Thursday, February 28, 2008


You know, I spend a great deal of time searching for inspiration that will reinforce my motivation. It’s not that I necessarily actively seek it out, but when I’m reading a statement or quote that jumps off the page, I might start thinking about how it relates to me and how I can employ the idea into my expectations and desires. Sometimes this works in the opposite way, and something negative I read about someone or something taps into my insecurity which, in turn, causes me to worry. But lately, happily, I have been experiencing the former more than the later. The biggest kick is when an idea jolts me into a new way of thinking. These ideas often stick with me and add to a sometimes prolonged period of well-being. I’m experiencing these more often now, which is odd, because I’ve never made less money than at this moment, I’m operating on a relatively strict budget, I live alone for the first time since I was twenty, I’m waiting in graduate school, scholarship and fellowship limbo, and it is gray February which, although it is the month that both my mother and my sister Emily were born, usually finds me low and moody.

But not right now for some reason. I don’t want to tempt the Gods of the Depressed State but these days I often feel downright giddy. It could be the regular exercise. Booker has discovered the joys of slobbery-tennis-ball-retrieval, and the other day I actually ran stairs at the amphitheater at Salem College. I haven’t lost any weight to speak of, but I haven’t gained any either so I’m seeing it as a good thing. (I think they say that you have to exercise and eat right—I’m only doing the first part). My house is clean (the downstairs anyway) the bills are paid (the ones that absolutely have to be) and most of the urgent personal matters are being kept consistently at bay.

But there are always opportunities to procrastinate. This leads me back to the original point of this post, inspiration. Today I received it from two sources, both within several minutes of each other. The first came from the fore mentioned February’s child Emily, who wrote about the 5 stages of denial we experience when putting off a required but unpleasant task. She explains, through dialogue with herself, that once she sits down and makes herself do the task she finds out that it’s not that bad after all—even enjoyable in some cases. She shows that the hardest part of these things isn’t figuring out how to start, often the hardest part is just starting.

The other point of inspiration came from the beautifully thoughtful piece by Litlove about choosing schools for her son. In thinking about her own schooling she said this:
“I learned to like work purely for itself. I might have been hungry for praise but I never expected it, and I enjoyed the sense of competing only with myself. It was in many ways a solid foundation for graduate study.”

What a fantastic approach toward study and achievement, competing with yourself with little to no expectation for praise, always trying a little harder than you did last time. This is easier said than done for me, but a goal worth striving for.

So I took these two pieces of inspiration and I applied them to my early morning slide toward procrastination. I had already begun to talk myself into believing that the pressing letter that I’d been putting off writing could wait another day and the follow-up calls to graduate schools didn’t really need to happen either. That’s when the words of those bloggers kicked in, Emily saying, “it won’t be so hard once you get started,” and Litlove saying “why don’t you try just a little harder than usual and get that letter finished?” I took both pieces of cyber-advice and completed both tasks, plus a couple of others. I feel very self-satisfied now, congratulating myself at great length. So it’s not always the Faulkners, Obamas and Mandelas that inspire me but often the lesser-known but equally brilliant philosophers-at-large. Sometimes these people even have blogs. Sometimes they’re even your sister!


litlove said...

You sweetheart! I feel completely rewarded now for the effort I put into the post to search my soul! And congratulations to you for stopping procrastination (and believe you me, it can attack us all and be hard to cast aside) and doing your letter. The grad schools will be lucky to have you.

Courtney said...

What a lovely post, Ian! You are absolutely correct. And I admire both your sister and Litlove so very much - bringing their words into one post reminds me to make that phone call for work tomorrow that I really don't want to. Bravo!

Charlotte said...

I agree: both of those posts were excellent, as is this one. I am a horrible procrastinator and the only response really is just do it.

Anonymous said...

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Emily Barton said...

Oh, wow! So glad to have been of assistance, having no clue I would be. Now, I really must stop procrastinating by reading blog posts and get my final edits entered onto this manuscript, so I can ship it up to the office.

IM said...

Litlove, it's good to know that everyone is afflicted with procrastination every now and then. A professor told me of a colleague who would tie himself to his desk chair with his bath-robe belt to get him to stay put and finish tasks.

Those tasks we don’t want to do seem to just keep coming at us Courtney. The trick is not to let them pile up like I often do. It’s a great feeling to be “free and clear” for a day or so though.

Yes Charlotte, I hate that it has to be a TV commercial slogan but that saying really is appropriate and I use it a lot. Of course I don’t think it originated with Nike, I think my parents invented it when I would avoid taking out the trash.

Emily, both you and Bob seem so productive, to think that you put things off sometimes is heartening to this chronic put-offer.

Froshty said...

And I'm procrastinating over a presentation that needs to be done by Tuesday afternoon by reading blog posts and hanging out on the men's college basketball message boards. Great post, Ian! Time for me to knuckle down now.

IM said...

Froshty, good luck on that presentation!

Anonymous said...

I was going to reply to this but I put it off - - -