There is a congregation of voices inside of us that comprise our thought process, interests, desires… and our doubts. Any time we push ourselves we’re going to see some stuff come out of the woodwork. And any time we’re looking to use that push to make changes in our life then we’re going to be tested by our limits.
Making improvements to our lives inherently challenges our limits – where those limits are and how much force it takes to crash through them. If you want to change your body you’ll have to assess how you approach food, physical activity, sleeping – the whole ball of wax. If your desire is to change your financial situation you’ll be looking at how much you currently earn, how that may need to be adjusted, possible job or career changes, lifestyle changes… nothing comes for free.
All of this will ruin your comfort. Along the way you’ll find that juggling these details and finding where your comfort zone ends is a stressful process.
Lately as I’ve been pursuing some satisfying and worthy projects, like this blog, I’ve been coming across a much larger pile of doubt than I had predicted. This is undoubtedly related to my dance with anxiety for so many years.
Being prone to off-the-chart worry is a difficult trait to manage, especially when you’re pushing to the edge of your own limits. Any time I make some progress there is a complex set of resulting thoughts and emotions that comes with it.
I woke up at the start of last week in a stick-in-the-mud frame of mind. I had been receiving a lot of doubt and negative talk from the voices within myself the previous few days and they had left me with a feeling like my writing was pointless and I should, of course, never post another entry. It also felt like I hadn’t posted anything in a month even though it was just a few days prior.
I don’t believe them, but they are very persistent. And since they linger around and sing their terrible song for so long I have good opportunities to study them.
And so, I’ve been thinking about this state of mind and why it seems inextricably tied to my drive to move forwards. There are a few possibilities that come to mind:
- Perhaps there’s a sadness that comes from expectation. I dream of the future years ahead of me and how satisfying it could be to connect to a larger community that talks about these things with the passion I do – but I know it takes time for these things to grow. But perhaps there is an expectation within me that is a little disappointed that each post published doesn’t bring miraculous change along with it.
- I have a history of self-sabotage – it’s not intentional, of course, but I have a track record of making progress in pretty much anything I like to pursue and then taking fifteen steps back. Maybe this is a defense mechanism that keeps me from perceived danger, I’m not exactly sure, but I do know that one of the ploys in the sabotage machine is to cut the legs out from under my emotional stability. Hard to make progress when you feel like a thousand pounds of failure.
- Doubt. Straight up, old-fashioned self-doubt. I have always had the fire of ambition but my young years also carried with them the doubt that I could really accomplish very much. I’ve come to learn that this is simply not true and I am now pushing towards that which is just over the horizon, but that old voice of doubt comes up very loud and angry as I make steps towards something new.
It’s incredible the feeling that comes with this slurry of emotions. It’s just a kind of weight – faceless and nameless; it’s like an anchor holding a part of me from where I’m going. It’s as if I take a step in a direction I’d like to go, but all of the fire and excitement that got me to take that step are reluctant to come with me. So each step is requiring me to regroup and stoke that fire up again. Or just give up.
If nothing else, at least I’m getting better at stoking the fire.
Going forward there seem to be a few takeaways that will make my path ahead a bit less of a string of reruns:
- First off, one of the limits that is not working well for me is expectation. In theory I believe that I have that under control – I’m not consciously or intentionally doing these things with expectation. But in practice, there it is causing me frustration and disappointment with each step. It seems that I don’t practice the patience required for completely enjoying the moment I’m in now and letting the new and exciting come as it may.
- Secondly, self-sabotage. What to do, what to do? Good question. I can’t say I have a solid answer for this one yet. So far the most effective moves I have for that is to look at something I’d like to do, make a plan, and stick with it. As a “wing it” kind of guy for many years, I’ve found that the schedule-free shoot by the hip approach does not work with something that requires structure and discipline. And, as always, awareness is critical. Since it’s something I don’t understand well, learning as much as I am able to learn about it will help me to make better friends with this weakness as I go.
- Thirdly off, self-doubt can easily come with anything new. At least a little, if not an unbelievable amount. This is healthy as it is important to always have critical thought and keep yourself in check. Doubt is a good reminder to make sure you measure twice and cut once. The trick is not to continually believe doubt and end up measuring three hundred times… then abandon the plan and do something else. Or nothing. A quick double check is okay for some moves you’ll make, but don’t forget to actually make the leap to action! I tend to overthink, so jumping to action first and fine tuning later seems to work well for me since it actually gets something done.
If there’s one thing I know it’s that I’ll never give up. I’ve ditched a lot of my efforts in the past, and I may again as I move forward as well. But I know I’ll never give up on starting and starting again until I find the purpose for which the fire within me burns. I refuse to settle for relief instead of chasing joy.
Each time I’ve gone through this process it’s gotten… not easier. But it’s brought more clarity. And it’s never put out the flame. If anything, it’s fanned it to burn brighter. And this is what perseverance means for me – to refuse to submit.
What does perseverance look like for you? Do you have some repeating monster that keeps thwarting you at a familiar turn in your life? How do you cope with it? Let’s discuss it together in the comments below.
Keep on the bright side.