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A Simpler Way to Commit to Your Goals

We’ve all got things that we want to do. A set of books, a course, a project just lying around. The pattern repeats: we begin, we excel, the “beginner’s luck” as Cohelo calls it begins to fade, passion project becomes a task, the task is then avoided, project invariably ends. Cue disappointment.

There is another variation of it. There’s an assignment/project with sufficient time and deadline respectfully set far away. But then we wake up one day that the month has passed, That paper is due tomorrow and only structure is written. Cue anxiety.

I have faced this, I currently am facing this, and (while I hope not) chances are, I will be in this situation again, it is okay! All is well! (NOPE :/)

Last year during my Master’s, this unwillingness to work despite the due motivation and desire to work on my dissertation became a menacing problem. To cut off this fuel of my anxiety, I started spending my time searching for a solution (instead of working, of course). Somehow in that search, I stumbled upon one beautiful solution that has helped me quite a lot with my commitment issues. The answer was “to just show up”.

I found the solution in a chapter Virginia Valian (1977) wrote in the book Learning to Work*. She describes her story and in it describes how while reading a book titled “Human Sexual Inadequacies” for her course she realized that like sex work was natural.

The book described how clients often did not enjoy the natural process of sex and hoped only for the endpoint, orgasm. They remained observers, hoping to reach the end instead of participants reaching the end. Work, Valian says, is as natural as sex too. And instead of being observers hoping to reach the endpoint, we prevent ourselves from enjoying and participating in the process.

She broke down her work problem and adapted the therapy she had read in the book to solve it. She broke down her work in small manageable pieces, learned to see work as rewarding in itself, and aimed to experience the constancy of work. It is logical though, when “Work is in itself worth doing”, the “fal” does not remain a requirement and it definitely becomes easier to just do “karm”.

Finally, she decided to spend a small amount of time -15 minutes- each day on work. For these 15 minutes, she would just sit and do her task. [Ye 15 min usse khuda bhi nahi cheen sakta]. Thus began her journey towards completing her thesis where she slowly increased the time, at times decreased it, but most importantly allowed herself to not only lose herself in the task but also commit to the task if a difficult problem comes up in the middle of these 15 minutes. It was simple, show up each day and work.

I have been following Yoga With Adriene for a few years now. She echoes this solution in a line that she often repeats, almost like a mantra: “The hardest part is showing up”.

It is quite true. At least in my case. I have worked in extremes all my life. I will not show up till the last minute and when I will, the situation would not allow for breaks, breath, or immersion in the work. It will be like a battle, which I will win, but be drained and many a time physically hurt.

I am trying to avoid this overwhelmed stage 15 minutes at a time now. I often find myself so immersed when I show up that I end up working close to an hour, but there are days when showing up is difficult. It is on those days that the 15-minute promise makes me stay committed.

[Do comment and share what you do to not fall for the work problem! I hope that you find this as useful as I have. Have a nice day, and a glass of water.]


*Valian, V. (1977). Learning to work. In S. Ruddick, & P. Daniels (Eds.) Working it out. New York: Pantheon.


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