I circle the mountain
My eyes to the stars
I think I can count them
If I try very hard
The peak to my right
Is so far away
It reaches the sky
I can’t start today
These stars on the other hand
I can see right from here
Who else but me understands
How to keep them all clear?
I need to turn just a bit
For my count to continue
No time for me to sit
There’s much for me to get through
After hours pass by
I am content enough to stop
I look behind me, oh my!
I’ve made it to the top!


Inertia is deadly.

It is easy to understand that getting nothing done is a bad thing, but even being active without an achievable goal or measurable progress is bad. In this sense, inactivity also describes the inability to change direction when needed. With goals in mind, actions should be taken with a purpose to work towards those ends.

To be clear, an action needn’t be tedious or tiring for it to have a purpose. Rest is not inactivity, it recharges your body to press on. Play is not inactivity, it frees your mind to be creative. Entertainment is not inactivity, it exposes you to stories that can change your perspective. However, doing any of these things because there is nothing else to do, or because you are apprehensive about jumping into a daunting task, is an inactive choice. In a sea of stillness, avoiding active choices is quite appealing. It carries with it a comfortable burden of no responsibility, no sense of expediency, and no measure of accomplishment.

It is significantly easier to work through smaller tasks than spend an inordinate amount of time working through a larger task you’ve let sit and build up. You accumulate a debt of required activity if you procrastinate. From the start, if you wipe away that debt as it begins to rear its head, it is much easier to manage as time goes on. Even if you are behind, and the debt becomes monolithic, it can be broken down into manageable pieces to attack one at a time. It is never impossible, and should not be perpetually avoided.

Clean, condition, learn, toil: these are all verbs describing the elimination of some sort of debt. A debt of mess, a debt of weakness, a debt of ignorance, a debt of labor. It is probably the case you prefer some of these activities over others. If you can find a way to combine them, the debt may become more palatable. Some actions require you to actively think, and some do not. Someone who despises cleaning may find reprieve in simultaneously learning about something they enjoy. Someone who despises learning may find time passes more easily by also exercising. When one activity requires only the body, it can be offset by another that requires only the mind, or vice versa. In the end, it is all debt of activity that should be constantly chipped away at. The drudgery of doing something on its own can not only be balanced with something pleasing, but progress will be more efficiently made with both.

Continuing down this line of thought, when you are working your way through a task (desirable or not) that requires significant thought, you can often hit a roadblock of the mind that prevents you from progressing. Though you didn’t decide for it to happen, you’ve naturally become inactive. If you run into this, stop what you’re doing. Let the thoughts simmer while you preoccupy yourself with something else. Your subconscious mind is more equipped to grapple with such problems and you can come back to it refreshed. Having the agility to change gears on the fly and make the most out of your actions goes a long way in breaking the pattern of inactivity.


Situational Questions

  • Are you shying away from a particularly monstrous task, almost feeling helpless in your approach to it? Have you considered breaking it into several smaller pieces that can each be accomplished in a single session? What if you charted out their details and measured your progress so the end is more visible?
  • Are you mentally or physically exhausted from doing the same thing over and over? Is there an avenue for you to switch focus to something else? If you were able to take a break, would it be easier to get back in rhythm?


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