We don’t give up on our goals because we feel bad. We give up because of what we think feeling bad means. Here’s how to think differently.
Let’s say there’s a task that’s really important to you, but somehow you can’t seem to work on it. You’ve tried a lot of solutions, but nothing seems to help.
Then one day, you stumble across something that seems like it could actually make a difference. Maybe it’s my post on internal resistance. Maybe it’s someone else’s writing or podcast or whatever.
When this happens, we start to feel a tiny bit of hope. Maybe we won’t actually spend our whole lives stuck between the rock of wanting to do the work and the hard place of somehow still not doing it.
In my experience, this hope feels incredible. Like rain in the desert. Like we won’t have to act like our own worst enemy forever.
So we decide to try yet again.
I want to pause before I go further just to say that this is fucking heroic and you should try to actually notice that. The amount of not-being-willing-to-give-up-on-yourself involved in making another attempt, when you’ve had so much painful negative reinforcement, is profound.
But once you get started, you quickly notice you’re feeling more and more awful. You hate what you’re doing. It’s stupid, you’re stupid, this whole attempt is stupid. You’re getting more and more anxious.
What’s worse: the more you notice how bad you’re feeling, the more it seems like this time isn’t actually any different. That realization feels so awful that the bad feelings grow even faster, until they’re so intolerable you have to tap out.
It seems like you’ve failed, again. And that precious little flame of hope you brought to the task winks out.
But no matter how many times you’ve had this experience, it does not have to keep happening. The key is in how we understand those moments when the bad feelings start to mount up, and it feels too hard to stay.
The electric fence