Do what you can wrap your brain around, TODAY.
Don’t pressure yourself to do MORE than you can wrap your brain around.
Some people, when they start to improve their lives, recover from addiction, raise their self-esteem, or meaningfully battle their depression or anxiety, suddenly feel a great deal of pressure to do MORE.
A little bit of cognitive-behavioral therapy helped me, they figure, so I should do MORE, so I can get even BETTER.
A little bit of twelve-step philosophy and fellowship helped me, they figure, so I should do MORE, so I can recover quicker.
A little bit of mindfulness helped me be more aware and grounded, they figure, so I should do MORE, so I can be even MORE grounded and aware.
Don’t get me wrong— I’m a big fan of observing what works well, and doing what we can to get more of that effective stuff into our lives. Observing what’s working and trying to increase that is an approach that works a hell of a lot better than observing what’s NOT working and being upset about it.
(There’s actually a whole philosophy of therapy called “Solution Focused Therapy” that is built around strengthening the positive rather than combatting the negative— it’s a powerful paradigm shift for a lot of people.)
The thing is, though, people in recovery sometimes get a little too ambitious or impatient…and, before they know it, they wind up overwhelmed.
They don’t realize, for example, that probably one of the reasons they ended up depressed or anxious in the first place was because they had difficulty identifying and disputing destructive, distorted thoughts; thus getting into the habit of identifying and disrupting destructive, distorted thoughts— as one learns to do in cognitive behavioral therapy— is going to be a process.
Put another way: it’s a HABIT that’s going to develop a little bit at a time…and trying to dive into the deep end right away might be setting themselves up to struggle.
Similarly, some people in recovery don’t realize that one of the reasons they wound up getting their butt kicked by their addiction in the first place is because they struggled with self-honestly and connecting to others— the exact things that are corrected by participation in a twelve-step program. Thus, the process of learning to connect with others and be scrupulously honest with themselves every minute of the day is going to be a process.
Again, put another way: these are HABITS that will develop a little bit at a time. Again, trying to dive into the deep end right away might be setting themselves up to be overwhelmed.
You don’t have to do all of the things TODAY.
Even if cognitive behavioral therapy (or any other kind of therapy) is helping you, you don’t have to learn EVERY CBT technique and apply them TODAY.
Even if 12 step meetings and sponsorship are helping you manage your cravings today, you don’t have to read the entire Big Book and become rabidly active in your group TODAY.
Do what you can do today.
Push yourself a little, not a lot.
Focus on mastering the basics of whatever tool you’re using…not becoming an expert at it.
Identify the very basics, the very fundamentals of the techniques you’re learning, and what’s helpful about them for you…and focus on that.
I’ve seen far, far too many people get overwhelmed and abandon their efforts at recovery…not because they weren’t dedicated to it, but the exact opposite: they got a little taste of success, and proceeded to bite off more than they could realistically chew.
Something most people don’t understand is that life change is rarely a lightning-strike experience. It rarely happens in one brilliant flash. It’s almost never the case that a voice speaks to us from the heavens and changes us forever.
Those stories are great in the domain of religious legends, but less useful to those of us who live in the modern world and need to figure out a way to exist day by day.
Don’t feel pressure to do MORE. Do what you can do, TODAY.
Actively resist the voice inside of you trying to guilt you into doing MORE.
Actively resist the temptation to bite off more than you can chew.
Keep it simple. Keep it direct. Keep it in the domain of what you’re capable of wrapping your brain and behavior around in this moment. Don’t think too far ahead; don’t get too wigged out by the big picture that you lose sight of the fact that your job is to manage THIS. PRESENT. MOMENT.
Not the future. Not the past.
This. Present. Moment.
You can do what you can do, TODAY. No more; no less.
And that’s quite enough…for today.
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