If you’re like me or anybody I know, you keep procrastinating on some things because you don’t want to be doing them. For example, unless you’re a happy and skilled accountant, I bet you don’t like doing taxes. It’s tedious, there’s the risk of doing it wrong, and it’ll always cost you time and money.
So what happens after you’ve been procrastinating for weeks and the deadline gets near? You start dreading the moment you’ll have to get to it, you’re even getting tense just thinking about it. And you can’t stop feeling uneasy about the whole thing. Which in turn makes the task feel even more awful.
What is happening for taxes for some, might happen for others when preparing a report, or calling an awful client to tell him his project is gonna be late. Like for hobbies and food, this is a matter of taste and experience. What is a joy for some is a pain for others. And it feels like it cannot change.
It’s too bad, because there is one easy solution.
However awful one activity seems, there is always a way to find fun in it. But first, you need to be open to the possibility.
In lots of cases, the feeling of repulsion is so strong and deep that it seems there’s no way in hell it would be better, let alone “fun”. But if you can find only one people in the world who believes that doing taxes can be fun, it means that there is no absolute rule that says you have to hate it.
If you don’t have to hate it, then maybe you might find a way to like it.
Find the fun
In any activity you do, there is a fun factor. Bring your candeur, bring your curiosity and forget about what you think you know. Do you like to play with numbers? Do you like to go on a quest to find where little things belong in the world? What do you think “doing taxes” is? It’s putting numbers at their right places and simply playing with them. You can choose to see any activity in a billion different ways, which means you can choose to see it in a way that’s frightening and disempowering or in a way that’s attractive and empowering. The more fun you’ll mentally create in the activity, the less fear you’ll feel, and the easier it’ll be to do it.
If there is something you have to or want to do, but it is frightening and you don’t know how to proceed, take 15 to 30 minutes to find the fun in it: how other people may have fun doing it, how it uses the same skills as things you like, etc.
It will build the positive anticipation until there is nothing you can do except doing it. Once you’re done, come and share your experience in the comments!
You want to improve your health, finances, your life.
You really want to go forward towards your goals, but you’re afraid of what it takes to accomplish a change.
A world of changes where everybody stays the same
Everybody wants to change something, but everybody is also scared of it.
Have you noticed how most people, when talking about change, want the change to come from someone else?
The government, a company, their employer, their spouse or friends. Rarely we find someone who truly understands that any change worth making comes from within.
And that’s not surprising, humans are creatures of habits, we cherish both comfort and safety, and we find them in routine.
However messy and always-changing the lives of some of us are, they still provide habits and comfort, if only by their unpredictable nature. It can be the food you’re eating, the TV you’re watching, but most importantly the image that other people have of you.
Change IS scary.
Simple: you know you can survive in your current situation, you know you can handle how people see you, because you are! But any change that threatens the status quo begs the question: will I survive this? How much pain might I encounter along the way? Will I succeed? Will I fail? How people will look at me either way?
It doesn’t matter whether it looks like a good change or not, if it is significant enough, fear always creeps up.
It doesn’t mean you should never change. On the contrary, sometimes, fear shows us what we care about.
When to consider a change
Simply, when you feel the current situation isn’t right, when it doesn’t satisfy you. When you wake up dreading your work, or even worse, feeling completely apathetic.
Now, if you don’t know what to change, or how to change it, your mind will trick you into believing you don’t want/need the change.
Acknowledging you want a change and knowing how the hell you’re gonna make it are two completely different things. The first step is bringing more truth. If you want to change, accept it. Only then, look at your options. It might take time, be patient.
What if you don’t feel ready?
Why don’t you?
If you believe you’ll be ready when you’re not afraid of the change anymore, the next change you’ll make is going six feet under.
Do NOT wait for the fear to disappear, the more you care about the change, the more the fear will try to stall you. As Susan Jeffers wrote, feel the fear and do it anyway.
Now, if you wonder if you’re ready because of your financial situation, or career, or [insert very good excuse here], does that also prevent you from taking one step forward?
No, you do not need to quit your job tomorrow, but what about looking for classes to improve your skills or job offers to see how the market is going?
Assume the change you want to make, and start gathering information, go to workshop, the momentum will help you go forward. Your worst enemy is inertia. The more steps you’ll take, the easier it’ll get, even if the fear stays.
If you still doubt, here’s the killer trick: on your deathbed, what will you regret more? Making a scary change in order to attain your dreams, even if you fail, or stalling to keep the fear and safety under control (and failing by default)?
Share what you can do today to bring you closer.
Thanks to Bon for inspiring this post.
Last time I wrote about the success mindset and why, if you actually want to succeed, it’s not the brightest idea to think about all the potential for failure. If you haven’t read it yet, go check it out.
But before you say anything, let me tell you: there is nothing inherently bad about failure.
Let’s start from the beginning..
What is failure?
Failure refers to the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.
Yeah, it looks bad.
Nobody likes not meeting a desirable or intended objective, otherwise it definitely wouldn’t be intended, and if it’s desirable, then not meeting it, well.. isn’t.
But what failure is isn’t the problem, what failure entails is.
The consequences of failure
Failure has bad press, most people associate failure with really nasty stuff, such as:
- unfulfilled expectations
- broken promises
- devaluation of one’s self
I’m pretty sure you associate failure with at least part of this list. So you try your best to avoid failure, to the point that, sometimes, it means not trying.
Failure is success!
According to common belief, failure is the opposite of success.. But did you ever think about all the other side-effects of failure:
- learning what to do and what not to do to obtain a certain result
- having new ideas of semi-related or completely unrelated projects
- getting an opportunity to change your path and try something new
- enjoying the journey itself instead of focusing everything on the results
- gaining plain experience
Not that bad anymore, right?
So.. why is it so hard to accept failure?
The judgement of others
How is your social support group? Is it supporting of your entreprises? Or does it want you not to try because of potential failure? or because of potential success?
The difference might be the one between trying and not trying, succeeding in what you want or not.
Some communities value failure more than others, so try to be mindful about what your community expects and how it supports you. If possible you want one that will motivate you to succeed but value failure for what it is: a proof of courage and a beneficial experience.
If your community doesn’t provide what you want and need, either find a new community more accepting of your tries and goals, or, at least, do your best to detach yourself from the comments you might receive.
Your own judgement
Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
Sir Winston Churchill
While a supporting tribe will definitely help, it is not of much use if you base your self-worth on your successes, or more appropriately, in not failing.
If you want to be happy, to accomplish your goals, you need to fail, and more than that, you need to accept to fail. Bonus points if you “seek” failure by trying anything that you want even if it’s out of your league (for now). But, no points if you deliberately fail at something you want to accomplish, though. Try to experience, learn. And be playful about it all.
Success isn’t the point of life, experience is, and in order to experience, you need to be willing to fail.
What are you willing to risk in order to do and get what you want?
Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.
Have you ever heard someone complaining about an activity, a new sport, a contest, or anything that they might fail, and say “What’s the point? I’m not good enough” or any variant of “I can’t do it”?
Yeah, me too.
When that happens, I feel like I’m gonna explode, jump and grab them, then shake their poor body until they stop saying such stupid things.
We are what we think
The brain (and the universe) will do whatever it can to bring you what you expect. If you expect to fail, it will bring you failure, because this is what you wished for. If you expect success, and do whatever is necessary to make it so, it will give its best to accomplish your desire.
If you want to succeed, think like a successful person. Of course, there is never, ever, a guarantee of results, but I assure you that the journey itself is completely different.
Do you honestly believe that the people who complain all the time and never miss an opportunity to tell everyone they’re going to fail actually want to succeed?
They want comfort, and to be allowed to fail
There are basically three reasons people set themselves up for failure:
- They want encouragement, they want to be told that they’re wrong, that they will succeed. Basically they want others to make them feel better about themselves.
- They want to be allowed to fail. When they say they’re gonna fail, they try to remove expectations from other people, because they don’t feel like they can handle them, they don’t want the risk of disappointing their family and friends. They want to make sure it’s alright to fail.
- They want to be comfortable, and right. They want to be able to say “yeah, well, I told you I couldn’t do it”, so they’d rather fail as a rule than own and assume responsibility for their own outcomes.
Change your outlook
In any case, you don’t know for sure whether you’re going to fail or succeed. So saying “I’m gonna succeed” is no less true than “I’m gonna fail”, and it is much more encouraging.
Besides, if someone tells you they’re no good at anything, are going to fail, who are you to question them? When we meet someone and we perceive that “failure vibe”, we trust them to.. fail. After all, they know better than we do. And then starts a vicious circle, if you complain and set for failure, you won’t get the social support and friends that could help you succeed. Whereas if you are determined to succeed, the people around you will do their best to help you.
Yes, “blindly” aiming for success means you risk disappointment.
But not only is the path itself much more pleasant, it’s also much more satisfying in the long term to set for succes even if you fail than set for failure and meet your expectation.
Don’t you agree?
Do you believe curiosity is a sin? I’m sure you’ve been told at least once that you should be less curious. But curiosity is a natural quality of every human being.
You were born curious.
Have you ever witnessed a toddler just going around and trying everything they possibly can, without fear of consequences?
It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
If you thought “it’s annoying”, it means you probably unconsciously formed the idea as a kid that if you are too curious, people will stop loving you. And if your parents stop loving you, they might abandon you, and you’ll die (not that fun anymore, right?).
Being curious was a risk.
So you “grew up”.
Adam and Eve
In the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve are permitted to eat from any tree, but the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, “for on the day you eat of it you shall surely die”. From this point on, two things appear: the desire to know what is unknown and hidden, and the fear of death. While curiosity and fear are deeply linked to each other in the Scripture, as one exists only in relation to the other, they are also antagonist, as fully expressing one means fully suppressing the other.
Ultimately, fear is about avoiding the ultimate divine punishment: death. It is a primal feeling, based on previous experiences, meant as a warning for dangerous situations, which could lead to pain, whether physical or emotional. It is a perfectly valid feeling, as it has helped countless generations of beings stay alive until they can reproduce and ensure the survival of the species.
The problem is that, given our advances in civilization, we are mostly safe from the historical life-threatening dangers.
And in the absence of these, we have moved our fears to more mundane subjects: being rejected by a potential partner or a boss, not having enough money to afford the mortgage or the new car, or even the kid’s education. While they are all perfectly valid concerns, they are far from life-threatening. Given the worse, we could still go a bit closer to the equator and live in a tent on the beach.
Waking up to the sun reflecting on the water is not such a scary thought, is it?
Fear has one major consequence on the body: bring up the fight or fly response, which basically shuts down the part of our brain related to thinking and problem solving.
Let me rephrase that: if you are afraid, you can’t think.
Any high-level brain function is sacrificed in order to increase your chances of survival.
If you don’t resonate with the word fear, replace it with worry or stress, it’s all the same thing. If you’re too stressed, you’ll get stuck and accept whatever promise of relief you can get: sucking up to your boss, your spouse, your kids, a self-proclaimed guru, anything. Which is understandable, because when the stress is overwhelming, you need some help.
Curiosity is a state of free flowing and being. You are emotionally available and craving to explore a new subject or experience. There is no real care for consequences as one relinquishes fear and realizes that nothing really bad will happen, but lots of good things might. When we are curious, we can discover new territories (America?), new talents we didn’t know we had, and simply be willing to do more, learn more, train more, be more.
It’s asking “what if?” and going on a quest to discover the answers. There might be consequences, yes, but the desire of learning is stronger than the fear of potential bad consequences.
The whole learning process, as long as it’s natural and not forced, is based on intrinsic curiosity. This is how we grow, this is how we discover. Whatever new things you discovered in your life, you did so because you were curious enough to be open to them. You could have feared, you could have closed yourself up, but you were curious.
I believe that there is one type of energy, with a definite amount, that you can decide to feed your fear, or your curiosity. That is, if you decide to feed your curiosity, you will have less energy to feed your fear. And on the other hand, if you’re looking for every reason to be afraid of an endeavor, you will crush your curiosity and be miserable.
Once you realize that you’re in control of your energy, you can choose to focus on your fears, or on your curiosity. And if you worry or believe you’re not curious, well, the worry is the fear itself. Let go of it, ask your heart what it wants, and simply follow.
Fear makes one focus on the dangers of an unknown path, and triggers an avoidance mechanism thereby depriving of the experience and pleasure of the activity. It also impairs the ability to learn and integrate new habits and working knowledge. At the end of it, fear prevents creativity.
Being curious, on the contrary, is about feeling free and having the desire to discover new things, to learn how they work and how we relate and feel about them. Curiosity promotes the sharing of information, experiences, social connections, and more.
You can choose
As Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, you can decide for yourself whether you prefer to be stuck and afraid, or free and curious. It might not change your life completely in a day, but if you don’t choose to get unstuck from your fear, it will never change anyway, as you’ll stay in your own knowledge-deprived version of Eden. That’s too bad, because life on Earth is pretty damn interesting…
What steps are you taking to feed your curiosity?