Show up and Put in the Work.
Inspiration is a funny thing. It starts innocently enough with a little spark in the back of your mind. There’s a faint glimmer of that thing — that idea — on the horizon, and it’s so good you decide to try to make it happen. You’re cautious though, because you remember all the other times you tried to nurse those little sparks into flames, only to find them quickly snuffed out by the weight of reality. So you calculate your moves. “This time is going to be different,” you tell yourself. But days of planning turn into weeks, then months, and next thing you know, you’re no closer to your goal than when you started. And along the way, you’ve slowly lost motivation anyway, so you decide to drop it altogether.
Why is it that ideas born out of such excitement can end up being so fragile? It’s because of one very simple thing: the world that exists in your imagination is WAY cooler than reality. The perfect composition is perfect only as it exists in your head. Once you sit down to try to create it in real life, all your technical inadequacies come into focus and it becomes discouraging. You want to get out of a dead-end retail job and pursue a career that aligns with your creative passions, but you’re too tired after work to make any progress.
If my last blog post was a guiding hand helping you plot your goals, then this one is a swift kick in the seat of your pants to get you moving. If you’ve read this far and you’re nodding your head in agreement with the type of dilemma I’m describing, then brace yourself for the solution, because I’m going to go full tough love on you. It’s actually something so simple I already said it to you in the title of this blog post: show up and put in the work.
Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.
Don’t set your work aside until you feel motivated enough to do it.
Just show up and put in the work.
If you can hunker down on the day when you feel the absolute worst, least-motivated, and stressed, and still carve out 15 minutes to work on that passion project, then I guarantee you can succeed. One single constructive action taken in service of your goals is worth more than a thousand wants and wishes. I promise that the hardest part is the showing up. Once you’re sitting there with your job application, or incomplete art piece, or inquiry email already in front of you, it gets a lot easier to put in the work than if you talk yourself out of ever showing up in the first place.
Overcoming perfectionism and personal angst are the biggest hurdles. In my own case, I have a borderline obsession with reducing risk as much as possible in any situation. I come up with contingency plans, remove variables that have the potential to add complications, research the topic at hand, and only then do I even consider embarking on my journey. In a healthy dose, this isn’t a bad thought process.
The problems arose when the bubble of this safe, risk-averse stage of my process became my entire process. I was thinking about work so much that I convinced myself I was doing work — but the truth couldn’t have been farther from it. This loop of analysis paralysis only ever broke when I started forcing myself to put in actual work. By no means was this painless, but the more I did it, the easier it became. And the more I did it, the more positive feedback started to snowball, and the goals I was aiming to accomplish became a reality.
Some of my recent goals were checked off my list after only a few months of concerted, consistent effort. Some are just starting to bear fruit after a year or more of chipping away at them. There’s nothing special or extraordinary about me or what I do, though. I make a plan, show up, and work in line with that plan as long as it may take.
You can absolutely do the same, and I challenge you to make the mental shift to start on that journey. Tell yourself you won’t let another day pass without making active progress toward your goals. Sometimes that progress comes in tiny steps, and sometimes in huge leaps, but so long as your momentum is forward-facing, you’ve got this. And if you start to question yourself, tweet at me and I’ll tell you to keep at it.