It is very easy to start a project. If you’re like me, you usually start by thinking of something and then immediately announcing it to whoever you see next. Like:
- I’m moving to New York!
- I think I’m going to go to the desert for a little while.
- I’m going to take a dancing class.
- I’m going to start working out.
- I want to play soccer.
The person I tell will say, “Cool!” and then I immediately abandon the project, because it was never real. It was a vision of a kind of person I wanted to be. By telling someone, I got confirmation that I’m cool and then it was time to move on to the next idea.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having these kinds of ideas or wants. In my idea in-tray, I have things like:
- Do a calculus problem?
- Talk to someone about urban planning.
- Can I write about data?
- Volunteer / get involved with women’s rights movements
- Take acting class
It’s all over the place. My thoughts are all over the place. And again, I don’t think that’s bad. I think I just need to recognize that most of those things are just thoughts. They will never bear fruit and that’s okay. A thought is not a command to action.
Now, if something keeps coming back, then I probably need to examine it, or at least the root of it. The thought is not the thing. It’s trying to figure out what need the thought is trying to fill. You can use the 5 whys here I think, where you ask why of a thing five times to get to the bottom of it:
Talk to someone about urban planning.
To learn more about what that means and what kind of role that would be and what that would feel like on a day-to-day basis.
Because I’m interested in pursuing it.
Because I want to feel like the work I do is important.
Because I want to feel useful and important.
Because I think that would make me happy.
Dang! I had no idea we were going to go there. Honestly. So I want to talk to someone about urban planning because I think it might make me happy. The root of all of those thoughts is something similar. I’m just trying to figure out what will make me happy. It actually has nothing to do with urban planning. It’s all about me!
So when I’m having tons of thoughts like I should do this! Or this! Or that! Or this! It helps to know that they probably come from a similar place and that none of them, in fact, will make me happy, and that it’s okay to want to do something and then not do it.