Navigating the Space Between “I want to…” and “I am doing.”
Practice moving from creative thought to creative action more quickly.
Great ideas cannot live, and creative habits cannot be formed if there is no action. Ideas in the imagination space are useless if they are not shared or prototyped. Intentions, too, will not find their destiny if we do not act upon them.
Without action, wonderful ideas and good intentions will become lazy thoughts, longing, and wishful thinking. Wait too long to get to the action space, and those thoughts and desires become little pests of anxiety and stress. This waiting area welcomes ugly monsters that build negative narratives and paralyze us from moving forward.
If we want our imaginations to become reality we must take action. Walking out of the waiting room and into a proactive life is possible. All you need is some practice getting from the thought space to the action space more quickly.
The space between that moment when the idea, thought, or desire to do something strikes and the actual moment of doing it is filled with distractions and doubts. The biggest challenge to overcome is learning to navigate this space between thought and action.
This area is dangerous territory, a slippery slope. There are deep dark caves of shoulds and shouldn’ts. There are sticky pits that pull your energy down and hold you back from moving. There are playgrounds of distractions and toys to play with that keep you occupied — the big-screen TVs, the mobile devices, and the computers that hold your attention away from ever getting to the action space.
You can always stay distracted by the day-to-day responsibilities. But if you stay there long enough you begin to hear the daunting slow-paced “tick! tock!” of the clock. It is a reminder that you are not taking action. As more time passes, you begin to fall into deep creative paralysis. Finally, as you lay there, frozen, something comes along that rolls you into the pit of wistfulness, shame, guilt, and “I don’t care”.
And this is it. The intimidating space between “I want to” and “I am doing”.
The worst part is, although you have crossed this dangerous territory many times before, it never ceases to exist — it never goes away. Time and again you must choose between the waiting area or the action space that will allow you to live a proactive and creative life.
You may not yet be good at choosing action over thought, but you can train yourself to navigate the space between these two places and get to the action more quickly.
Don’t think, do.
Move to immediate action. You can start by training yourself out of overthinking and jump straight to the do. An excellent action plan includes making stuff, prototyping ideas, and documenting your creative process through writing.
Say yes to the “I am doing”. Practice this day after day. Anyone who has been to The Land of Do knows that it is a place where wonderful things happen — inspiration, joy, wonder, and the overall feeling of being alive! And, of course, once we arrive at the do, once we are really in it, we ask ourselves, “What took me so long? Why don’t I do this more often?”
Leave the Comfort Zone
Those sticky, lethargic, complacent pits that hold you back are also known as the “comfort zone”. Here, it is easy to mistake the pit for home. The more comfortable we get in the pit the deeper we settle into it. Dangerously, we begin decorating it. By giving the comfort zone a new look, we trick ourselves into believing that we didn’t just stay there.
My advice to you is, “Get out!” Get out before you start picking out new curtains. The pit may appear to have all you require, but believe me, no shade of paint is going to offer you what getting to the do will give you.
Imagine yourself leaping over the pit, or flying past it in a fast jet! Go beyond your comfort zone to explore parts of yourself that will cause you to rise up and enter into the new spaces that motivate and inspire you.
The same recommendation goes for the playground of distractions. Keep going. Walk right past them. Reminding yourself all the while that you love the do.
The Do Space is that actionable place for living your life. Doing is filled with infinite possibilities, and the benefit of living a proactive and actionable existence is the deep meaning we are all searching for.
The do is not about achieving anything. When we reframe it as an act of our own life desires and dreams we become participants in our lives.
In my work as an educator of creative methods, I encounter time and again how people struggle to activate a creative practice. They know how good it feels to explore, imagine, and connect to their ideas and collaborate with others, yet they continue to choose the playground of distractions or hide out in dark caves of doubt. Only because they have not practiced navigating the space between thought and action.
Reframe the “Do”
We talk ourselves into the “BIG do”. The Big Do frames creativity as a large project that asks for polished outcomes. The Big Do is overwhelming, and most people shut down and choose their comfort zone without realizing that this leads to creative paralysis. This is the ultimate undoing of a creative life.
Truth is, it doesn’t take much to do. Just one small, short action or intention placed on creative action each and every day will get your creative momentum rolling.
Successful creative practitioners are experts at navigating the space between thought and action. Many creatives swear that their success comes from activating their creativity daily. I preach this to my students. I practice this myself. And I will note, even when I don’t feel like it, I DO it anyway.
I will reiterate that the action step, no matter how small, every single day towards something you think about doing is plenty enough to build your momentum.
More than momentum, action builds tolerance and mental muscles to open the mind and connect you to your body and the world.
I learned from engaging in my own daily “make breaks” that no matter how much I may be fighting with the space between “ I want to “ and “I do”, I am now in the habit of choosing action.
And when I do, this is what happens:
- I get out of my head and into my body
- My physical actions shift my mind
- My discoveries raise my curiosity
- My creative accidents delight me, confuse me, and frustrate me, and this builds my capacity to move through challenges.
Small Pointless Actions Add Up
It’s okay, and even encouraged, to practice taking small pointless actions. By “pointless” I mean to let go of expectations and outcomes. Instead, take action with the sole intention of activating the process. What comes out of it is unknown. No need to worry about the unknown outcomes beforehand. Let the creative process surprise you!
An example of a pointless creative action is making a collage out of leftover scraps of paper or items in your trash bin. No one is asking that you make a work of art or present it when complete to be judged or criticized. Practice approaching the process with a “who gives a shit” attitude. No need to do it for anyone but you. You’ll be surprised how much you grow to actually “give a shit” about the process of exploration and discovery.
Never underestimate the power of action.
The next time you find yourself lurking in the territory between “I want to” and “I am doing”…keep going and choose action. Take the road less travelled.
Leap over the pit, sprint past the playground of distractions, and shed light on the dark caves.
Rise up again and again. Create a shorter distance each time between thought and action. As you build momentum you will wonder how you never did it before.