We’re going to try little exercise. No need to change into your sweats, it’s not that kind of exercise. Or do; I’m a DIY semi-financial blog, not the fashion police.
Start by taking a deep, slow breath.
As the sawdust fills your nostrils, let your mind empty itself of any thoughts.
Don’t think about that hole you just drilled in the wrong place.
Don’t think about the time and money you are going to have to spend to replace that new door you just ruined.
And definitely don’t think about the throbbing on the end of your thumb, where the hammer slipped.
Another deep breath, and, as you exhale, let all intrusive thoughts of giving up and hiring a contractor leave your mind.
Feel better now?
I See Said the Blind Man, as He Picked Up His Hammer and Saw
We’ve gone over many times how the feelings of accomplishment accompanying the completion of a difficult task are one of the vital ingredients to a life of true happiness. One of the aspects of this happiness-seeking venture that must not be overlooked is the frustration and self-doubt that can inhabit the mind during the task.
Especially if the task is a step outside of the comfort zone.
I have found, through careful introspection, that the beginning and end portions of a project are where I find joy, but the middle can be fraught with negativity if I allow it. My natural fallback is to grumble and complain throughout, only realizing joy when I am able to sit back and see the finished product.
This is not conducive to true productivity and happiness.
Although the meditation above sounds pretty silly, it can be a useful tool in your DIY journey. As the old saying goes, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I think we can change that up for our use to sound more like, “when the going gets tough, embrace the suck.”
Maybe it doesn’t have the same ring to it, but ask any former marine about embracing the suck, and they will tell you it is the way to true zen in times of trial.
To realize that what you are in the middle of is difficult and to continue on despite this is exactly what “embrace the suck” is all about. Sure, you are feeling like you’re in over your head. And sure, there is an easy way out just a phone call away. But that phone call will not lead to fulfillment, only to a finished product procured through swallowed pride.
Don’t Listen to Nature
In times of old, I mean really old, we as a species benefitted greatly from finding the easiest method to accomplish a task. When it came to killing large vicious beasts so we could eat, and therefore survive, the easiest and least dangerous method served us best. And so we invented tools, such as spears and clubs, to help us do what was needed to live.
Our brains have become hardwired over millennia to find the easiest and least risky path to an end goal, and this has led to our proliferation as a species.
As time has gone on and our tools have become more sophisticated, we have been able to reap more and better rewards, leading to our incredible advancement, at least in the way of ease of life. The problem now has become what to do with our time.
Now that we have created all of this spare time through the advancement of our tools, we find ourselves no longer needing to spend our days killing and gutting animals or wandering around harvesting what edible flora we could find. The problem is, our brains are still actively looking for the best ways to avoid work.
Time For Some Working Zen
What we need to do now is to learn to appreciate physical labor during the experience. This is something I’m trying to work on now, so don’t feel like I’m some guru telling you what to do from my high throne. Oh no, I’m in the thick of it with you.
What I suggest, and what I have found myself doing, is to learn to recognize those moments when you’re feeling particularly grumpy. For me, these tend to be mostly near the beginning of a project, once I’m past the honeymoon phase. This can be 30 seconds in, or it can be a week, but it most often tends to be around 5% deep into the project, when the initial motivation has left.
In other words, it’s when I’m starting to realize what the work actually feels like, and I have the huge bulk of the work ahead of me.
So what do I do? There’s a couple of little tricks, and the simplest one of all is to whistle. Remember how the Seven Dwarves would whistle while they worked? It’s awfully hard to feel grumpy while you’re whistling! In fact, I think even Grumpy cracked a smile at one point!
Another thing I will do is stop for a moment and look at the work I have already done, and express appreciation and gratitude to myself for having done it. It might seem silly telling yourself what a good job you’re doing, especially when you say it out loud to yourself in front of others. But who cares what they think! You’re doing an awesome job!
One last thing I have found to be helpful is to micro-focus. What I mean by this is, once you have gotten to a point where there is a bunch of mindless work to do, don’t look at the big picture. Zoom in close, focus on a small area, and just concentrate on getting this one little area done.
For example, when I was replacing the kitchen in my house, as soon as I had ripped everything out I was faced with the prospect of a home with no kitchen. I had a blank room, and a whole lot of work ahead of me.
With the help of Guest Expert Tom, we planned, measured, and mapped, until we had a good idea of what needed to happen. From there it was all monkey work, and I just put my head down and chugged away at it. Before I knew it, I had some real progress to look at!
Well, we’ve made it this far. Time to give yourself a pat on the back, blow your nose, and get back to work. Your thumb will be fine, and your project will get finished. Just remember to take the time to realize how fortunate you are that you are able to develop these skills and use your body the way it was meant to be used.
Not everyone has the kind of strength of character you have. Most people are content to just hire it out and languish on their Big Box Hardware Store patio chaise lounge while some lucky devil gets to make a bunch of money building something awesome for them. But you? You’re a go-getter! Now go out there and get it!