How to Do Your Scariest Tasks of the Day, with Joy
By Leo Babauta
In my Fearless Training Program, one of our members talked about how she gets a lot done during the day, but inevitably puts off her two scariest tasks, and doesn’t get them done.
Does that sound familiar to you? Putting off the hardest tasks of the day is a common affliction for most of us.
That wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing, except that this often means the most important work doesn’t get done. The most meaningful work, our passion project or dream, keeps getting pushed back to another day.
Our days are too precious for this. We treat them like an unlimited resource, but how many do we have left? None of us know. But we do know that it’s a limited number, and they are incredibly valuable.
So how do we change this habit? We stop running from the fear and start moving towards it. We let it become our training ground.
Let’s look at how to train.
Creating a Sacred Training Container
It’s important not to take this lightly. We have age-old habits of putting off our scary, hard tasks, and just saying, “I’m going to change” is not enough.
We have to take this seriously. The way to do that is to create a container for our training. Think of it like a boxing ring where you train, or a yoga mat, or a meditation hall. It has boundaries that make it special, and that keep you in the training area.
Think of this as a sacred space. It’s sacred because you have elevated it above all the other ordinary things you have to do for the day. In this special space, you are going to go towards your fear, and allow your habitual patterns to shift.
Here’s how you might create that container:
- Have a time of day when you train. Just as if you were going to go to a dojo to train — set a time. Will it be first thing in the morning, or right after lunch? Block it off on your calendar, set an alarm, and tell others that this is your training space.
- Have a place set aside for this training. If it’s computer-based work (like writing or doing your finances), move to a different space to work on your laptop — like at a coffee shop or a different room in your house than you use to do your usual daily activities. You should move into this space each day and feel that this is your training space.
- Create a starting ritual, where you set your intention for the training session. As you start, instead of just rushing to get the task done, pause. Take a moment to be intentional about how you enter this space and start training. Think of it as a sacred space. Set an intention for how you’ll practice during this training session — will you show up fully, and work with devotion?
- Let there be only one thing you can do during this session. While you’re in this training container, this sacred space … let yourself do nothing but the task you’ve chosen to do. For me right now, that’s writing this article. I don’t allow myself to switch to other tasks, to check my phone, to clean my house, to do anything but this single task. Let this be your most important rule. This sacred space is for nothing but training in uncertainty, pushing into fear, opening up in the middle of chaos with joy.
- Pour yourself into it, with devotion. Now do the task you’ve been putting off, pouring your entire being into it. Do it not only for yourself, but for the love of those you serve. For example, I’m doing this out of love for all of you, my readers. You might do it for your team members, your customers, your family. What would it be like to do this fully, with complete devotion? Do we ever pour ourselves into tasks like this?
- Close out with a bow of gratitude. Set a timer for this session (it only has to be for 10 minutes, even 5 if that’s too much), and when it goes off, allow yourself to close out the practice. Don’t just rush into the next task in your day. Close it out as if this were the end of a special meditation, an important martial arts training session. Bow to the practice, and to yourself, out of gratitude. Make this feel special. Actually, we can bring this specialness to every activity.
That’s the training container. Can you feel how this would elevate your training, to create a container like this?
How to Train, with Joy
Training in doing the things that scare you doesn’t have to be torture. In fact, it can be joyous.
To start with, what’s the scariest thing on your todo list? Pick that for your training session today, and create the container as we talked about above.
Then try these ideas to bring joy to the training:
- Play some music. As you start, feel free to play some music. Brew some nice tea. Light candles if you like. Do what it takes to make this a pleasant experience. Music can even make the training fun.
- Drop into your body. The training becomes a meditation if you drop your attention into your body, noticing the uncertainty you’re feeling, the physical sensation of it. Where is it located in your body? What does the sensation feel like? This is the training, to be present with the fear, the anxiety, the resistance, instead of running from it.
- Stay with the sensation, with curiosity. Bring a sense of curiosity to the sensation, exploring it like it’s the first time you’ve ever had this experience. What is it like, right now? Can you stay with it for longer? Can you find gratitude for it? Can you be open, relaxed, even joyous with it?
- Dance with the chaos. Feeling this uncertainty, you can begin to dance. Literally, you can dance — let your body move to the music as you do the work. But also figuratively — you are playing with this uncertainty, dancing with the chaos, having fun with whatever you normally run from. Let it be a game, let it be joyful, let it be an adventure.
Keep doing the task that you find scary, that you would normally put off, but do it with this sense of mindfulness, of dancing, of curiosity and gratitude and relaxation and joy.