By Jimmy Warden.
As this COVID-19 quarantine continues to be the unforeseen thorn in our side during the new year, we have probably found ourselves going down one of a few paths at a given time. Path number one, we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves, we’re choosing to get into some healthy and helpful routines, and we’re feeling more connected with those we love. Path number two, is that opposite. We’re not feeling great about ourselves, we’re settling into old, bad habits and only multiplying their negative effects by engaging in them more consistently. Path number three, we’re caught between path one and two as one day we’re feeling like the hero version of ourselves and another day we barely muster enough energy to get out of bed. Perhaps, we didn’t even make it out of bed that day. However, there is a way we can try to navigate these paths a little better than we are and be sure we’re traveling down the right one more frequently. We must focus on “being” more than “doing”.
Let me start by clarifying what I mean in that last statement. Focusing on “being” is really taking a more mindful approach with how we’re engaging in what we are “doing”. Are we fully present in our activities? Are we worried about the outcomes of our actions? Are we preoccupied by other tasks that we still have to do or that we’ve already failed to do? A lot of these thoughts occur when we focus too much on what it is that we’re doing versus the manner in which we are doing them. When we become much more outcome driven we tend to attach our positive emotion release with that outcome, so when we start acting in ways that aren’t aligned with that outcome, negative emotion is released. We engage in negative self-talk and say “I should have done this” or “I should have done this when I had the time to do it”. Soon enough this proverbial monster under the bed continues to grow and grow as we continue to do less and less of what we know we’re capable of. This is why we need to approach our “to-do” lists in a way that allows us to “be” that version of ourselves that is needed to complete the “to-dos”.
A lot of this has to do with mental override. Mental override is when we make a decision rather than negotiate and contemplate with ourselves about what to do on a moment to moment basis. This negotiation and contemplation is often what led us down path number two of old habits and negative emotion, whereas just making the decision to act and be a certain way takes away that mental exhaustion of contemplation and often “fills our bucket” because we have done something or done a few things that promote our “self-care”. This takes discipline because we are making these acts a priority in our lives and it also is directly connected to the concept of mental override. A quick example is taking a cold shower. Cold showers have tremendous benefits (lowering cortisol levels and inflammation to name a couple), but they are not easy to do because of how uncomfortable they initially make us feel. However, if we can just make the decision to suck up the discomfort for even 15 seconds, maybe next time we can last for 30 seconds, and after that maybe 45 seconds. See where I’m going with this? I am not saying mental override is easy, but sometimes we just need to put our foot down and decide that we are going to “be” a certain person. This also takes a look into our personal value structure, but I won’t get into that in this post because that can be a whole post in and of itself.
In conclusion, we need to stop contemplating, negotiating, and focusing on outcomes. We just need to make that decision in our minds to be a better version of ourselves and go for it. Whatever it may be (as long as it’s a positive change ;)), no matter how difficult it is, we must remember to focus on being and forget about what we think it should look like. It is not an easy process, but one that is well worth our while. So just begin. One action and one step at a time. Eventually, you’ll be who you believe you can be.