Just do things. I was recently talking to a teacher friend of mine who was stressing before the first day of school because he didn’t know what to do as a cool, unique, fun icebreaker/ get-to-know-you activity. But in wanting so badly to do something unique and cool he threw every potential idea he had into the proverbial basket of self-deprecation. This left him frustrated with zero workable ideas late at night before the first day of school.
Sadly, as so many of us do, he fell victim to his own imagined standards which disqualified every thought before it even became a truly thought out idea. And the unfortunate thing is that this is probably the story of 90+ percent of all potentially great ideas. Often it starts out as a fleeting thought that we get super excited about. We think to ourselves, “This is going to be awesome. It’s the best idea ever.” Then we sit down to really work out the thought, put the pen to paper so to speak, and all the magic stops.
You think over the potential idea again and again, and it sounds worse with each passing loop of thought. Eventually, distraughtly, you consign yourself to the thought that this proto-idea—awesome just a short while before—isn’t good enough to finish or to even start to write out. And so it is killed in the womb and goes the way of so many ideas whose creators had not the perseverance to see them through to fruition.
Why does this happen? Well, in my humble, non-accredited opinion it is a toxic mixture of perfectionism and the body’s natural aversion to doing work. Quality endeavors take time and effort and we would, if possible, rather put in less effort and not waste time. Perfectionism plays into this terribly well because we get a preconceived notion of what our idea or project should be before we even really start it. This means that the second it looks different, or doesn’t feel quite as good as we thought, we have an instant excuse to quit all together, thus fulfilling our preference to not waste time and not expend (unneeded) effort.
Since beginning to write nearly every day I’ve experienced this phenomenon first hand. Often. I get an idea, think about it some more, maybe even begin to write, and then the second there is a slight bump in my original vision for what the article or piece was to be, or if it’s not sounding how I imagined, I feel like it’s not good enough and want to quit. The original excitement I had about writing about the topic leaves me, and I think, “What am I even trying to say with this?”
The cure to this ailment? Power through it. Just do things. Work out thoughts and ideas in their entirety, forget your perfectionist standards. Write that article, make that lesson plan, create that pitch. This seems to be a common theme and lesson I hear among the Praxis crowd. You have to at least get past the point of thinking and to the point of bringing it into physical reality. It’s through the process of creation that you will learn truly how good or bad your thought or idea is. The truth is that you can’t know whether something is good or bad until you do it. Don’t talk yourself out of it.
Chances are if the idea needs tweaks or improvements they won’t come to you—indeed you probably wouldn’t even be aware of the need for them—until the ink hits the paper and the metal meets the meat. Once I realized this my writing has come much easier, and been a lot better. If you hit a mental roadblock or find a problem you hadn’t originally thought of you need to just press on. If at the end it still isn’t up to your standards then go back to the drawing board. But chances are that if you finish something you will have tweaked it as necessary along the way and you end with a quality product.
Just always keep the train rolling. Just do things!