Good Question: Why am I not doing that one thing I really want to do?

Dear Alex,
I use an app on my phone to check off and keep track of everyday tasks.
A long time ago I added “writing” to that list, but most days it doesn’t get checked off.
I’m not setting unrealistic writing goals for myself. My writing goals are small. In fact, so small that they are easily dismissed and forgotten.
Maybe you have some advice?

Dear Matt,

You want to write. You put writing on your to-do list. It’s right there. You see it every time you peek at your phone. Yet… you’re not doing it.

It’s a frustrating cycle, for sure. A common one, too.

Not just with writing, but all kinds of goals.

I have two questions for you:

1. Do you actually want to write?

It’s really OK if you don’t.

There are millions of other things you can do to express yourself, share your insights and leave a positive mark on the world.

If you do want to write… if that really is your goal…

2. Are you willing to be ridiculous about it?

When I say “be ridiculous,” I mean: are you willing to disrupt your current habits and daily routine and do things that some people might perceive as “over the top” or even “silly”?

Let me tell you a story to illustrate what I mean:

When I was studying English Literature at university, I became obsessed with the idea of memorizing all of the great Victorian sonnets.

I wanted to be able to recite them at the drop of a hat.

I wanted these poems to become part of the fabric of my being.

First I tried printing out various poems and keeping them in my backpack. I figured, “I’ll carry them around and read them throughout the day. That will help.” Nope. Not enough.

Then I tried writing out each poem by hand in my notebook. “Maybe handwriting will be the secret to locking these poems into my brain.” Again. Not enough.

Then I started putting notes on my calendar that said things like “Practice memorizing poems: 3pm.” Still not enough.

Eventually? I bought a huge scroll of butcher paper, wrote sonnets on the paper with a gigantic black Sharpie marker, and then pinned the scrolls all around my bedroom. Poems. Poems. Poems. Ceiling to floor. Covering every available square inch of the walls.

To an outsider, stepping into my room, I am sure that I looked like a deranged psychopath.

But that’s what I needed to do in order to submerge myself in this poetry and accomplish my big goal: memorizing each one.

That’s what I mean when I say: be ridiculous.

Often, writing a task on a to-do list or tucking it away in a folder on your desktop is NOT enough.

As you point out, Matt, it’s very easy to dismiss or forget the bits on your daily to-do list.

When there’s something you want, badly, you’ve got to do more than just write it down.

You’ve got to make that goal part of your environment… part of your surroundings… so epic and obvious and IN YOUR FACE that you can’t… not… do it.

You want to work out every day?

Fold your gym outfit and put it on top of your coffee maker. Or sleep in it so that you’re already wearing it when you wake up. Be ridiculous.

You want to stop wasting time on social media and focus on meaningful projects instead?

Change the homepage of your web browser from Facebook or Twitter to this video. Watch it daily. Be ridiculous.

You want to write more consistently, take your blog to the next level, or finish that book?

Write your book outline on a twelve foot tall sheet of butcher paper and hang it from the ceiling. Get a custom t-shirt printed that says NOVEL IN PROGRESS or BLOGGING MACHINE. Be ridiculous.

As my friend Kaaren once explained to me, “If you want to provoke change and make big things happen, passion isn’t enough. You’ve got to be unreasonable.”

Or, as my friend Susan often says, “MAKE A SCENE! Your life, your work and your happiness are worth making a scene over.”

Go after your goals with a ridiculous, unreasonable, unstoppable spirit.

Make your goals un-ignorable.

Put them right in front of your face. Whatever it takes.

It’s going to be worth it. Worth every ounce of ridiculousness. I promise you.

Nothing feels better than doing exactly what you’ve said you are going to do.