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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Procrastinating 101: Making Breakthroughs, and Keeping My Clothes On

Chapter 16, and the second last chapter, in Marshall Cook's Slow Down. . .and Get More Done is entitled "Running Naked in the Streets."  Really.

So what does streaking have to do with productivity and the good life?

Well, apparently not too much, beyond contributing an intriguing chapter lead-in.  Cook is discussing creativity in this penultimate section of his book.  The streaking phrase comes from the story of Archimedes who lit upon the theory of displacement while in his bath, shouted "Eureka!" and headed for the streets to announce his discovery, not stopping to put on his clothes.  Cook takes off from this tale to discuss the thrill of creativity, and of novel ideas and inventions and solutions to problems.

As in other chapters, there is much material that, while quite enjoyable to read, does not seem to pertain directly to Cook's overall subject.  But he does eventually come around to the recommendation that we employ creativity to look at the metaphors for life and for ourselves that underpin the way we approach our efforts and our days.  The exercises he prescribes for accomplishing this examination ask us to, first of all, complete the statement "Life is _____" in as many ways as we can think of in three minutes.  Following that, we are to determine which of the statements we agree with, and then which seems to best capture our view of life.  Similarly, we are instructed to complete the statement "I am _____," again  jotting down as many ideas as we can in three minutes, and then performing the same sorting process to come up with that statement that best expresses how we see ourselves.  

At the conclusion of this exercise, Cook would have us "embrace our opposite," finding the statements about life and ourselves that are most unlike the ones we generally operate from.  And finally, we are to write a statement about ourselves as we would like to be, and then carry it around with us for a week, reading it often--as a way of pushing our reset.  Cook says
You won't become the reality simply by chanting the statement several times a day, but you can mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for the necessary changes.  You can begin calling forth from your Big Mind the wisdom and the will you need to become the person you want to be.  
I haven't completed my lists yet, but I am generally inclined to accept Cook's premise.  I do believe that the way we think about things, and ourselves, has a lot to do with how we act, and how we experience our lives.  And I accept that changing our categories and our assumptions can take us in new, and perhaps more satisfying directions.

When I do figure out my new "controlling metaphors," however, don't look for me to take to the streets, or the rooftops, with or without garments, to announce them.  Whatever I am, or might wish to be, I'm pretty sure "a streaker" isn't it.  Especially not at my latitude, and in this season.

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