I have a sense of procrastination this morning. My brain is bursting with new ideas on how to blaze new trails for my business as well as my creative pursuits, but the weight of needing to complete projects that were once my primary focus holds me back. The only picture that I can paint which describes what I am feeling is of a tire spinning in a pit of mud. Tires spinning, engine whining, mud flying, wanting to break free, desperately needing traction, so that there can be freedom to speed towards the destination.
This morning, Chris Brogan provoked me with a tweet that simply read, “Where are you focusing your energy? Is it ahead, behind, or sideways?” These questions have led me to ponder what each direction looks like right now as it relates to pursuing vision and how by embracing each direction, I can get unstuck and back on the highway.
The worst direction I can travel is sideways because I’m not going anywhere. Using the analogy of a tire spinning in the mud, to go sideways is to start turning the wheel left and right, burying myself deeper in the mud. When following my vision and passion, sideways is avoidance and giving into fear. I stop making decisions and confronting issues that need to be dealt with. I give up. I give into the weight of problems instead of finding creative ways to solve issues at hand. A great quote that I think illustrates moving sideways comes from Albert Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Sometimes in order to break free, I need to move in the opposite direction of where I ultimately want to go. Relating to issues of art and business, that has the potential to not make fiscal or logical sense, but history has shown that by stopping and reversing course for a brief moment, I can get the necessary momentum to get unstuck.
There is a principal of animation called anticipation that is illustrated by Newton’s third law of motion: “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Tony White in “The Animator’s Workbook” writes of anticipation:
When animating any major action in a scene, it is always necessary to anticipate the action before initiating it. If a character is going to run off-screen-left from a standing start, it is first necessary to give him a short movement to screen-right to anticipate it.
What are some additional benefits to moving backwards? It enhances my character by helping me learn more about how I got stuck in the first place. As I look at my past obligations, there are elements in each project that I can learn from and the only way I learn is to not give up, to see them through to completion, no matter how frustrated I get and no matter how much it hurts to not be moving towards the vision of my future. By learning from my mistakes, it prepares me for the mistakes that I will make further along the road as I pursue my vision. If I don’t learn, I’m apt to repeat mistakes, and the closer I get to fulfill my vision, the more painful mistakes become. That is why traveling backwards can prepare me for what is to come.
Without the lessons learned while traveling sideways and backward, moving forward would not be as idealistic and perfect as I imagine. There will be bumps, potholes and accidents along the way even if I think there won’t be.
This leads me to my final question: is it possible to move forward while simultaneously moving backward? Yes, it is possible. In fact, if I don’t think there is value in fulfilling obligations of the past, I might as well not even commit to new ideas because there will come a time when those ideas will become the “past obligations” that I am fighting right now.
So, what does moving forward look like? For me, it is grasping hold of my vision of the future and at the same time completing projects of the past, no matter how difficult they are. It is laying a foundation of character that I can build art, business and craft upon so that as new ideas are attempted I can continually move forward regardless of the outcome. It is fighting fear, complacency and negative attitudes by being honest with what I can and cannot do. Ultimately, it is simply telling myself that every pursuit forward and backward is a worthy use of time and that the only direction that I must avoid traveling in is sideways.