It seems that the times when we feel that we must be profound are the times when we find profundity to be most elusive.
In his book on the nature of procrastination called The Now Habit [amazon link], Neil Fiore describes an experiment he performs with his patients to help them identify when they are behaving irrationally because of fear. He asks his patients to imagine that there is a wood plank laying across the floor, six inches wide and about twenty feet long. He asks them if they would be able to walk across this plank without falling off. Inevitably, the patients respond that walking across this plank would be no problem. Fiore then asks them to imagine that the plank has been elevated to a height of one hundred feet in the air and is suspended between two buildings. He again asks the patients if they believe they could walk across the plank without falling off. This time, however, very few of the patients are willing to “walk the plank.”
What has changed? Certainly not the technical skill required to perform the task. It’s the same six-inch-wide twenty foot plank. But for some reason the respondents were now hesitant to walk it. The only thing that has changed is the perceived consequence for making a mistake. Suddenly, a slight misstep would mean more than starting over, it would instead mean death. (Or at least several broken bones.) The perceived consequence of a mistake caused the respondents to choose not to engage in an activity that, only moments before, they had said would be easy.
This same dynamic plays out in our daily creating. When we feel that we must be profound, we artificially elevate the stakes and the perceived consequences of not being profound. The unfortunate result is that we do mediocre work because we’re so fixated on the end result that we neglect the process.
I’m working to stamp this “profundity chase” out of my life and to instead give myself over to the process. I’m a terrible judge of the quality of my work, especially when I’m in the midst of the process. I’d challenge you to do the same.
photo credit: @boetter