Last month we considered the fact that we all tend to expect change to happen quickly. We all expect instant results. If they don't appear immediately we conclude that whatever approach we are taking doesn’t work.
This month I want to consider a conflicting tendency which again we all tend to display from time to time - the belief that if it’s too easy it can’t be worth having. We have a saying that, “nothing comes easy” so we try to live up to our own expectations by making life unnecessarily difficult.
Just go for it!
If you wanted to win a gold medal at the Olympics, you would expect to spend many years training and gradually improving. What separates the winners from the non-starters is the fact that the winners have devoted huge chunks of their everyday lives to achieving their goal. If people started being able to take up a new sport and a few months later be winning gold medals, there would be calls for that sport to be dropped as being undeserving of a place in the Olympic Games.
In recent years there has been much controversy in the UK over school exam results. The numbers of students achieving top grades has increased year by year. This has made some say the exams are now too easy.
We tend to devalue anything which is too readily available or attainable by anyone and everyone. We seem to need goals that we have to work for, to struggle for...
But does everything of value have to be like that?
Go for it with all you've got!
I know that I’m as guilty as anyone because I have often caught myself looking for the most difficult course or way of doing something in the, at the time, unconscious belief that it would in some way be better than the alternatives.
I am not saying, however, that in some cases it isn’t valid to draw that conclusion. All I’m saying is, does it always have to be?
Very often when I point out the simple fact that people need to change the way they think in order to feel better, I am often met with the response, “Maybe, but it isn’t as easy as that!” I usually reply that it isn’t actually “hard” but that it requires perseverance. It means a certain degree of determination is needed to keep plugging away at it, often before you are able to see any benefits.
When you first attempt to catch your negative awareness starting to escalate and you divert it, you will feel a bit better at the time, but that same situation will probably provoke the same negative/anxious feeling the next time. Possibly the feeling will not be exactly the same, but the difference may be so slight that you won’t notice it. This is where faith comes in. By that I don’t mean religious faith, but faith in yourself.
St Augustine of Hippo once said, “Faith is something in which you believe but you can’t yet see. The reward for the faith, is to see what you believe.”
We are all so accustomed to instant gratification, instant rewards for our efforts, that when we don’t see an instant improvement, we give up in the belief it isn’t working. One of the biggest blocks to dieting is sticking to it long enough for the rewards to show and in being able to turn down the immediate pleasure of eating the forbidden foods. Everyone would find dieting so much easier if the pounds just dropped off noticeably each day.
When we set out to change ourselves, we often fail to keep at it for long enough to reap the rewards, especially when the alternative is there before us and is going to be enjoyable.
But, in the case of anxieties, negative thinking and obsessive compulsive behaviours, isn’t choosing not to fully experience them reward in itself? The alternative to moving your focus and your thoughts away from these is to experience them and feel bad. Why would anyone choose that option?
Sometimes it’s because the survival instinct is telling you to keep thinking it or it may really get you. But how often have you been told, or read, that that isn’t the case and that if you truly do move your mind away from such thoughts, they will shrivel and die?
It doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t have to struggle. You just have to ask yourself whether you are ready to make the choice between continuing as you are, or taking a risk (that isn’t really risky at all) that will change your life.
But if you choose to move your thoughts away from what you struggle with, you have to do it totally, you have to commit fully to it. It isn’t something you can just dabble in if you want it to work. You have to focus on it and go for it, embrace it and stay with it.
So, in that sense it’s the degree of commitment that’s scary. It’s something with no half measures. All or nothing. Your choice. But even if you fail, the worst that can happen is that you’ll stay exactly where you are!