So there I was, a kid struggling with not only the occasional impossible math or physics problems, but also with some complex school projects. Dad always taught me to start out by making a clear plan and keep things organized. Which worked out very well, except for those times when the plan came out rather flimsy, and I had no friggin clue as to how to proceed.
“What do you think you should do?” dad would ask.
“I can’t do anything, I’m stuck!” I’d answer. Like duh…come on dad, can’t you fix it for me?
And then I swear I remember him winking (he probably didn’t but it’s nicer to remember it that way) and saying (this he did do) “Well, why don’t you DO it and figure it out?”
Imagine that! Doing without knowing everything in advance, without being fully prepared, without answers? Tricky dad, he knew I’d find the answers by doing. And I always did. One thing led to another, each step revealed another step and before I knew it, I had had created these really wonderful things that I couldn’t even imagine coming out so well from the beginning.
Later on, as a grown-up, I would on occasion talk to dad (more like argue) about some issue that had me all frustrated, stuck, panicked and utterly miserable. He would listen and then suggest the same old thing…that I stop making creative predictions over how things are NOT going work out due to my missing whatever money, knowledge, confidence, skill and so on…and instead, pick myself up and start using my gifts, allow them to work with and for me.
I would argue, of course. It was all so hard, I saw so many obstacles. And then he’d ask: “Are you trying to achieve something here or just want to prove to yourself you’re too scared to find out how well things can work out?”
Boy did I hate that question. And I was so angry with him for not validating my struggle. I was in pain for god’s sakes…I was stuck. This stuff was scary. I wanted him to pat me on the back and tell me how sorry he felt for me, how life was so hard indeed, how I had every reason to worry and be stuck, and how I should worry and be stuck some more. I didn’t want him to tell me I was strong, or gifted, or able!
No matter how much I pleaded and whined, he was unmoved: “Stop complaining, you can do it, just start” or “Some things will go wrong but not everything, so do what you can and the rest will work out as you go”.
So yes, in looking at my own struggles and those of others, I was reminded today of how we get so wrapped up in looking for answers in life. Thinking, analysis and planning are great, but we have to be careful not to let them turn into roadblocks. The best, and honestly, the only ways to find answers is by doing, not thinking endlessly about why, how and what if. Besides, solutions and success come not when we focus on our limitations, but when we notice our gifts and take advantage of opportunities.
Every day when I sit down in front of the computer, I inevitably wonder what to write, how, if it’s the right subject, whether I should be working on something else, and so on. And out of the thousands of days I’ve done this, I found a useful answer by just asking on all of maybe 3-4 occasions. Tops. The rest of the days, the ones that I didn’t waste endlessly thinking instead of doing, I found my answers in the writing itself. And that’s a lot of days. Which pretty much goes to prove, again, that the doing part is kinda important.
We often ask things like “Oh how is this ever going to work?” If we’re lucky and in a favorable situation, if we’re in an optimistic mindset, we will likely get creative and find some very inspiring, even if incomplete answers to get us started. But if we’re sitting in a rut, drowning in pessimism, and scrambling to get ourselves out of a mess, it’s pretty much guaranteed we are not going to come up with a very rosy vision for the future of any endeavor, especially one that involves the risk of losing something special, significant investment on our part, or the gods forbid, the need to make some changes in our behaviors and thinking patterns.
We also often ask “why” instead of “why not”. And in trying to clear up our mental and emotional space, we often end up throwing away the baby with the bath water. There’s a wonderful quote I found that fits perfectly: “God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers, and thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face: a gauntlet with a gift in it.” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)