Unnecessary Dependencies

Published on January 8th, 2020

Young children can be exceptionally skilled at delaying bedtime. What should take all of 5 minutes can take an hour or more if you let it. Excuses can range from basic needs (e.g., "But I'm hungry! But I'm thirsty!") to every want under the sun (e.g., "But I want to watch one more show! But I need to finish building my fort!").

Of course, it's all bullshit, and the parents know it. Still, the kiddo's desire to stay up is so strong that they'll put on an enormous production to convince everyone. In fact, the production itself is part of the stall tactic. And what grates on the parent's nerves is that all the kiddo needs to do are 3 simple things: put on PJs, brush one's teeth, and get in bed. Simple! Easy! It should take 5 minutes if it wasn't for all the unnecessary dependencies.

But here's the rub. It's not just kids.

Everyone finds ways of adding unnecessary dependencies to delay doing the things we wish to avoid.

  • I can't start a new exercise program until I study the theory behind it.
  • I can't start a new diet until I get through my current groceries.
  • I can't write a book until I'm an expert.
  • I can't take on my first client until I already have a website.
  • I can't invite a friend over until the entire house is clean.
  • I can't start my workday until my office is cleaned up.
  • I can't take that vacation until I've read a travel book about the location.
  • I can't ask that person out until the timing is just right.
  • I can't ask for that raise until someone else gets one.
  • I can't ask for that promotion until it is offered up.
  • I can't ask for help until I've exhausted myself trying to go it alone.
  • I can't forgive them until they say sorry first.
  • I can't love them until they love me first.

Now some of these can be legitimately true. Maybe. Or some of these may be things we put in our way as side quests to avoid the more difficult tasks that we'd rather avoid.

I'm not perfect, and I fight this battle myself. I have big dreams and ambitions in my life. And yet I hear myself saying things like "well until I can dedicate at least this much time and this much money to X, I might as well not even get started!" This is, of course, a lie. I could get started today in small chunks and start making progress right now, but I don't. It's an unnecessary dependency because the excuse hurts less than the pain of actually trying and then actually failing.

I'm on the lookout to find and cut these out of my life, Still, like a kiddo trying to avoid bedtime, we can bullshit ourselves with some very convincing arguments.

What are your unnecessary dependencies? And are you willing to put them aside and finally get started on what matters?

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CXO of Atomic Form. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.