“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.― Henry David Thoreau
Every Monday I draw a card from the Zen Tarot deck as a guide and meditation for the week. Last week I drew Postponement, a card I’m not sure I’ve ever received before.
The card pictures a woman, living in a gray world and peering through a window at a landscape full of colors, longing to be there. But she hesitates, full of “what ifs.”
The card talks about the way we put off what we desire out of fear and doubt. And reminds us we won’t be younger or braver next year.
But as I sat with this card throughout the week, I felt shocked at how often I postpone big decisions and put off doing things for myself, especially if it involves spending significant amounts of money and/or time. Especially if it’s about my art. Ouch.
I also saw how many incomplete creative projects are lying around my studio, from the small to the large, and how many books are half-read, stacked in piles.
What’s Behind Procrastination?
When we want to do something but we don’t do it, resistance is at work. Resistance is fear in various disguises. Procrastination, distraction, doubt, excuses.
We don’t want the discomfort it will take to do it. Or we don’t want to give up what we’d have to sacrifice to go for it. We’re afraid to make mistakes. Or we’re afraid of being judged. We’re afraid to fail.
For me, making the wrong decision terrifies me. I’m afraid of getting hurt, of losing what is precious to me. I am afraid of expending energy, money, and time only to wind up disappointed or broke. I’ve experienced it before. We all have. And these experiences leave scars that cause us to be cautious, often too cautious.
The Costs of Postponement and Incompletion
But, postponing what we love and long to do, delaying finishing what we start, sucks energy from our lives and feeds our fear and bad habits, giving them more power. Putting off decisions and dreams drains vitality and joy.
Half-completed projects or those never even begun that we carry around in our hearts and minds create a feeling of stuckness, frustration, and confusion. They rob us of living fully now, expressing our gifts and purpose here. They cost us deeper enjoyment of life.
That endless list of should do, want to do, must do, maybe I’ll do that’s in our minds creates an energetic bog that makes it difficult for creativity, vitality and abundance to flow freely in our lives. And for us to feel free, playful, joyful and fully expressed.
Benefits of Deciding and Completions
We all know the relief and surge of energy that happens when we finish a big project, make a big decision, or take decisive action toward a longed-for dream or goal.
As we clear up projects, decisions and goals, we open the doors to new blessings and ideas. We summon the support of the universe. We gather momentum for bigger dreams. And, we feel satisfaction, freedom and fulfillment.
When the Time Is Not Right
Sometimes we aren’t ready yet or the time is not right. Perhaps there is preparation we need to do.
There are natural rhythms to life that need honoring. Just like there is a natural cycle to the seasons. You cannot plant a garden in winter and have it thrive.
Also, we cannot do everything at once. Biting off more than we can chew leaves us with another incompletion or disappointment. That is why clear choices and priorities are vital on the path of dreams.
Sometimes we don’t have enough information to make a big decision yet.
Sometimes there is inner work to do. If our inner selves feel conflicted about our dreams, if our wounds are too unhealed, or our beliefs too unsupportive, we will create enormous wear and tear trying to move toward our dreams. And, it’s not likely to go well. We have to first create space within ourselves.
Sometimes we don’t have the resources yet and need to gather them, though often if we choose boldly and move in the direction of our dreams, resources of many kinds show up.
“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initative or creation, there is one elementary truth…that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves. too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones’s favor all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have believed would have come his way.― W.H. Murray The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.”
Summer Solstice: Completions and New Beginnings
We just passed the summer solstice, one of the four sacred turning points and portals of the year, a powerful time for letting go of the old—including habits and beliefs—and calling in the new.
For this solstice, I am calling in a deeper commitment to fostering my own greatness as an artist and receiving the support, recognition and audience I need and desire.
And I’ve decided to focus on completions for a while. Taking my cherished projects, dreams, and goals and moving in a concerted way toward finishing them, one at a time.
I’m also looking at my big life dreams and what decisions I’ve been postponing. It’s time to move forward. If I need more information, I’m gathering it. If I just need to leap, I’m doing my best to leap.
Decluttering Is a Form of Completion
Piles of old stuff we no longer love or use weigh us down energetically. Decluttering frees up energy and space in our lives and welcomes the new. If you’re not sure where to start with completions, decluttering can help move energy and bring a feeling of lightness.
Decluttering my writing studio is one of my incompletions. It is hard, involving sorting through endless pieces of paper (the writer’s curse). But even when I do a little bit of it, I feel relieved. I breathe easier and have more space inside for new inspiration.
Decluttering can be hard on your own. Get a friend to come over and help you. Then, do the same for your friend. Or hire some help. My friend Megan Montero helps people declutter, no matter where you live.
How To Start Completing Things and Moving Forward Now
Make a list of incompletions in your life. What projects, goals, plans, ideas are partially done or floating around in your brain? Look around your home, office, studio, your life. What have you started or wanted to start?
Make a list of indecisions. What big dreams, longings, questions have you been harboring? For me, that’s whether to get an MFA in creative writing. I’ve been thinking about this for only about 20 years. But I am terrified because my experience in graduate school for music was so awful, and because it costs so much.
What about emotional incompletions? Are there people you are not complete with? Someone you need to say something to, or even to write a letter that you don’t mail? Someone you need to forgive or ask forgiveness from? Some grief that you are not complete with? The Grief Recovery Handbook and method is excellent for this.
Now, choose one thing at a time from your list. Small or large. Make a plan to finish it. Take steps each week until it’s done. You may wish to start small to gain momentum.
You Don’t Have to Do It All, Just What Matters Most
Not everything on your long to-do list needs to happen. Sometimes you just need to decide not to do something and cross it off your list for good, give away that pile of stuff you aren’t going to use, let go of an old idea or project you no longer desire.
Letting go of perfectionism will go a long way toward supporting you. Be willing to let things be “good enough”.
And, don’t try to do everything at once. You’ll just spin out, get distracted and quit again. Stay focused on one or two things. Get those done, then move on.
Also, let go of the idea that you will ever cross off everything on your to-do list. That’s not the goal. The idea is to free up energy and joy by taking on the things that matter most to you and/or are weighing you down.
Let Death Be Your Guide
Ask yourself what would matter if you knew you would die a year from now, what would you most want to get done? How would you most wish to live? Then, how about if you were going to die five years from now?
Creating art, sharing it with the world, being with people I love and enjoy, and living joyfully are what I most wish to spend time on. I have some specifics–finishing two books I’m working on, enrolling in that MFA program, healing my relationship with music. And I would still choose to declutter my studio because, even though it wouldn’t matter much after I was dead, it matters to my living easefully, freely and happily now.
Let death be your guide to living a rich, joyful, fulfilling life.
There is no time like the present for making our heart’s dreams a priority and doing the things we long to do. What will you complete first?
If you’d like support with completions and decisions, reach out to me for one-on-one life coaching here.