I tantalized you in my previous post where I set up and named the steps to actually getting yourself to do new things, and now you are on pins and needles, ready for all the juicy details about how to go through these. Buckle up.
(It’s actually a very tame and relaxed topic, but being dramatic makes writing this more fun for me.)
To briefly review, we suck at getting ourselves to do new things. Our brain gets scared of using up energy and so it strongly advises us through fear, anxiety, catastrophizing, imposter syndroming-whatever it can think of to thwart our plans. The problem with this is, life gets dull, dull, dull when we stick with only doing things that we are already amazing at. “I’m just going to get off my a$$ and do it” is not a plan. But do not freak out-Brené Brown and I have a plan for you to get yourself to do this new thing:
- Name it. We often avoid naming something consciously, subconsciously, or entirely obliviously. We tend to not name, acknowledge or put words to what we are experiencing (whether we realize we are or not) out of a spirit of denial, as well as belief that if I pretend that it’s not there, it won’t be happening. <insert fingers in ears while muttering “la la la, can’t hear you”> We think that naming the problem or feeling or boogie man makes it real, when it otherwise wouldn’t be. Or, we fear that it will give the issue more power. I am here to tell you folks: ain’t a lick of that be true. We actually GAIN power over something when we name it. Research has shown that our body’s stress responses DECREASE when we label what we are feeling. It’s magic, friends. Or rather, science. It’s magic science. You may have heard the phrase “name it to tame it” as a way to help kids with their feelings. Wouldn’t you know it, it applies to adults, too. When we are procrastinating, feeling anxious, worried about how we are going to incorporate the new thing into our life, fearing that we are an imposter, thinking that there is no way that we are not going to fail at this: we are in an FFT.
Saying to ourselves-“I’m in an FFT, that’s what these feelings and thoughts are about. I’m not necessarily feeling this way because this is a terrible idea that I should give up.” gives us power over it.
- Connect to your “why.” This is the step my clients and I added, and I am sure Brené will be calling any day now to see if she can officially incorporate it into her model. (Brené-thank you for asking, of COURSE you can use this. You’ve given us so much, it’s an honor to give back to you. Want to get lunch this week?) When doing a new thing, it is INCREDIBLY tempting to scrap the whole idea. We are feeling vulnerable and afraid and all sorts of other uncomfortable emotions. Why am I choosing to put myself through this again? Oh yeah, because this is really important to me. I am really excited about the potential impact of this project. I WANT to feel better in my body. I have been desiring this change for a long time. I want to have less suffering in my relationships, and I think this is the way I’m going to get that.
Remembering why we want to go through the discomfort of the new thing is so important in getting ourselves to push through, instead of quitting. Writing this step down can be especially magically helpful.
- Normalize. When we recognize that we are feeling discomfort because we are doing a new thing, it’s also helpful to honor that literally everyone feels this way during an FFT. We aren’t doing something totally weird and creating this terrible feeling because we are uniquely bad at doing new things, while everyone else in the world feels joy, confidence, fulfillment, and ease when they do new things. Nope. NNNNope. It’s supposed to feel this way. And when we know something is working as it is supposed to-that makes us feel reassured. The treetop rope bridge is supposed to sway. That isn’t a sign that it is broken or about to fall apart. It’s supposed to sway, and you are supposed to feel like shit when you are doing a hard, new thing.
Saying to ourselves that everyone feels this way when they do new things soothes our hearts. Aw!
- Get perspective. Ok, this is an FFT, it’s important to us, and it’s supposed to suck. When we are in these difficult feelings, we tend to generalize in two ways: 1) about how long it will last, and 2) about whether we suck at everything we do and not just the new thing. We don’t know how long the new thing will feel sucky. That’s just a fact. However, it won’t last forever-so hold tight and be on the alert for any lights at the end of the struggle tunnel. And, just because we are not awesome at this new part, that doesn’t mean we aren’t great at other things. Bringing to mind other ways that we are doing ok and not messing everything up, adds another narrative to the stories of failure and imposter syndrome.
Acknowledging that this will last for awhile but not forever, and that there are some things that I am good at is helpful in reigning in our feelings.
- Reality check expectations. While this isn’t going to suck for eternity…it is going to be hard for awhile, so Buckle. Up. Settle in. And embrace the party. I am here to tell you, no feelings last forever. When you have pleasant feelings, you know they won’t last forever, am I right? I cannot get through a massage or snuggle with my kids without having some preoccupation with the fact that my relaxing, joyful, grateful feelings are going to end before I want them to (but I keep getting better at not fixating on this fact and letting it get in the way of my present enjoyment!). Even if we WANTED to hold onto what we are feeling, we aren’t wired to be able to. Circumstances change, moods shift, feelings roll in, and roll out. No emotions last forever, and we aren’t going to struggle with the new thing for the rest of our lives. You won’t be new forever, but you will be new for awhile.
Giving yourself space to be uncomfortable and even bad at things is setting a realistic expectation for the new experience.
What is your FFT? Starting therapy? Going to an AA meeting? Getting a Peloton? Reaching out to someone from work to maybe become friends? Comment below with your experience, I’d love to hear how you are getting through your new thing, or what you are actively avoiding even though you wish you weren’t!
If you want to step up your game and get serious about doing more of what you want and less of what you don’t-you may want to be in Self-Care Class. We talk about all this stuff in greater depth, answer questions about how to apply it, and help you work through all the barriers life and your mind are throwing at you!