Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Power Of Deletion

I maintain a list of projects that I want to accomplish.

A couple of weeks ago, while reviewing the list, I realized that I no longer wanted to do one of the projects I had listed.. Perhaps the better word is not "realized," but "acknowledged." I think I had already realized it for a while.

When I acknowledged that, I then did something that was, for me, highly unusual.

I crossed it off my list.

Doing that felt good.

Many times, when I have failed to do something that I wanted to do, the failure resulted from a loss of will to do that thing, rather than from a definite decision not to do it. Indeed, the failure to do the thing intermingles with the continuing desire to do the thing in a convoluted fear-inducing mass of inaction. Weeks or months or years (yes, years) pass, during which the undone thing lingers in the mind, continually trying to call attention to itself: "Me! Do me!"

When I crossed Project X off my list a couple of weeks ago, it left my mind, and has not come back
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To emphasize: I did not merely decide to demote the project from an intention to a possibility. I demoted it all the way down from an intention to a non-possibility.

To put it another way, I didn't modify it, and then save my changes - I deleted it.

And it felt really good.

And why should it not? In doing so, I exercised considerable power, of a sort that I will dub First Degree.

First Degree power is the power to choose what to think about. It's the power that precedes all others. As a man thinketh, and all that. It has long struck me as utterly remarkable that Paul, in his letter to the Phillippians, encourages them to choose what to think about.

By crossing Project X off my list a couple of weeks ago, I chose to avoid thinking about it any more - and therefore, to avoid the entire range of emotional and cognitive distress that further thoughts about it could evoke - from confusion about how to do it, to guilt about not having done it already, to fear of failure. And in doing that, I freed up all of the time and energy that I would have otherwise devoted to it.

Sometimes, deciding not to do something is the most powerful and liberating thing you can do.
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