Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Procrastinating 101: Taking Off the Mask

Chapter 3 of Marshall J. Cook's Slow Down . . . and get More Done is entitled "Finding Your Own Truth."  In its introductory paragraphs, Cook tells us that the "two major time-snatchers" are worry--the subject of his Chapter 4 and my next week's Procrastinating 101 post--and "the creation and maintenance of a persona or public self."

In focusing on the energy we expend behaving "acceptably," as we've been taught, Cook is prodding us to examine more deeply our issues with "productivity."  If we haven't allowed our true selves and desires to bubble up, to peek out from behind the masks we wear even for ourselves, efficiency and time management are beside the point.  

But where, and how do we find our true selves, and what we want to be doing?  First of all, we need to acknowledge this wisdom expressed by Nietzsche:
This is my way.  What is your way?  The way doesn't exist.  
Cook says that the real self is already present, that
. . . you need only let it emerge.  Take off the mask.  Stop pretending.  Be what you are.  Set your own standards.  Strip your life of any object or action that is false to your true self, that clutters and complicates your life and separates you from your true impulses.
 Lest we underestimate the work involved in dismantling the "acceptable" self, he reminds us that
[i]t won't be easy, especially at first.  The longer you've responded as your masked self, the more automatic those reponses have become.  Your first thought will be the one you were taught to have.  Your first impulse will be the acceptable impulse, the "right" behavior, the desire you've learned to let yourself have. . . .
Listen to the inner self.  It may babble and howl at the moon at first.  Be patient.  After all, you've kept it bound and gagged in the basement for a long time.  Gradually it will calm down and speak the truth.

Cook advises us to move peacefully beyond the battle we've been waging against our suppressed thoughts, impulses and desires.  And to "find the power in the pause."
You may have lost your true self in noise and motion, which create the illusion of progress.  You won't discover your inner voice until you still the other voices inside and outside of you.  Wait in the quiet for the inner voice to direct you.
You may have lost your true reaction in the automatic response, which gives the illusion of decisiveness.  To stop killing your genuine impulses, catch yourself just before you pull the tigger.  Slow down.  Discover the power in the pause.  Feel urgency and compulsion slip away.  Feel the true self emerge and, with it, a flood of warmth and well-being.
By giving this time away, you'll receive time--not minutes of "saved" time each day, but your whole life, to live precisely as you please.
A lot to think about.

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