I love imagining scenes about my ideal life. The problem for me is taking the first step to build the foundation under that dream castle I've just constructed. I often feel overwhelmed by my ideal scene, especially when I compare where I am now to what I would like to be doing. It all seems too big, too hard, and too far out of my competence and experience – Uh Oh! That sounds very familiar. Those are the lines my Inner Critic whispers to me. The Inner Critic and his three pals – Worry, Anxiety, and Fear who all chime in with waves of impending doom, tiredness, exhaustion, and dark, life-sucking thoughts. Then I start thinking -- Maybe I'll just wait until I have more time, more energy, and I feel better. I'll just take a nap now.
That inner critic is my cue that I need to make a move – take a step to my desk, sit down and begin. It doesn’t matter how. I just need to start.
A few weeks ago I told you about taking some time for myself. After I had got over being freaked out about just hanging out with me and realizing just how much open, non-scheduled, non-busy, non-running around time I had, I sat down at my desk to work out my ideal scene.
As soon as I sat down, I felt the need to straighten the pencils, clear off some clutter, get out some paper clips and extra paper, and in general futz and fuss around arranging the space for my ideal scene event. Believe it or not, this relaxed me enough to focus and settle in and feel comfortable enough in my chair to begin the brainstorming process around each of the goals I had identified in my Ideal Scene.
I got out a piece of paper and wrote my goal at the top – Writer / Author – and then began to write whatever came to mind for that goal. I didn't critique it but just made a list of as many ways as I could think of that would make my dream of publishing a book a reality. I set the timer for thirty minutes and was surprised at how quickly time flew. I even added another fifteen minutes to the clock. I used this same process for each of the four goals I'd written about in my Ideal Scene.
Then I went back, and I picked out the things that I felt motivated to do. I wrote an affirmation for these mini-goals that I could use to counter my usual negative self-talk and the excuses I make all the time. Finally, I chose something that I could easily visualize, something where I felt enthusiasm or excitement. I pictured my book, the cover, and holding it in my hands, flipping through the pages. I felt how good it was to have written and published a book.
1. Make a move.
2. Brainstorm ideas for each goal.
3. Identify excuses then write some affirmations.
4. Visualize and add feeling to your picture.
This process is not only a way to help you to realize and manifest your dreams, but it is a beautiful way to live with anxiety and perfectionism that show up as procrastination – the things that keep you from living the life you want to live. Notice what I did not do – I did not manage or struggle with all of that anxiety, those excuses, or the Inner Critic. I recognized what they were up to, I looked beyond them to focus my attention on what I wanted to do, and I made a move to do something simple and concrete.
Use the acronym ACT:
Accept your anxious thoughts with kindness, compassion, gentleness, and less engagement.
Choose what is truly important in your life and what you value.
Take action toward your Ideal Scene and be willing to bring your inner discomfort along with you in the service of your goals and dreams. (The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety)
And here’s what’s even better, as you make those small steps toward your goal, you feel better and more satisfied with life. Keep it as simple and as concrete as possible.
Remember, you will have to start and start again. The Inner Critic and his three pals are still here. That's why affirmations and visualization along with concrete and simple steps are so essential to helping you look beyond the anxiousness and perfectionism that have kept you from living the life you want to live for so long.
The Mindfulness and Acceptance Therapy Workbook for Anxiety; John Forsyth Ph.D., George Eifert Ph.D.;
Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, Timothy Pychyl Ph.D.;
The Greatest Secret of Them All, Marc Allen.