Monday, April 02, 2007

Encouragement to Do More Things Badly

SARK: We’re always thinking progress is an advantage. In fact, it can be the exact opposite of what our souls need. Once again, our souls need regression as much as they need progress. I love Thomas Moore for saying that. We’re so indoctrinated that progress is the way.

ALISSA: We don’t even want to admit when we regress or that we’re not being productive.

SARK: People lie all the time. Just take television. People continually lie about it. They say they only watch a little bit and mostly public television—or the nature shows and the Discovery Channel. They’re presenting an inner critic compilation of the appropriate programming to watch. Or they go further and say, they never watch. TV’s a waste. There are better things to do with your time. Simultaneously, they judge others who watch too much TV and specifically, the wrong kind of TV. It’s another subterfuge we undertake to hide our actual experience.

I remember I was home alone sick one Thanksgiving weekend. I watched reruns of “Thirty-something” or some other show. There was a marathon. I watched 38 episodes in a row. I began living in it. I was so with these people that when they had their Thanksgiving show, that was my Thanksgiving. I confessed what I did to a friend, and to this day, the friend admits to feeling so safe when I owned up to it, because this person had done similar things and always felt really alone.

TV here is just a metaphor for a lot of other things that people don’t tell the truth about. Most of us have similar things. We have too many books we haven’t read. Most of us feel guilty about the books we haven’t read. Most of us have overflowing closets and procrastinate about ever having any order in them. On and on. Why aren’t we just admitting these things, laughing about them and then spending our energy elsewhere. There’s always going to be entropy and disorder and lack of progress. That’s going to be a constant. We can use the energy we’re spending trying to make progress in much more pleasurable pursuits or other creative endeavors. I know that was a tangent, but I had to go on it.

ALISSA: It’s an important one. We put ourselves in these rigid molds based on what we think is socially acceptable or the right approach.

Encouragement to Do More Things Badly

SARK: Please let’s invoke the spirit of my friend Rebecca who died two years ago. She said, “Please tell people to do more things badly.” For instance, meditation works even when you do it badly. And that goes for everything else. Once again, most of us aren’t just procrastinators, but we’re perfectionists, too. We don’t even try new things because we might be any good at them. Guess what? It’s fun to take dance lessons—even if you’re not good. Not everything you try may turn out to be fun, but don’t futurize to stop yourself, because of your perfectionism.

ALISSA: I loved when you wrote about taking a class in something you know you’re bad at in one of your books. How that act is freeing.

SARK: Even my speed dating experience. I was really bad at the preliminaries of that. I was a wreck. I was overfocused on my appearance and having trouble driving. I was talking to myself. I’m a meticulous person, but when I got there, I filled out all the forms and promptly lost my name tag. I don’t think it was an accident. When I went to report the loss, the person said, “I’m sorry. We can’t replace that.” I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. He said if I’d lost it, I couldn’t participate.

He told me to talk to the organizer about whether or not he might do something. Fortunately, he had found my name tag on the floor. But he said, “Don’t lose it again or you can’t participate.” My perfectionist was going wild, saying I didn’t do the right thing. It was funny. Then, I found out that I was much better at talking to 10 people for 10 minutes each than I ever knew. I found out that in some ways, I was more comfortable than the people I was talking to. The point is I’d never know if I hadn’t tried.

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