No More Dreaming – A Mindful Approach To Becoming A Doer (And A Challenge For You)

mindfulproductivityOur imagination is like a drug with very inconsistent results. Sometimes it can lead us to great inspiration. To doing great things, or it can remind us of the beauty in life.

It can lead to an amazing insight that completely changes our lives, and the lives of the people around us.

Other times it can lead to feeling overwhelmed. Despairing despite nothing having actually happened. Despite not having tried yet.

Like when you need to get something done, but the fear of failing keeps you from getting started.

When it’s easier to plan every step of the way and dream about success than actually sit down and work through the to-do-list and get there.

It’s easy to get stuck in the planning stage, and then ultimately give up on something.

In the lives of the caveman, this was undoubtedly a lifesaver. Back then taking chances and risks, trying new things, meant putting your ass on the line. Your very life in the balance every single time. So having processing and planning as a default was probably a great thing. And in many ways it still is. But at other times, it’s a huge obstacle to making progress. To just getting shit done.

I used to be a thinker. A dreamer. I have had a strong tendency to space out thinking about doing something when I was supposed to be doing something, or what things will be like after doing something consistently for a while. Like dreaming about being able to play the piano well by ear. Or being able to make a comfortable living from freelance writing when I’m supposed to be pitching and writing.

So in order to combat the tendency I’ve had in the past, I’m testing if just acknowledging that it exists, and taking a second to remind myself to be present is enough to make a considerable change to my level of productivity.

For the next 7 days, whenever I find myself drifting, or thinking about the past or future, I will refocus on thinking about what I can do RIGHT NOW to achieve the desired result. And then I will do it.

  • If I find myself dreaming of becoming in better shape, I will go work out, or maybe prepare some healthy meals in advance to avoid defaulting to something unhealthy.
  • If I find myself dreaming of becoming more productive, I will knock some items off my to-do-list.
  • If I find myself dreaming of meeting new people, I will go meet new people, or make unavoidable plans to go meet new people if it’s very late.
  • If I find myself dreaming of becoming a better piano player, I will go practice.
  • If I find myself dreaming of writing a novel, I will start fleshing out one of my ideas.
  • If I find myself dreaming of success in business, I will take the first logical step right then and there.
  • If I find myself dreaming of being happy, I will immediately do something that makes me happy.

I’m basically going to blindly follow my wishes to minimize the time spent on wishing and maximize time spent on doing, and see if that’s a sustainable and effective way to do things. What I’mΒ doing on a daily basis is very much aligned with what I’m dreaming of achieving, so there should be good synergy. But on the flipside, money is a core part of most dreams, so you can spin it around that way if you have a dayjob when you’re daydreaming of getting away from work, or working from home.

And of course, this wouldn’t be complete without a challenge to you. If you’re a dreamer, and you want to become a doer, I want you to try this for 7 days with me, and share your results after you’re done.

An important thing to note is that I will heavily focus on things that I have already decided to focus on. Focus is important if you want to accomplish anything. But in my free time, if I find myself dreaming of something completely different, instead of leaving it at that, I’ll take the first few steps. If you’re undecided on what direction to go over the coming months and you attempt to do this, there might be too many different things, and the logical step in that case, is to map out which ones you actually care the most about.

Ideally the end result will be that I’m a little more action oriented than I was when I started. If it feels worth doing, I will most likely keep it up as a long term effort and take note of shifts in mindset, overall productivity and other relevant things.

If you have something that haunts you. Something you’ve always dreamed of doing. Something that takes up hours of your time every month. Then it’s time to start making it a reality, step by step.

(Or if it’s purely a distraction, take steps to get it out of your head.)

Picture by Caleb Roenigk

8 Responses

  1. Micah March 3, 2014 / 1:55 pm

    Ragnar, I like this experiment. I’m reading a book right now called The War of Art (by Steven Pressfield) which really speaks to this (I think you’d enjoy it).

    I’ll be hoping you find yourself daydreaming about writing a novel. I’m working on one right now and I need as many people I can complain to about it as possible πŸ˜‰

    • Ragnar Miljeteig March 3, 2014 / 3:14 pm

      How could you tell? I have two ideas in particular that stick out to me as quality novel potential (though I know it’s all about the execution). I’m not sure I want to get into the whole business of trying to get a book deal though, but we’ll see how things turn out. Feel free to complain to me about the process of novel writing though!

      Now enough people have recommended that book to me that I have to read it. Ironically the social pressure might make me less likely to read it because it doesn’t feel like my own choice, hahaha. It’s extra funny because I would like to be kidding, but I have that sort of tendency sometimes. But I think I’m going to read it.

  2. Chris Bailey March 5, 2014 / 2:24 pm

    What a great post. I loved this one (& just shared it with some folks on twitter)! It reminds me of an old Buddhist parable that says our actions are our only true belongings. It’s one thing to calm down your mind and dream, but it’s a whole other to actually make a difference. Cheers!

    • Ragnar Miljeteig March 5, 2014 / 10:44 pm

      Thought you might like it because of it’s format! Haha. I’m not quite sure how to think of the results yet, but it’s been helpful for moving from “should do” to “done” on some things I’ve been postponing for too long.

  3. Harleena Singh March 5, 2014 / 4:59 pm

    Hi Ragnar,

    There was a time when I used feel the same way, and still do, but things have taken a back seat now πŸ™‚

    I guess the busyness of life comes in the way and it stops you from doing what you really want to do. You need to fulfill all your wishes, which is something we all lack. If you start doing something you like or want to do, you miss out on doing things you have to do – especially if its a commitment you made like your blog, a client in waiting work or business.

    I sometimes wish that we could lead two lives, one professional and one a real personal one where we can somehow cut off from the professional one, but it doesn’t really happen – they are linked somewhere, aren’t they? Nevertheless, lots to think about. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead πŸ™‚

    • Ragnar Miljeteig March 5, 2014 / 10:56 pm

      Yeah it’s a difficult balance to strike. It’s turning out difficult so far, but I think I’ve found a useful compromise at the very least. You have a great week too! ^^

  4. Steve March 11, 2014 / 2:46 pm

    I’ll take you up on that challenge. I normally don’t let my thoughts linger too long before I do something, but still, it’s good to be on top of those dreams and plans.

    It’s good to be a dreamer and a planner, but it’s bad to become stuck in that mode. What good do they do if they stay in your head? No good at all, really. It has to get out of your head and into the real world – that’s where it matters most.

    When I was young, I was a big dreamer. I had plans and visions about what I wanted to get done, but never took any effort to actually do them. You have to combine dreaming with action. That’s when the magic happens.

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