Strict about showing up, lenient about the results

​A client asked: 

“George, how do you stay with such a regimented schedule… yet remain calm and joyful as you work?”

Every workday, I stick to a schedule, getting a lot done in an easeful manner, without undue strain. And yet, even with a full day of appointments and projects — whenever I meet with clients, they don’t feel like I’m in a hurry. I can still be my creative self with them.

It’s taken a lot of practice. Here’s the key:
I’m strict about showing up, lenient about results… and gentle to bring myself back to focus, again and again.

(One thing that helps me show up on time is to schedule Focusmate sessions.)

This is the core mode of operation I’ve had for years in my business. It brings a deep sense of self-empowerment, showing me that I can accomplish anything I intend to, as long as I’m willing to show up consistently, time after time.

Sadly, many do the opposite:

People who are heart-centered givers (many who are reading this right now) tend to be lenient about showing up on time for their own work… yet are so strict with themselves about the results (perfectionism, self-doubt, strong inner critic)... and whenever they realize they’ve gotten distracted, they tend to self-blame.

If that describes you, it’s no wonder that you procrastinate — you are reluctant to show up because you’re afraid of self-punishment!

There’s no blame here. Almost none of us were raised with a philosophy of joyful productivity. I certainly wasn’t.

Once we realize the power of this method, we can commit to it and truly change ourselves. 

It takes continued mindfulness and reframing to come to the understanding that you only need to be strict about showing up, yet lenient with results, and gentle about re-focusing.

Here’s an example of this philosophy in action: 

​I didn’t feel like making this video. I was visiting my parents for the weekend. I wasn’t in a place where I was comfortable making videos, and wondered what people in the park would think. I wasn’t feeling inspired.

But I showed up anyway.

I just started recording, and allowed myself to speak the main points I’d planned. (A few days earlier, I had been strict about showing up to outline my content.)

I didn’t worry about the result of the video. Sure, I did a few takes, but that’s normal for pre-recorded videos. It took me 15 minutes to make this 5-minute video.

This is an example of being strict with my time, but lenient on what happens during that time — as long as I’m doing what I planned. If I get distracted temporarily, I gently bring myself back to the task.

Just like in meditation or prayer: when your mind wanders, there’s no need for self-blame. Just gently bring your mind back to your meditation or prayer.

The key -- no matter how I’m feeling, I show up anyway to do what I had planned.

I never feel like it… 

Here’s a secret — I never feel like making my weekly videos. 

Also, I never feel like writing my blog posts. 

Why not? It’s because of creative discomfort: the potential anxiety or fear of not knowing what to say, or of saying the wrong things, or of being judged by others (and by myself).

But I’ve learned that if I show up anyway, I eventually find a flow after the initial discomfort. I just need to be strict about showing up, starting the work, and seeing what happens with continued action and gentle wrestling. 

Skill and results naturally grow over time, when we keep showing up, day after day.

​Don’t force yourself to have “good results” during any one work period. Look at “results” from a long-term perspective: the gradual process of improvement.

Just show up for the work. Stay on task, gently bringing yourself back again and again into focus.

I’m lenient with my results in that I don’t worry about the quality of what is produced during that hour, as long as I’m doing the work I planned. It might end up being a crappy video, or a poorly-written article, or maybe I’m studying some complex topic, and I still don’t understand it one bit after the hour.

I practice avoiding self-judgment. (Yes, it’s a practice until it becomes natural.) What matters is that I keep producing. With consistent practice, I know that skills will naturally increase, and my results will inevitably improve, over time.

Becoming free of self-judgment… 

How to become free of your own self-judgment? I’m going to guess that you already have a tool or modality that has worked for you in the past. Now you simply need to practice it regularly. Use any method that works for you.

What works for me? The Energy Reboot.

At the beginning of any work period, I use the energy reboot practice to gently remind myself of what I believe to be true about Life: that we are all eternally secure in an inevitable path towards complete Goodness. We are lovingly taken care of, in deeper and grander ways than we can imagine.

No, I don’t have a trust fund, but I feel secure because we all have an inner spiritual resource that is inexhaustible. I’m grateful that I can tap into it anytime.

I believe that it’s our higher work to daily practice tapping into that inner resource, so that we can work in a state of gentle focus — being reliable to show up on time, not only for others, but for ourselves too.

Taking breaks...

Besides showing up for work reliably, I’m also strict about taking breaks, even when I don’t feel like it.

Again, this is opposite of what many people do: they only take a break after they’ve exhausted themselves.

If we take breaks and renew ourselves before we get tired, we will tend to enjoy our work more and experience more creativity.

On a regular basis (every 25–50 minutes) get up!  Move around. You’ll find new ideas coming to you with less mental effort.

(A tool that has helped me to practice showing up on time, as well as taking breaks, is Focusmate. I usually have 3-5 Focusmate sessions every workday.)

If you haven’t been producing as much work as you’d like to -- or if you’re not working joyfully -- then I recommend that you give this philosophy a try.

Be strict with showing up on time for your own work, no matter what.

Be lenient (not self-judging) about the results of your work, knowing that it’ll get better over time.

Be “gently strict” about the whole process, continuing to bring your attention back to the planned work, again and again.

I hope you will also try out this philosophy, and let me know how it goes for you!