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The Tinkered Mind
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June 9th, 2021
The puzzle of motivating one’s self on a project that does not have a clear and near incentive is very difficult is a very difficult one to solve. It’s the reason for the countless self help books that are published at such a constant or even accelerating velocity. For the audience of such books, the main issue is that rewards for constant efforts devoted to some area of improvement are often very far away. Losing weight, getting fit, getting rich, quitting the boring job, becoming a master of skill, doing something you love for work. All of these are, for most people long drawn out processes. They lack all of the urgency that something like a baseball rocketing towards your face would inspire. For such clear and near events we are remarkably well suited. We duck.
The first or next step to any such long drawn-out goals is often simple, straight forward and fairly easy to get done. But instead of taking such a step, we begin to plan, strategize, write a to-do list, ready the work area, and inevitably squander our energy on different forms of procrastination as though that next first real step can only be taken when everything is perfect, and the plan accounts for every possible contingency that might throw our drive from the trail.
A broad goal cannot be planned in detail, the steps can only be discovered as they are taken, and any plan is best encapsulated by a definition of the goal itself, not some path we imagine might force it into reality.
Each moment brings a new branching set of possible actions that may bring us closer to our goals with differing amounts of progress. Sometimes, perhaps even usually, our goals are closer than we think but the plan gets in the way because the round-about route is the only clearly visible one. And once the nose is to the grinding stone, a myopia for quicker paths overtakes our perspective, fuelled by a blind attachment to the plan already decided on.
The plan quickly becomes a trap, one that works in two ways. Making the plan is a waste of time that could be better spent actually trying to carry out the first item on that fantasy trail, and it can blind us to other, better options that emerge as the situation changes as a result of the actions we do take.