initially, the word ‘loser’ comes to mind, but dang it if Tim doesn’t warn me about the potential pitfalls of certain language. How simple words can begin to define the boundaries within which we believe we can operate.

Turns out, this is another one of my bad habits. Years of telling myself, in quite some detail, that I don’t measure up, takes time to undo. But I’m committed.

So after cutting myself some slack, I gave this some serious, and objective, thought. And the answer is quite clear.

Fear. Doubt. Worry…a rose is a rose by any other name. But there it is.

I have these moments of confidence, generally after a long malaise, and this is when I begin. This is when I’m no longer willing to accept less than my best, so goals are set, to-do lists penned, schedules created. And the early days are met with gusto. Life is pleasant. And many things are possible.

And that’s when it happens. In the endless stream of kick-ass thoughts is dropped the tiny stone of fear…

“Will all this make a difference?”

And then another…

“What if it’s all horse shit and it’s an endless cycle?”

This is how it starts…how confidence and enthusiasm are replaced with uncertainty and despair. And little by little, the goals are forgotten. The to-do list ignored. The schedule dismissed. All of it still very much in existence, and still very much the keys to change. But obscured now. Hidden, as if gone entirely. And there I sit, content to see it go.

Fuck that.

Not this time.

Related posts:

  1. WOB dot com

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Twitted by FraukeWatson
07/04/2009 at 1:57 am

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ryan 07/03/2009 at 3:27 pm

Amen. I feel like if I were more articulate, I would would have written an article just like this one.

So, for the record, your time spent writing this post made a difference.

I was thinking about the same thing yesterday, wondering if there were a perfect model of sustainability for my goals. I found that setting goals that have the focus of serving others most always succeed. Self-doubt will always try to trick you, no matter what your goal, but some goals are definitely better than others.

That said, I agree that the simple truths are often hardest to apply. One of my goals is to figure out how to implement the simple truths.

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2 Jeb 07/03/2009 at 3:37 pm

As I’ve said previously Ryan, I think you and I may be sharing a wave-length. That’s actually an awesome thing you said about how goals that serve others are the most sustainable. I’ve never thought about it like that before, but I believe it to be absolutely accurate. I think you may have touched on something fairly monumental here for those of us who struggle to maintain the focus on our goals. I’m going to have to think on this a while.

Thanks, as always.

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3 Ryan 07/03/2009 at 3:47 pm

Jeb, glad you got something out of that comment. I’ve also been thinking lately-and you mentioned this as a suggestion to me once, I believe-that we should try to be accountable to people; we should get others on board and if we slip they should be in a position to notice, whether they can catch us or not. That’s something hard for me to do-most days I’m a leave-me-alone type of guy…. sad to say…. I wonder what the best way is to keep people in the loop and put them in a position where they can hold you accountable, but in a way that isn’t a pain or nuisance for them. Any thoughts on that?

Also, more of my thoughts on the main subject at hand are at this link if you care to read them. http://www.henzabits.net/model-of-sustainability

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4 Jeb 07/03/2009 at 3:59 pm

Really great post Ryan. Since I can’t tell you there, I’ll have to do so here. Since the author of this blog allows comments. :) Amazing quote by Frankl…it’s a lot to wrap my mind around though. It forces me to reconsider so much. Which is hard. But good. So thanks again.

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5 Ryan 07/03/2009 at 4:06 pm

It is all too true that the author of this blog is exponentially more benevolent than the author of henzabits.

And I’ve decided that the only way to wrap myself around Frankl is to live through a concentration camp like he did. I’m not quite ready for that….

6 Sandra 07/03/2009 at 3:31 pm

love this…..this same thing has been going round and round in my mind for some time. I’ve started and stopped and started and stopped, with a need to start again. this time for good and without all the negative self-talk. i appreciate that you put it out here for my eyes to see…..
Sandra´s last blog ..A Week In The Life - Day 4 My ComLuv Profile

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7 Jeb 07/03/2009 at 3:44 pm

I have a feeling, Sandra, that this back and forth is part of the process for the vast majority of folks. Sure there are some who just get it, were raised in some way that this struggle’s not theirs. But so long as we keep after it, I think that’s where it’s at. If you ever need any encouragement, you know where to reach me. :)

Thank you Sandra.

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8 Randall 07/03/2009 at 3:53 pm

Wow, who gave you permission to write the story of my life?

Like you, here I go again, only this time I’m willing to strip away the comforts and stare my dark, ugly problem in the face so that I can know it for what it is. THEN I can conquer it.

This time.

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9 Jeb 07/03/2009 at 4:04 pm

Yes Randall, I think that’s what it takes. And by the way, I’m finding, through my time in this space, that this story isn’t so unique. I know that being unique is generally regarded as a good thing, but I want to make a point about this real quick. I think we tend to fantasize our struggles in such a way that allows us to wear them like a badge of honor. I get that…shit, I’ve done it for so long. But you know what? I think growth requires that we recognize this isn’t our own personal struggle. That we’re not special in this way, nor should we want to be.

By seeing that so many others face similar challenges, it’s been quite liberating…like I don’t have to own it for myself. It’s not my burden to bear any more. And that’s good.

Thanks Randall.

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10 Tammy-Cricket 07/03/2009 at 6:07 pm

I’ve been here and read this wonderful post. I am going to think on this for a day and return. I’ve been battling with a to-do list for a while now and I’m in the process of letting some of that go. When my mind is clear, and I have some sleep :) I shall return.
Tammy-Cricket´s last blog ..A picture begins with "it"… My ComLuv Profile

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11 Jeb 07/04/2009 at 9:37 am

Well then, Tammy, I shall patiently await your re-arrival…

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12 Frauke Watson 07/04/2009 at 1:52 am

Hi Jeb, this post is awesome. Exactly what has been going on in my mind. I have been experimenting with twitter out of that same fear, meanwhile building a blog - with the same killer thoughts in my mind - then did not dare to publish it. But my first post reflects what you just said. Time to get my butt in gear.
Being on things like twitter at least confirms that we are not alone in our hopes and fears.
Thanks for being out there!
Frauke

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13 Jeb 07/04/2009 at 9:45 am

Hi Frauke…
Yes, please, get your butt in gear. :) I think we could all benefit from that. And if I can help encourage you in any way, please holler.

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14 Jessica Bosari 07/04/2009 at 4:50 am

Know that song, “Killing me Softly”. This piece did that for me.
“I felt he found my letters
and read each one out loud”
“telling my whole life with his words”

I have gone through this process too many times to count. The difference is that each time, I am starting from a new place. I will make a plan, move forward a while, then lapse. After a while, I make a plan again and start to move forward again. In fact, my last planning episode was only two days ago.

I made an excel spreadsheet outlining all the tasks I want done each day. I may not achieve them all, but I am focusing on the most important things first and if I have time, I do them all. I open this document each day and log the work I have completed. Now I have a visual representation of my accomplishments. The sheet tells me, “See, I am making progress!”

The thing to remember is that you do matter. This post matters. All the responses clearly show you are not alone and you are appreciated. Remember this and don’t be afraid to take a break, lay about a bit, and then start again. There’s nothing wrong with going at your own pace. In fact, it is better to do things this way, minimizing stress, thereby maximizing your creativity. Good luck and never, never give up. Failure can only happen when you give up trying.
Jessica Bosari´s last blog ..Quality Content for your Website My ComLuv Profile

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15 Jeb 07/04/2009 at 10:01 am

Hi Jessica,
Wow, such a great comment, thank you for taking the time. Yes, I, too, have been through this process countless times. I take heart in the fact that I’m still here, at it again. On the one hand it’s frustrating, but on the other, it represents a certain level of persistence in its own right, and I know that’s important. And each go-round, I’m certain, acts as funnel wall, bouncing me closer and closer to that point of delivery.

Thank you for such nice words of encouragement. I trust you’re taking your own advice, too, yes?

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16 Jessica Bosari 07/05/2009 at 6:15 am

Thank goodness, Yes! I have worked hard for the past 15 years or so to learn to handle fear of failure. I have wanted to be a writer since I was 13 years old and gave up the dream because of my demons. My self esteem was in the toilet. It was not until I hit 20 or so that I started to climb out of that hole. It has been a long road, but I’m here, I’m writing, and I’m finally finding happiness!

The road has taught me that it does not matter how long it takes me to get there. I only need to know that I will get there. When I have a lapse, there is no reason for self-doubt or self-punishment. Just kick back, think about the lapse and how you can overcome it. Meditating is an excellent way to spend the extra time. Pretty soon, you are making a new plan to help you stay on track a little better next time.Slef-doubt and punishment only make the lapse last longer!

You can do it, Jeb. No one has set a deadline. Love yourself enough to be gentle, patient and kind.
Jessica Bosari´s last blog ..Quality Content for your Website My ComLuv Profile

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17 Jessica Bosari 07/05/2009 at 6:20 am

By the way, Jeb. Let me share this with you. This is sort of an outline of how I got to this place. I hope it helps.

http://www.socyberty.com/Lifestyle-Choices/How-to-Live-Without-Regrets-and-Get-the-Life-You-Want.530653
Jessica Bosari´s last blog ..Quality Content for your Website My ComLuv Profile

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18 Jeb 07/06/2009 at 9:00 pm

Very excellent advice, Jessica. Thank you. That imaginary deadline looms, if only in my own mind. And recognizing it as such is a big priority for me. I’ve spent so many years looking ahead to some other/better time, feeling as though I needed to rush to get there. Patience isn’t among my better qualities, but it’s something I’m getting better at.

Learning to enjoy each moment…and recognize that wonder and opportunity abound in every one of them, seems the key. I think when we’re finally content with where we are and what we have, the cloud dissipates and we can see it all so much clearer. Sounds like you’ve got that much figured out. Thanks again for sharing. And I look forward to reading that link you sent, thank you Jessica.

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19 Klaus Holzapfel 07/04/2009 at 7:47 pm

I think you have it all together and have no excuses to cut yourself any more slack ;-)

Some thoughts:
Ryan is certainly right about your goals palying a huge part on how committed you are. But even then you might slack off. Or rather me, that is. You know about the non-profit I started. We have very honorable goals. But once my divorce hit me I was in a state of emotional chemo and even though the project needed me I just didn’t have it inside me.

Our puritan forefathers have instilled a value system in this country that tells us to feel guilty if we don’t kick ass 7×24. But if we look at the cycles of nature we might well say that it is normal to do a little more here and then and a little less at other times.

Being too hard on ourselves could already lead to a loss of energy that might better be used for something else.

We continue to grow (and age) as persons. No matter if we like it or not. So you don’t really go back to square one when you are in your “shoot I neet to become more efficient mode”. If you look closely you’ll find differences in each of these situations - plus all the parallels as well of course.

I think you are more efficient thant you might make yourself believe.
Klaus Holzapfel´s last blog ..Cashing in on a dead man My ComLuv Profile

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20 Ryan 07/04/2009 at 8:02 pm

Emotional chemo. That one is going down in my book of powerful word combinations.

And to some degree I know what that feels like. To a larger degree, I know what slacking off feels like. I say to myself, “This is too much! I can’t do it anymore.” Many of my great ideas are burnt by emotional frailties. Either that, or a trial throws my sense of self and sense of goodness so off track that I make choices that impede the progress to worthy goals. It’s dang hard, while wading through trial, to both keep my goals in mind and not make rash decisions that harm them.

I think that’s a struggle for everyone, and a few loses on the battlefield will certainly make us stronger.

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21 Lisa 07/05/2009 at 9:27 am

Thanks for this great post! I have many times set goals and tossed them aside when the doubting factors of age & injury got the best of me. A couple weeks ago, I decided to proceed forward again.

My background is in martial arts. This, as you can image, resulted in many injuries — some of which will never heal. I retired from the sport and really hadn’t picked up anything else — thus, now out of shape and unhappy. I tried to come back several times w/o success — not to compete again but just to find that peace.

Now, I realize I don’t have to be the best anymore, I just want to be the best I can under the circumstances… best wishes to you in your quest!

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22 Jeb 07/06/2009 at 9:03 pm

Thank you Lisa. Yes, it’s often my unrealistic expectations that get the better of me. I know this isn’t a unique quality of mine, it’s something so many people struggle with. Being your best is appropriate. Being THE best, perhaps not. But considered rightly, your best is enough. There’s no need for anything more.

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23 Dave Thurston 08/01/2009 at 7:59 am

The best part about failing is knowing that what you did last time didn’t work. It is all a process and trying things in a different manner will ultimately lead to success. Perseverance - is such a great word - and it sounds like you’re also wearing it as a medal. Good.
Dave Thurston´s last blog ..Red&Gray - A Getaway My ComLuv Profile

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24 Jeb 08/04/2009 at 3:44 am

Everything matters when it comes to building a life. Good and bad, they both play a part, a critical role in defining who we are and what we’re becoming. Finding a way to make the good flow as easily as the bad…now that’s the trick. I think perseverance is part of it for sure…you have to run through the pain sometimes, I get that. It’s the seemingly purposefully placed obstacles that start to grate on the nerves. And whittle away confidence. But alas, we persist, as we must. I’m no quitter.

Thanks for your comment Dave.

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25 Jessica Bosari 08/04/2009 at 6:05 am

I just love this post. Everything new is another nugget of wisdom. I just came up with a new method that makes me feel like I matter. Whenever I see an opportunity to do something nice for someone, anything, from a smile at a stranger, to promoting a colleague’s book just as a favor, it feels SO good. I feel whole. I feel like I am serving my purpose in life. Is that not the definition of feeling like you matter?
Jessica Bosari´s last blog ..Quality Content for your Website My ComLuv Profile

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26 Jeb 08/19/2009 at 9:19 pm

Hi Jessica,
I apologize for my long delay…a very busy 2 months and I’m just now coming up for air. I do think that focusing on others is one of the surest ways to draw out our very best and, as such, matter most. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m all that great at behaving accordingly, but it’s something to be aware of, and work toward. Thanks for your comment.

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