“Let it be what it is.”
This was the response I received when I explained to a friend why I had not made further progress on a article I was working on. I’d missed several deadlines, postponed key dates and meetings, because I had not made progress. Instead of making progress, I was making excuses.
Let it be what it is? His suggestion, although simple, reminded me of a song I would hear on Sesame Street as a child. I didn’t see the relevance, and told him so.
He suggested that if the draft that I was working on needed work, so be it. “If it’s bad, let it be bad,” he said. “That’s why there are backspace keys, erasers, and white out. It can only get better once you get it on paper.”
I didn’t see it that way. In my head – I was busy. I created needless lists, asked for the opinions of people that were completely unrelated to the task, and mulled over my ideas. In other words, I had created useless work that wasn’t moving me forward. He explained that I wasn’t moving forward because I was afraid of the possibility that my work might be bad, that my client wouldn’t like it, and that ultimately, I would fail. None of this had occurred, however, because I hadn’t even reached a point where I, or anyone for that matter, could critique my work.
Fear of the “what-ifs” had me paralyzed, and instead of moving forward, I kept adding one more thing, one more reason, why I couldn’t do my project. My fear of failure had me stalled.
What’s the problem?
Instead of taking decisive steps forward, I was creating needless obstacles and projects. I thought I was productive, but I was really just busy. I was masquerading as being “thorough”, “cautious” or “detailed”. In reality, I was postponing a task that I found difficult and made me uncertain.
The real problem: I was afraid. My fear of failure had me driven to add completely unnecessary steps and tasks to my writing project, even though they weren’t required or useful. While I was technically working, I wasn’t seeing the progress that I should. When it was finally time for me to share my progress with my colleagues and supervisors, I would have to make up excuses, or if there was something to share, it would be so rushed that I knew it was not my best work.
In other words, I was living a self-fulfilling prophecy: because I didn’t move forward on my writing project and take the necessary steps to meet deadlines and make progress, my final products were not up to par. I was afraid of doing poor quality work, and because I didn’t set goals and work toward them consistently, that’s exactly what happened. This same fear prevented me from being present in the moment. I found myself constantly thinking about what could go wrong, and what I needed to do in the future, that I wasn’t taking action today.
I had to draw a line in the sand. I had to remind myself to live with intention, set daily and weekly goals, and then ACT on them. Then repeat. If you have appointments to make, show up early. If you have project deadlines, work with the intention of meeting them. Sure, your work and projects will go through many drafts and revisions. That’s the beauty of it. You shouldn’t avoid it because it’s not perfect.
Let it be what it is.
This does not mean that it will be easy. But when you get out of your own way, and live with purpose and focus, the end is easier to see. Your days are busy, and you have a lot to do – we all do. If you are living a life that you love, embrace it. If you are not, make a change. What you shouldn’t do is make excuses.