Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Just Do It?

"Just Do It" is a popular piece of advice (as well as a great advertising catch phrase.) And it has value. It can cut through a lot of inner garbage and unnecessary preliminary hurdles.

It's also true that saying "just" does not make a difficult thing into "a snap" that takes no time or effort at all.

I've been counseled to "just get up and ski," as if "just" alone would keep me upright and instantly able to advance beyond snowplow technique, never mind the icy conditions and stinging sleet.

I've been told that all I have to do is "just sit down and write it," when what the guy wanted was for me to turn a talk I'd given into a paper for his journal for free.

I've been advised to just get a fellowship to finish a book. Well, I've managed to get a number of fellowships, and each one has taken quite a few days of work and then months or years of waiting. Sometimes it has taken being rejected a number of times before getting the award. Some plums I've gone after continue to resist me. I've been told in advance that I don't have the proper academic credentials and that my project doesn't match their parameters. Once, after massive effort and long wait, I was put on an a waiting list, but no one dropped out, and so I reapplied and won on my second try the following year. I did finally get there, but it wasn't a matter of "just" filling out a few forms.

Probably you too have been told to just relax, just tell so-and-so what's-what, just stop thinking so much, just get a master's degree, have another baby, and get a grip.

"Just" can cut through the procrastination and rationalizing. After that, it helps to apply strategy, effort, patience, hope, and the courage it sometimes takes to keep going. It helps to know in advance that it's not always "just" a "piece of cake" and easy as pie. It's also important to give ourselves proper credit for our work along the way.

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Anonymous said...

I love this post. While just do it is a brilliant marketing campaign,
it eliminates any regard for the
vastness of the human psyche and all we bring to a moment of decision making. Pop psychologists preach the "just do it" mantra whether it be losing weight, getting over a death, betrayal, etc. The potential underbelly for those who can't do it can be the
"I am a failure." journey. And that can be devastating.

Trust your instincts. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. Having that conversation, thinking through the options, making a decision rather than letting inertia or pressure decide--that's the win.

Anonymous said...

PS. How is your book coming?

Peggy Payne said...

I like your idea of the win, Anon. I think I posted this because I'm inclined to think I should always be able to just do it.

My novel is recently finished. Though it's never safe to say that until they're in print.

billie said...

I think there are times when it's appropriate to say "just do it" - but those times are when someone already CAN do something and thinks they can't, or when they CAN do something but want to do it perfectly, and in the meantime don't do it at all.

When I came back to riding after 25 years not, I pretty immediately found my dream horse who is big and has big gaits. I was intimidated by his canter. I could ride it, but I wanted to ride it a certain way, and because I couldn't do THAT yet, I was hesitant to do it at all.

In that context, my trainer saying "just do it" was perfect. She did go a bit further, pointing out that the only way to go from where I was to where I wanted to be was to use the muscles that would get me, and my horse, there, every time we had a ride.

I needed someone to put my perfectionism in its place, and hearing "just do it" - no matter what it looks like right now, was key.

OTOH, as you note so beautifully, it's pretty much a jab in the eye to hear that while learning or trying to master something new and difficult.

Although I can see too where "just do it" might be the key to me jumping out of the side of a plane with a parachute, and that would definitely be a new and terrifying experience for me. :)

Peggy Payne said...

I think you've perfectly defined when Just Do It works and when it doesn't, Billie.