Getting Over the Hump

Getting over the hump. Pushing through resistance. Overcoming inertia. Fanning fragile embers of aspiration while the winds of negation swirl around me.

How we do this?

Lately, life has been throwing me plenty of opportunities to explore the phenomenon of resistance in my life–as well as the related topic of procrastination. And I have been experimenting with different ways of neutralizing them.

On a daily, if not hourly, basis, I experience tension between competing aspects of myself. I hesitate to call this “lower” self vs. “higher” self. I sense that labeling it like that involves judgement that is not necessarily accurate or helpful. But what the heck. You know what I mean.

When I woke up early this morning, my “higher” self wanted me to get on my darned bike and “live my commitment.” Commitment to what? To myself. To cultivate better health, vitality, and follow-through on things that are important to me.

(An ongoing debate within myself is whether something can be considered genuinely important if you don’t significantly follow through on it. If you say it is a core value, but you don’t live it…?)

In any case, to be concrete, my “higher” self wanted me to climb out of bed, pull on my biking togs and do a 10-mile bike ride that I’ve been doing every morning that I find sufficient discipline to follow through.

Meanwhile… my “lower” self wanted permission to skip it this morning and read a novel on the couch with a cup of coffee while quiet still reigned in the house. After all, yesterday I had done the ride, plus some other outdoor activity–and I felt rather worn out. I deserved a rest, right?

Well, this time my “higher” self won the battle.

I made a deal with myself: OK, you can read 20 minutes–but you’ve got to pay for it by getting on your friggin’ bike.

Bottom-line, today I tried out 2 different strategies for overcoming “caving” and/or procrastinating. Both belong in my quiver of responses when my higher and lower selves punch it out.

(1) Don’t Over-Think It–Just Do It: Nike got the gist of it right. However, prior to “just doing it,” a lot of us (moi) succumb to over-thinking all the pros and cons of doing this or that. Paralysis by analysis. And then I find myself, too often, succumbing to the seductive siren song of the lower self. So when you catch yourself over-thinking, stop. And then “just do” what your higher self suggests.

(2) Negotiate–But Drive a Hard Bargain: Sometimes tradeoffs really do make sense. I do want to read that novel in the early morning with a steaming cup of coffee. But I also know I need to exercise to thrive. So throw your “lower” self a bone–indulge a little. But make it clear to yourself that the price tag for the taking-it-easy piece is a commitment to get on that bike and ride. Or do your yoga. Meditate. Work on your writing. Practice your guitar. Do your art. Whatever your higher self knows will bring you deeper and richer reward.

These are some of my thoughts on getting over the hump.

What do you do to get past the resistance? How do you manage to focus on and actualize what really matters to you?

Man, I’m all ears…

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How Labeling Something “Hard” Makes it Harder

As I rode my bike today, I reflected on my resistance to exercising this morning, its nature, and also how I overcame it…

I realize that I (we humans) categorize and label things in our minds. This is well-known from Buddhism, but I really felt it this morning. I didn’t want to leave my coffee, chair, and book to get on my bike and exercise, because, my mind said, “Ugh, that’s ‘HARD”. Uncomfortable. A sub-set of “bad”.

Luckily, there was a part of me that kept saying, “Come on! Get off your duff! You feel gross and the remedy is to exercise, get lighter and stronger! You can do it! Come on!”

Fortunately, that side of me prevailed today. And the result is that I feel physically a little more vital and alive, and proud of myself, too.

But that initial, unconscious, automatic labeling is an issue. It happens without us even knowing. And it can scupper our better instincts, desires, and intentions.

As I rode up the hill, sweating and huffing and puffing, I asked myself: “Is this really ‘hard’? What does that even mean?”

In that moment, I felt it just IS what it IS. Nothing more. I was simply feeling what it feels like to pump my legs and breathe and balance and move myself up the hill on my bike. Nothing more, nothing less.

Was it hard? Was it easy? Neither, really. I can say that it took more physical effort, burnt more kcals, to pump up the hill than if I’d stayed ensconced in my chair, reading my book. But really I was just doing it. Conceiving of and labeling it “hard” was actually just an abstraction–and a counter-productive one at that.

Why is this labeling corrosive? In the case of labeling something “hard” (just one of infinite labels we create and apply) it is undermining because most people, including moi, tend toward some innate laziness. So when we (unconsciously) label things as “hard”, it catalyzes our internal resistance to doing them.

But it gets worse. Things labeled “hard”, can often, without thinking, slide into the larger category of “bad”.  And who in the world wants to do something that is “hard” AND “bad”?

Doing “hard, GOOD” things is tough enough.

So why does this matter?

1st, because this unconscious labeling process undermines us.

When we, unawares, label something as “hard” and/or “bad,” our brain gives itself permission from there to create a slew of further justifications for not doing what we should do. And unless some faint, positive countervailing voice is compelling enough to inspire us to push through the resistance, the resistance will crush us.

By the way, what do I mean by “should”? It is a much-maligned word. But in this case, I mean the imperative to take actions that enable us to be and to live in accordance with our higher principles… to optimize the possibility of manifesting in reality our deep, true, authentic vision of life.

So, becoming aware of and dissolving this internal labeling process is important because it hinders us without even knowing its there.

Beyond this extremely significant practical implication, however, it is, secondly, healthy to recognize that the labels we create and slap on reality, are—more often than not—distortions of reality.

And I happen to believe that being less deluded is a good thing.

What does “hard” even mean? Often it is nothing more than a groundless judgment, an unnecessary layer of meaning flapped on top of reality like a wet blanket, smothering it in the process.

Instead of simply vividly experiencing what is happening in any given moment (like my pumping legs and sweat beading down my face, enjoying the miracle of my body as I pump up the hill on my bike), my mind gravitates to the (usually) demeaning label stuck on top.

My mind obsesses on how “hard” it is–and in the process, I lose sight and feel of the real experience. And if it is “hard,” I want it to end. I want it to be over as soon as possible. I want to get out, to escape. Because for my lazy ass, “hard” is “bad”!

Now, certainly there are tasks with degrees of difficulty that can legitimately be called “hard”—by those who do not have the requisite skill or knowledge to accomplish them.

Climbing a 5.14 route. Playing a Mozart sonata on the classical guitar. Whatever. But even still, for those who do possess the requisite skills, in the moment when they are doing these things that others might label as “hard”, they are, in the moment, simply doing what they are doing. And “hard” is still just an abstraction that gets in their way. Everything just is what it is. Who needs the damned labels?

Henceforth, I’m going to pay more attention to how my mind labels things. I will watch the labels emerge and then dissolve them. I will focus on what’s happening, without judgment. And thereby make better choices, decisions, actions.

At least that’s my intention. Hopefully it’s not too hard.

Why Write this Blog? Why Read it?

Just about every day Life offers us an insight or two… something curious or interesting or enlightening. When that happens, I enjoy reflecting on it more deeply–and often writing about it. I have an innate desire to help people grow and evolve–part of my nature, it seems. So that others might benefit, I occasionally post my ruminations on life on Facebook.

I may continue to do that, however, it dawned on me that it might be fun–and offer a broader platform–to actually start a blog. I seem to be a somewhat late adopter of technology, so this step is clearly behind the curve. Better late than never.

By the way, I also write on business topics like strategy, execution, emotional intelligence, team performance, etc, in other fora–but this will be devoted to more personal topics.

I invite you to check in now and again. Maybe one of these random rays of insight (passing through me, not from me) will delight or inspire you.

Abrazos, Gregor