Failure > Regret

The personality trait I don’t like about myself that I’m attempting to work on right now is procrastination. I’m terrible about it. There are probably several reasons why I procrastinate, but my goal right now is to isolate some of them and fix them or deal with them in some way.

I believe one of the reasons I don’t finish stuff is because I’m afraid that if I ever accomplish certain goals that I’ll step back and realize that it’s completion brought me no additional happiness. For example, I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was twenty. But I’m thirty-three and never finished writing the rough draft of a novel (I have five unfinished ones just waiting to be finished though). If you’ve ever tried to write one or even if you haven’t you probably understand that it’s a tough process. And it is. But I don’t think the degree of difficulty behind it is what’s preventing me from doing it. Or at least it’s not the only reason.

What if I finish the rough draft and I don’t feel any different? You know that moment in the movie when the main character finishes the race or wins the football game or finally meets Meg Ryan at the top of the Empire State Building? What happens next? There’s music and emotion and a freeze frame and then the movie’s over. And we the audience are typically left feeling a sense of happiness over the events of the film. But real life ain’t no film.

After completing something we’re still us. Any insecurities or fears we had before the completion of the task typically don’t go away just because we did something. They may go unnoticed for a while. Kinda like the negative stuff is a noise like a klaxon or alarm or something. And it’s making noise the whole time, but the happiness of the moment is like a stereo blasting a favorite song. However, the happiness of the moment ends. The noise from the negativity may still be going the whole time.

I don’t know if this metaphor is a great way to describe it all or not, but the point is that I wonder if part of the reason I don’t finish things is because I fear that when it’s done I’ll still be unhappy about things. Recently I cleaned out one of my email inboxes (see previous blog post if you wanna read about how I made myself do that). And I felt great about it. But like most anything else, that feeling of accomplishment has worn off. And while I’m still glad I did it, I don’t feel significantly happier for having done it. This means that if I put tons of my time and energy into finishing something I might step back and realize I’m still not super happy. And then it will feel like a waste of all that time and energy.

However, even if this is true, I’m trying to look at the whole situation differently. I saw a facebook post today from a friend who’s recently earned a lot of success (she’s the creator and star of her own sitcom that debuted a few months ago and got picked up for a whole season). She wrote:

“You know what feels worse than failure?

Regret.”

And this hit me in a great way. Maybe my finished novel will suck. Maybe it’ll suck so hard that I throw it all in the trash once I’m done. But what’s better, having a completed crappy novel or having an unfinished novel for yet another year? Maybe it’ll be great. And maybe I’ll still struggle with feelings of fear and insecurity and unhappiness. But if I’m going to feel that way, why not have a finished potentially decent novel on my hands? And who knows? Maybe completing it will give me a new perspective on things and help push me towards happiness. Maybe not.

I know this for sure. If I turn 34 (July) and still don’t have a finished novel then I’m likely still going to feel like a failure. Like someone who set a clear goal and still hasn’t accomplished it. Worst case scenario, I finish it and don’t feel any different. But I’ll at least have it done.

Gonna try and incorporate this philosophy and perspective into everything. Wish me luck!

Thanks, y’all!

Rich

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