Combating Your Gravity Monster
You know how there are things that you know you should be doing, that you know work best for you, and yet you fight yourself to actually do what you know is right? For some people that’s fast food – we know that a McDonald’s hamburger doesn’t qualify as healthy, and yet millions of people succumb to their desire for a McDonald’s hamburger. We know that exercise is good for us, and yet make everything else more important than getting out there and doing it.
For me, I know that getting up early is my best, most focused time to write. That when I do, it feels effortless and enjoyable, and when I don’t it feels a bit like my head has been put in a vice-grip and trying to squeeze anything that interesting, clever, insightful, or useful is a very painful and ugly process (picture lots of teeth gnashing and hair pulling, and trips to gaze into the depths of the refrigerator hoping to be saved). And yet…what I know to be the right thing for myself and what I actually do are (more often that I like to admit) two different things.
Of course I have my excuses. We can justify anything if we put our minds to it (that’s how amazing we really are!). There’s the fact that daylight-savings-time is kicking my butt and it’s too dark and my covers too warm to drag myself out of bed and stare at the blank page. There’s the fact that I’m convinced that I must have been a bear in a former-life, as all I want to do is hibernate in the winter (and yes, in New York, it seems that March qualifies as winter). I’m of course also very busy and need my rest. And there was a great dream I wanted to finish. And surely there’s some scientific study out there than can vouch for why I should stay in bed just a little while longer….
Excuses are like gravity-monster – they’ll pull us down and keep us down. Give them energy and they grow, like those crazy alien creatures you see in the movies. They consume your best intentions, your power and confidence, and won’t be satisfied until your best-self is hanging from their lips. They’re wily ones, as they sneak up on you and disguise themselves as being something they’re not. They appear as comfort and delight – leading us down the dark cavernous tunnels of regret. We must fight them with everything we’ve got!
We all know of strategies that work to combat our gravity-monsters. Some people keep their visions alive with dream-boards. Some people pay lots of money to coaches so they have accountability-partners. Some people give themselves a special treat if they do what they promised themselves they’d do. “Good girl, you finished your blog! Here’s a cookie!” There are probably at least 100 posts on Linkedin right now outlining steps we could take to succeed. In my experience, the problem isn’t in the knowing what we could do – we’re smart people, we know – it’s in the actual doing. We know what we want, and we even know what we should do to to make it happen (because we read lots of Linkedin posts every day). Knowing isn’t the issue. We simply need to decide.
To decide. It’s like a switch on the wall. Are we going to reach over and switch it on, or stand back, dancing with the gravity-monster as we analyze all that we know? To decide is a commitment. A choice. It’s a no-turning-back moment. A clear decision is the only thing that will combat gravity. Are you in or are you not? Decide.
I remember probably 20 years ago when I stopped smoking. Yes, I’m not proud to admit it, but I smoked for a brief period of time. I was a judgmental-snooty-non-smoker for years. I was a singer after all and had my voice to protect. And it smelled bad. And was bad for you (although in my early 20’s that was hardly on my radar). But then I got cast in a straight-play (which is simply a show without music) in an awesome role that really challenged me as an actress. My character smoked and had a potty-mouth and she was so different from the good-girl I had always been that it felt exciting to step into her shoes. And I had permission to do it! It was for the sake of my art! So, I had a good friend at the time who offered to teach me how to smoke so I didn’t look like a complete fool on stage. She taught me, and I hated it at first, but like a good student I practiced. And practiced some more. And then, all the sudden I started realizing why so many people liked the smoking-thing. I liked the way I felt. I liked the way I looked when I smoked (I thought I was very sexy and sophisticated). Since most of the other actors I knew smoked, it was a connector. I felt like I was part of the group. It felt good.
But the smoking-thing really wasn’t me. I always felt like I was playing somebody else. I tried to quit many times – but then I’d go out with friends who smoked, have a drink, and the gravity-monster would get me. Until one day, probably five years into my smoking-phase, I decided. I just simply decided one day that I wasn’t a smoker. It wasn’t who I was or who wanted to be. It wasn’t right for me. And there was such clarity. It wasn’t wishy-washy at all. It was a decision. And I never went back.
Now I get that I had only smoked for five years and don’t want to minimize how hard it is for most people to quit, but for me, once I decided it was easy. It wasn’t even like I had to try. It wasn’t even an option any longer to smoke.
My husband and I laugh because when we ask our kiddo to do something he doesn’t want to do he’ll push back and negotiate and argue and fight it for a good half-hour until he decides. Once he decides to do it, the task usually takes him all of two minutes. The energy he wastes in waiting to decide is painful (for all of us).
I think we all do this in some way or another. We spend a heck of a lot of energy dancing with the gravity-monster to avoid making a decision. And it hurts when we’re not all-in – when we haven’t decided. We think we’re playing it safe, that we need more time to analyze and think, but we’re just hurting ourselves. But takes courage. Are you going to stay in your job? Decide. Are you going to be a great leader? Decide. Are you going to take care of your health? Decide. Take that class? Write your book? Be a good friend?
Decide. Flip the switch.
Because the gravity-monster will give it all he’s got. If we’re not in this fight to win, we won’t. Decide.
“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. / Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
– Mountaineer, W.H. Murray