Photo by The Consortium
Admit it. We’ve all been there.
You’re just about to start on that Big Difficult Task that’s the most important thing on your agenda today.
It could be a phone call to a powerful person. Or that article you’ve been meaning to write all week. Or an artwork you’ve been stuck on but which keeps nagging to be finished. Whichever, you’ve finally stopped putting it off and screwed up your courage to begin.
Then the Bad Idea Bears burst in.
If you’ve seen the musical Avenue Q, the Bad Idea Bears will need no introduction. If not, then you need to know that the Bad Idea Bears are bears who come bearing bad ideas. And they’re intent on delivering them to you.
In the musical, the Bad Idea Bears pop up whenever one of the characters is in need of some good advice. Like when the young jobseeker Princeton receives his allowance from his parents, and the Bad Idea Bears are on hand to persuade him to spend the money on beer. Or when kindergarten teacher Kate has an important assignment to prepare for the next morning, and the Bears convince her to have some ‘harmless’ Long Island Iced Teas…
You get the idea.
So what will the Bad Idea Bears suggest to you today?
Maybe they’ll go for the direct route:
There’s plenty of time, why don’t you put it off till tomorrow? It’s a beautiful sunny day – it would be a crime to waste it indoors …
Or perhaps they’ll be a little more subtle:
You’d better just check your e-mail before you get started – something important could have arrived in the last five minutes …
They’ll try anything to get you on the Internet – they know what happens to time once you start clicking links:
Wasn’t there an important website you were going to check out, for research? It could make all the difference to the final outcome …
If all else fails, they’ll play the productivity card:
Look at all these things on your to-do list. Wouldn’t it be better to start with some ‘quick wins’ by ticking off some of the easy items?
It’s hard to argue with the Bad Idea Bears – they are fond of pointing out that they only want you to be happy. They get very upset when they see you denying yourself pleasure. They can hardly bear to look at you bracing yourself for a challenge. Why put yourself through needless suffering?
After all, isn’t life there to be enjoyed?
Resistance Is Futile
You may be tempted to argue with the Bears, or to use willpower to resist the temptations they offer you.
Don’t go there. It’s fatal.
It might work today. It might even work tomorrow as well. But these are two extremely persistent Bears. They’re in it for the long haul and will wear away at your resistance until you crack.
Until the day you give in to one of their Bad Ideas. And guess what? When it comes to dealing with the consequences, you’re all on your own.
So forget about willpower. If you really want to get rid of the Bears, you need to give them a dose of their own medicine.
Find the Fun
The Bears’ strategy is devious and very effective. Knowing it’s only human nature to seek out pleasure and resist pain, they bait their trap with something none of us can resist for long:
By pointing out how difficult and painful the task will be, and offering an alternative that’s quick, easy and enjoyable, they can make a Very Bad Idea very hard to resist.
To beat them, you need to trump their fun with more fun. You need to find the fun in that difficult, painful task. Here’s how.
There are basically two kinds of fun:
1. The Fun of Doing
This is the pleasure you take in the task itself. Often, the initial resistance to doing difficult complex work (such as drawing, writing or practising a musical instrument) gives way to pleasure, even creative flow. This is what prompted Noel Coward to say ‘work is more fun than fun’.
To beat the Bears: Remember the last time you were ‘in the zone’ while engaged in a similar task. Promise yourself, it won’t be long before you experience that pleasure again – the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be enjoying yourself …
2. The Fun of Being Done
Let’s face it, some tasks are just plain unpleasant. Things like tax returns, conversations with difficult people and root canal surgery. The only fun to be had with these tasks is getting them done and out the way. But when you think about it, that’s a lot more fun than putting them off and trying to enjoy yourself when you know they are still hanging over you.
To beat the Bears: Think ahead to you how you will feel once the task is done and out the way. Relieved? Happy? Liberated? Take a moment to savour that feeling, then promise yourself it won’t be long till you feel it for real – in fact, the sooner you get going, the more time you will have to really enjoy yourself …
And if you’re stuck for a witty retort next time the Bad Idea Bears come calling, you could do worse than quote the words of George Bernard Shaw:
I never resist temptation because I have found that things that are bad for me do not tempt me.
How Do You Deal with the Bad Idea Bears?
When are the bad idea Bears most likely to visit you?
How do they try to hijack your day?
How do you deal with them?