Too often, we get very up in our heads because what we can do, what we feel capable of doing, at any given time does not match up to how well we “should” be able to do something in our heads.
We know there are certain things that are important to us. We know there are certain things that we’d like to be able to do well.
We’d like to make a good impression on others.
We’d like to perform our job functions competently. We’d like to be acknowledged by others as performing our job functions competently.
We’d like to do physical exercise that is well-suited to our fitness goals.
Mind you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to do things well. Of course we want to do things well. These are things we care about. We care about our relationships with others. We care about our job performance. We care about our appearance and fitness level.
There’s nothing wrong with caring about things.
But when our level of “caring” about something translates, on a practical level, to “I don’t want to even ATTEMPT to do this thing unless I FEEL like I’ll be able to do it well,” we’re stuck with a few very basic problems.
First of all, we never quite know if our FEELINGS about being able to do something are even accurate.
There are definitely days when we’ve FELT like we can do something very well, when it has turned out that, actually, it’s an off day for us.
I was just reminded of this on the running track. I’ve been working through a knee injury that’s kept me from my beloved hobby of long distance running for a few months now. The other day I woke up, FEELING like it might be a good day to try a long run again. I was CONVINCED that today I could try to run, and my knee wouldn’t hurt.
As it turned out? Womp womp— once I got on the track, my knee hurt more than ever.
So our FEELINGS about whether we can do something aren’t always accurate. We shouldn’t assume that because we FEEL like we can or can’t do something, that we’re right.
How we FEEL about our ability to do something can be taken into consideration, of course— feelings are sources of information that should be paid attention to. But, as I’ve said over and over and over again, feelings shouldn’t be our ONLY source of information.
Don’t over-rely on your subjective sense of whether you FEEL up to a task. You might be wrong.
Second, if we always waited until we FELT like we could do something perfectly or well…a lot of the time, we would never get around to trying anything, ever.
Whoever said that we have to FEEL like we can do something, in order to do it?
Whoever said that if we make an attempt to do something, and that attempt doesn’t go PERFECTLY, or even as well as we imagined it might go…then that attempt doesn’t have value?
When we live our lives imprisoned by this belief that we can only do something if and when we FEEL up to it, when we FEEL like we can do it perfectly or very well, we’re going to be doing a lot of waiting. We’re also going to be robbing ourselves of the experience of doing things IMPERFECTLY…which are exactly the experiences we often need in order to grow or get better at things.
A lot of people don’t like to hear this, but it’s the truth: much of life is all about doing things when we don’t FEEL like doing them, and adjusting to the discomfort that comes with that experience.
The people who are most valuable to their organizations and to their families, the people who end up succeeding most often at the projects they choose in life…they often wind up being valuable and successful precisely because they’ve learned to cope with doing things they don’t FEEL like doing in the moment.
How do you expect to develop effective coping skills if you never put yourself in the position of having to cope with things?
Understand: of course it’d be marvelous to only ever have to do things we FEEL like we can do perfectly or well at any given moment. I would LOVE to live in a world where I could walk around with a sense of effortless, guaranteed competence at life.
But if I was, in fact, effortlessly competent at life, I’d never have to cope with failure.
I’d never have to learn to overcome reluctance or fear.
I’d be of very limited value as a therapist. Or as a mentor. Or as a friend. Or as a partner.
We want and need people in our lives who have learned to do things even when they don’t FEEL like they can do them well. These people are the people who are reliable and durable.
We want and need to be those types of people ourselves.
Do you not FEEL like you can do something perfectly or well right now?
That’s your signal to go out and do it anyway.
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