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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Obstacles: Real and Imagined

Ok, I’ve got a few goals.  I’m going to write in my blog, paint a landscape, pay my bills, clean my house, read that book that keeps calling to me, lose some weight.  Yeah, right! (Note sarcastic tone.)

Setting the goals is the easy part.  It’s following through that gets me, every time.  Sometimes the obstacles that prevent me from achieving are natural, unavoidable ones.  My health is not the greatest anymore and flares up at the most inopportune time.

But most of the obstacles I face are the ones I put in front of me.  Why do I do that?  I want to be successful.  I want to write my novel, get published, create those paintings.  Why on earth would I sabotage my own efforts?

Fear of failure is often behind my procrastination.  If I don’t try, then I can’t fail, right?  Wrong.  If you don’t try, you never succeed.  So that logic is terribly flawed.  But  still I keep doing things that keep me from achieving my goals.

Dislike of the task is another reason.  I hate paying bills.  I loathe housework.  Dieting has never been a pleasant experience for me.  So I don’t do them, and pay a significant price for the omissions.

Laziness can be used to describe my lack of action most of the time.  It takes time and effort to set up my paints, decide what to paint, draw the sketch, and actually start and finish a painting.  Then, if I don’t quite get the painting done, and it needs to dry (oil paintings can take days to dry) before I can frame it, then I have to find a place to store it where it won’t get damaged.  So I don’t start a painting.  I put it on the back burner.  If I had enough burners for all my unfinished projects, I would be able to cook for an army.
Disorganization, I suspect is probably the root of much of my procrastination.  I don’t have a reliable systematic plan of action.  I don’t have constructive habits formed.  I allow tiny distractions to keep me from doing the work that I want to get done.  Income tax time is a prime example of this “syndrome.”  I absolutely hate doing income tax preparation.  Thank God I didn’t become an accountant like my dad wanted me to become.  I would be totally miserable in my work.

Splintering is a term I sometimes use to describe my avoidance of certain tasks.  This is when I start a project with good intentions.  I actually intend to complete whatever I want to get done.  I may get everything set up to do it.  I may even actually start working at it. 

But somehow, in the space of a few hours, my resolve splinters away with tiny distractions.  After working for a few minutes, maybe even an hour or two, I grow restless.  I stop working to use the bathroom. As I emerge from the bathroom, I decide to get a drink of water.  As I reach for a clean glass from the cupboard, I notice a few dirty dishes in the sink.  Oh, my.  I’d better wash these.  So I start washing dishes.  The phone rings, and I visit with the caller for a while.

After the call ends, instead of returning to either of my prior chores, I start a batch of laundry, and watch some tv while folding clothes.  Next I decide to check Facebook to see what the weather is doing, and end up chatting with friends, then playing some games.  The original project is long forgotten. 

I may return to it later, but the resolve has dissolved, and I can’t get that energy back.  So, either I put it away until the energy returns, or leave it in place while I fix lunch.  And so the day disappears in a myriad of distractions, and I fail in achieving my goal for the day.
This happens on a pretty regular basis.  There are some projects that I do actually complete, simply because I have to get them done.  I do eventually get my taxes ready for the preparer, I do get my laundry done, because I’ll run out of towels, clothing, and clean bedding if I don’t.  I have to keep clean clothing for Dennis so when he comes in unexpectedly from the truck, he’ll have fresh clothes to change into after his shower.

But the projects that do not get completed often outnumber the ones that are finished.  I feel shame when I think of all the projects I have volunteered to complete and do not get done, or end up rushing through it to finish, not doing the best I can do.  I could blame it on my astrological sign, perhaps.  Libras are notorious procrastinators.  But placing blame does not solve the problem.

New Year’s Resolutions—I don’t even bother to make them anymore.  It’s useless.  I fail with those before the middle of January.
I promise my doctor that I’ll watch my diet and get more exercise.  Yeah, right!  She usually smiles, because she knows they are just words.  Oh, I probably really intend to do those things when I say them, but there are just so many obstacles!

I know what I need to do.  I know how to do it.  I need to start new healthy and productive habits.  Get those nasty, unpleasant tasks completed early in the day when I’m fresh, before the computer or the television is turned on.  I may even do that for a week or two.  But I usually revert to my old tricks.

Maybe I need to read a book on organizational skills.  Maybe I need hypnotism to set up better habits.  I’ll have to think on that.  Right now I think I need a drink of water.

Dixie Barnes is a registered nurse who dreams of writing and illustrating children’s books.  She lives in Kansas with her husband of over forty years, and two Shih Tzu dogs.  She loves spending time with her three children and nine grandchildren. She mentors the F2K Free Writing Fiction class in Writer’s Village University and writes fiction, including YA novels and short stories, essays, and poetry, which she posts on her blog Living Fossil Images at  She paints in watercolors and oils, and enjoys working in colored pencil.


  1. Dixie. Focus on the tremendous feeling of achievement you get when you reach your goal. That's enough of a carrot of any donkey. Great article. One day, you'll write one about how you manage to complete everything you started. hehe.
    Blog on!

  2. Oh, goodness, are we both tapped into some universal consciousness or something? I have the same thoughts all the time...except for the dishes distracting thing, there is no way I'd ever find the dishes more attractive than anything else :D but put the internet in its place in your paragraph and yeah, you're still with my brain :D

    I've spent years fighting my easy distractibility, perhaps it is Attention Deficit Disorder or, as I prefer to call it, Absent Minded Genius. I obsess on things, procrastinate on everything and generally do a great job to stuff up all the opportunities life has thrown at me.

    But I'm not giving up. The most success I have had in handling my issues in the last few years is to work with them rather than against them and I am having a little success. The housework has actually deteriorated even more (my Hubby is the most tolerant man on the planet), but my writing and art has just blossomed...perhaps not as much as a work-a-holic's might have, but I'm getting there.

    There is hope! So don't despair and you're not alone. I find starting a challenge, but it is the continuing and finishing that are my main obstacles. They are being overcome! And no doubt you'll be able find a way around yourself just as I am slowly working out a way around me :D

    Just remember...what do you want written on your gravestone? Here lies a great houseworker or here lies a great artist/writer?

    I know which I'm aiming for.


    Best wishes,
    (from A to Z)

  3. Hi Dixie,
    Actually I have a better book to recommend than one on organizational skills check out The Path of Leist Resistance and Your Life as Art by Robert Fritz.

    I struggled with some of the same issues and discovered I had some major oscillating structures in my life. I had to ask the hard questions of why? I realized there were some things that I did not want to deal with that when ever I got to near them.. I went spinning in the opposite direction. Life was like a rocking chair - Its hard to make much real progress.
    It has been a journey to discover those locked up places and to find the courage to face them. Then to learn to set up new and better structures that actually move me along the path of accomplishing the things I set out to do.

    Blessings on your journey, I enjoyed your post.
    Happy A-Zing


  4. hahahha I don't mean to laugh but dang, girl, you sound JUST like me....Love this one thanks for sharing!


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