Like Sarah Gilbert, our interviewee last month, Lori Pickert doesn’t have a problem with yes. At least at first. Read on to learn more about how to keep the yeses coming–even when the will-power lags behind.
A typical exchange with my husband goes like this:
Me: Do you think I should do this?
Me: I think I should!
Him: You should probably wait until…
Me: I’m starting today!
When I decided to write a book, I knew it was the inevitable outgrowth of my blogging and mentoring. I couldn’t keep blogging unless I stopped and wrote the book. It would be a big project, but it felt necessary and inevitable. Should I do it? Yes!
That first “yes” was relatively easy. To achieve a big goal, though, you have to say “yes” again and again and again, over days, weeks, months, maybe even years.
To write a book, I knew I was going to have to find hours of time. It had to come from somewhere, and I didn’t want it to come from my husband or my children. After my time with them, everything else was on the chopping block.
Small commitments accumulate like small expenses — at the end of the month, they really add up. To invest in myself, I had to say “no” to spending time, money, and effort on things that weren’t as important to me, whether it was watching TV, agreeing to sit on a committee, or caving in to a request for a favor. I saved “yes” for the important stuff. By relentlessly prioritizing, I made my to-do list a lot shorter and pushed my goal closer to the top.
You have to say “yes” to things that scare you. Firsts are always, by definition, things you’ve never done before. W. H. Auden said, “Human beings are, necessarily, actors who cannot become something before they have pretended to be it.” Such a lyrical way of saying “fake it till you make it.”
Writing a book didn’t scare me — but publishing it did. I had no idea how it would be received, whether people would like it, whether anyone wanted what I had to share.
It’s part of our family culture to celebrate learning and doing and to accept making mistakes and failing. It’s okay for kids to do the failing and learning — it’s good for them! But what about the parents? The truth is, we can’t expect our children to do these things if we don’t do them as well. If you want to raise doers, you should be a doer. Even — no, especially — when it scares you.
You have to say “yes” even when you’re feeling “maybe.” It’s inevitable that your enthusiasm will wax and wane over the life of your project, and it will usually decidedly wane toward the end. There’s a reason it’s never crowded along the extra mile: most people never get there.
When the going gets rough, the more tender among us start procrastinating. We want to push that fear away for another day; we want a buffer between us and the hard stuff. It’s no good to slide your goals eternally to the next calendar day. You have to swallow hard and say “yes” now, today, and every day.
On the tougher days, when I just wasn’t feeling it, I still made myself go into the studio and sit among my notes and research. If I’d let myself lose the habit of going to my workspace and staring at my work, I would have forgotten what I was trying to do — then I would have started minimizing its importance. Because that’s what happens when you give up on something you care about: first the letting go, then the rationalizing that you never really cared that much anyway.
By building my project time into my routine and keeping it up even when I didn’t feel like it, I rode out my low periods of waning enthusiasm. On some days I accomplished a lot and on other days I accomplished very little — but at least I accomplished something, and I didn’t quit.
That initial “yes” is important — when you decide that you care enough about a goal to focus on it and really try to achieve it. But even more important are all the little, daily yeses that follow. They’re the ones that combine to make the final big “YES!” — the one you shout when you’ve made it to the end.
Lori Pickert writes about learning at the Camp Creek Blog. She is the author of Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners.
Guys, can I just put in a plug here for Lori’s book and her incredibly rich and supportive website? Both are ostensibly about homeschooling, but her insight is equally relevant if you’re educating your kids full-time, educating them through a traditional school or (heck) if you’re yearning to become a self-directed learner on your own. I receive nothing for plugging it, except warm fuzzies. Which thankfully are both free and priceless.