What you want to do vs. What needs to be done

Happy little girl washing the dishes in the kitchen.

I’ve been struggling to keep up with my business and writing since summer began. There are new and different demands on my time, as well old and familiar doubts cropping up again.

And I’m sitting here wondering: how do successful and creative people get stuff done?

I’m talking about those prolific artists of all genres who seem to always be creating. As if “writer’s block” doesn’t exist for them, and there is no such thing as a lack of inspiration.

I’ve read The War of Art (and Do the Work, and Turning Pro) by Steven Pressfield. So intellectually, I understand what needs to happen. But I’m wondering from a more physical, tangible, in my daily life kind of way. (And that’s not to say that Steven Pressfield’s books don’t have very applicable and practical stuff to practice in my daily life, they absolutely do. But it’s the difference between knowing in my head and knowing in my visceral-gut-heart-body-mind… do you know what I mean?).

So this has lead me to a Great Exploration. With many articles saved to Pocket to read later, several books at various stages of being read, and a number of thoughts jotted down in various notebooks.

And while I don’t have all of the answers, I have a few thoughts I want to share with you (as I invite you into this exploration with me).

1. It’s not about what you want to do.

I am a stepmom to two teenage boys. There are a lot of dirty socks and dishes in our house, and I don’t want to wash them.

But as I said, they are teenaged boys, which means they are not yet very mindful of stinky and moldy stuff.. their priorities lie somewhere closer to the XBox and refrigerator than the laundry machine and dishwasher. (This is not a judgment of them as much as an acceptance of reality on my part).

And I’ve spent many a day frustrated because someone needs to clean this stuff up, and I don’t want to.

But I’ve come to realize that in order to save my own sanity (which is tied much more closely to a clean sink than I ever really thought it was), I have to accept that it isn’t always about what I want to do.

Certainly, in an ideal world, these boys would wash all their own dishes and socks and leave the countertops free from crumbs and shredded cheese. But then again, in an ideal world, I’d have a robotic maid like Rosie from the Jetsons who took care of all those things I didn’t really want to do.

But in reality, it’s about what needs to be done. This is true in creative pursuits and solo-entrepreneurial business as well.

2. It’s not always about what needs to be done.

But I just said… yep. I’m already contradicting myself.

When I accepted that I just needed to do the thing that needed doing, I started down that path and made checklists and built a routine. And it worked. And I worked.

The sink has never been cleaner. The laundry has never been so under control. And my business has never felt so well-oiled.

But I realized after a while that sometimes I do actually need to stop and take a look at the big picture. Sometimes I have to stop and re-assess what it is I actually do want to do.

Going back to the example of my stepsons with the dishes and socks, if I were to continue every single day to “do what needs to be done” without taking a look at the bigger picture — the “what do I really want in the long run?” — they might never learn to do their own laundry or dishes.

They might grow into those guys, you know the ones who just assume you’re okay with their mess because they are and then you tolerate it for a while because you really want them to like you but eventually you are just so grossed out by the bathroom situation at their place that you only ever want to hang out at your place but then you start to resent always having to do everything at your place and then having to clean up after him all the time… yeah, not that I ever dated any of those guys.

So yeah, in the big picture, I want these boys to grow up to be men who know how to cook a meal and clean up afterward. The kind of guys that offer to help fold the fitted sheets and remember your birthday.

And so, knowing what you want is important too. This is also true for creative pursuits and business.

If you write 500 words everyday without fail because that’s the thing that needs to happen if you are going to write a book, but you never stop to think about the plot or main arc of the story, you’re not going to have a cohesive book.

And if you show up every day and do the things that need to happen in your business but never look at the bigger vision or adjust goals, where will you end up? (Yeah, I don’t know either).

3. So that leaves us in… the middle?

If you don’t want to only focus on the big picture (what you want) and you don’t want to only focus on what needs to get done (daily tasks), then that leaves you somewhere in the middle.

But the middle (as in the center point) is a tough spot to balance, right? It’s not going to be a 50-50 proposition for many of us. So what if the target was bigger? Like instead of aiming at the center point you aim for the middle third.

I’ve been exploring this idea of “the middle third”… or the sweet spot. And I’ve been finding ways to apply that to my own life, business, and creative dreams. I don’t have the perfect balance, but then, maybe perfect isn’t the answer.

I believe there is still much to discover in the middle third (in business, in life, in productivity,… politics, relationships,… and etc). I’m still exploring and learning and hope that you will join me in this adventure over the coming weeks (or years).

P.S. Check out Good Girl Rehab for a little more help with this. will be going on pre-sale starting on Monday, July 7. Check back then and join the rehab.

Photo: © dmitrimaruta – Fotolia.com
Note: The links above to books on Amazon are affiliate links. This just means that if you buy any of those books through my links, I will receive a couple of cents.