FORGET your dream. Only then will you achieve it.
3rd October 2018
Nike’s “Just do it” is a surprising catchphrase because in normal life “just doing it” doesn’t get you much kudos. Whether you’re a teacher with a tricky class, a nurse changing the catheters or an agent showing people properties that will never sell. Just getting on with it, day-in day-out, isn’t particularly praiseworthy.
Outcomes are what matters – exam scores, patients getting better and the sold signs outside houses. Without doubt these are important, but too much focus on an end result can take your eye off the ball. And that makes it less likely you’ll actually achieve it.
One example of the “meeting targets” mantra spectacularly backfiring is the way UK cash-strapped local councils used to deliver social care. A carer was allocated a 15 minute time slot to wash or give a meal to an elderly, disabled person in their home. Carers were told to avoid any delay-inducing friendly conversation, despite many clients being housebound and isolated. What mattered was clocking up the maximum number of visits per day.
Then research comes out that loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking. So, it turns out that less hasty visits, and meaningful companionship can save the health system money. People who are less lonely are not only happier, they are healthier too. (Although most councils now adhere to the recommended 30 minute visits, some are still rushing in and out).
The same thing applies to the pursuit of a personal dream. I have tried many methods to keep on track with my current goal of writing a book. Visualisation is supposed to help but I have found it is counter-productive. Imagining my book launch (queue of people, book in hand, fighting to get my signature) only makes me dwell on the unlikeliness of it happening. Setting deadlines for this chapter or that only creates panic. Both have the same result – I stop writing altogether.
Instead, I’m finding it’s best to forget about the book and just get on with it. Seems contradictory but it’s a method many successful people employ. Andy Murray, for one, says that in a Grand Slam final all he focuses on is the next point. His mind straying to images of holding up the trophy are fatal, and he knows will scupper his dream.
This is the three-point plan which works for me:
Decide a process: A friend achieved his target weight loss by not eating crisps and cheese for six months. He had no idea that it would work, just thought it might and was something he could stick to it. He achieved his goal by forgetting about it and just getting on with it.
What works for my writing is twenty concentrated minutes a day, first thing in the morning before email, twitter or phone. I have adjusted my day to allow a sacred slot after the children go to school and before I leave for work. (Still trying to crack the inset days and school holidays).
Tweak it: Sometimes refining the process takes a bit of trial and error. Before finding success with the Crisps and Cheese Elimination Diet, my friend tried cutting out beer. But found it was too unsociable, so he couldn’t stick to it. I used to set aside weekend mornings for writing but life (time with kids) got in the way.
Stick to it, have faith and wait: I heard my friend and bestselling author, Lucy Atkins, give a talk to aspiring writers. Her advice was: “Don’t worry how long it takes, just keep going”.
Lucy followed the Just Do It (aka FORGET your dream) method – and she now has three bestsellers behind her and a fourth in the pipeline.