I always used to be a planner. I believed having a plan and sticking to it was the best way to achieve goals. I studied SMART goal setting and repeatedly tried to follow the process. It never worked for me, and worse I spent more time working on setting up the process than I did following it through.
I had things I wanted to achieve and yet I wasn’t making progress. I was stuck.
Over time I started reading books that led me to realize my real problem was fear. I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid I would fail. I wasn’t sure if I could do something and so I didn’t try to do it. It was safer that way.
I admit, I still have a little voice inside me that tells me I can’t do things or I’m not good enough. “What if it doesn’t work?” it sneers.
But I’ve gotten better at responding, “What if it does?”
I’ve also found that allowing myself a backup plan helps. While the girls were on winter break I took on the major project of redoing their bedrooms. Normally we would just paint and rearrange things a bit but this time I decided I was going to do it all. I ripped out their carpets, changed their electrical outlets (they were so loose they could barely plug anything in them) and tore down the old shelves in their closets.
At various points that fear would grip me. As I pulled up the rug and thought about how I was going to pull tack strips out of concrete I thought, “What if I can’t get all the nails out?” Rather than letting it stop me I allowed myself a backup plan. If I couldn’t get the nails out then I would hire someone to help. Normally I’d ask my neighbor but he was gone for 2 weeks…but I’d ask someone. The city is full of people who can get nails out of concrete.
But I found out that I could do it. I got every last one of them out. Maybe it wasn’t the best way, or the easiest way. But I did it.
After painting, my daughters and I started laying the new flooring. I had selected vinyl planks, similar to wood laminate but more durable. I had laid wood laminate before, or rather I’d assisted laying it before. I’d never done it on my own, but I understood how it worked. We laid the first row and I had to cut the first plank. The instructions said “score with a utility knife and snap it.” It was not as simple as it sounded and I began to worry about how hard it was to cut.
We pressed on to the second row and found that the second piece in the second row was quite a challenge. Getting it to lock into two sides was much more difficult than one. I started to feel discouraged. The room isn’t huge but suddenly the task felt daunting. “Is this too much for us to take on?” I wondered.
But I knew that things get easier the more you do them and so I pressed on. I should not have been surprised when after the 4th or 5th row we had a smooth process and we were moving along faster than I’d ever expected.
In the end, the first room came out fantastic. The second is done except for finding a place to store all her treasures (no pictures of that room until it’s cleaned up!).
I’ve done the same with my writing. I was able to publish my first book by taking control of that little voice of doubt inside me. Working furiously to finish before a tight deadline (that I’d imposed on myself) gave me little time to worry and the community here on WordPress helped bolster my courage.
I’m now working on a novel, when I can. It’s probably 1/3 done and I’ve been taking a break to work on another writing project. My sister asked me to help her write for her blog and I now find myself writing about children with autism. This isn’t a topic I know a lot about, but I’m learning. I worry as I’m writing…”Am I saying this the right way? Will people take offense if I say that?” My sister has posted our second collaborative post and although I’m still learning I am getting more comfortable:
Honestly the things I’m learning I could have used when my kids were little!
We are also working on a book series with the tentative title “Understanding Your Child with Autism.”
This isn’t a direction I’d planned to take, but I’ve decided that sometimes NOT sticking with a plan is the best course of action. Keeping myself open to possibilities might actually help me achieve more than I could ever plan for.
This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Plan.