If you are the kind of person who can eat just the one biscuit without guiltily ramming the entire packet in your mouth during one sitting, or you wake up bright and early every single morning and skip to the gym because YOU LOVE WORKING OUT SO MUCH, or you go after every opportunity in life with feverent gung-ho gusto, this blog post probably isn’t going to be of much interest to you.
For the rest of us, I want to let you in on something:
I didn’t really feel like writing this blog post. But I did.
I didn’t really feel like getting up at 6.30am this morning. But I did.
I didn’t really feel like going for a run today. But I did.
I didn’t really feel like having that difficult conversation with my friend last week. But I did.
I didn’t really feel like ordering a pizza without cheese in the restaurant in France, because I wanted to stuff my face WITH ALL THE MOZZARELLA like my friends were, even though I am now vegan. But I did.
I didn’t feel like standing up on stage and talking in front of people last Saturday night at Write This Run’s, ‘Monoblogues’ event. But I did.
The reason why I didn’t feel like any of those things? Because my feelings so often get in the goddam way of the things I want to do.
I wanted to write this blog post, it’s been brewing in my mind for days now, I’ve written it a gazillion times in my head and couldn’t wait to sit down and write it.
I wanted to get up at 6.30am this morning, because I wanted to run before work.
I wanted to have that conversation with my friend, even though I knew it would be difficult, because I love and care for her.
I want to be vegan and not stuff my face WITH ALL THE MOZZARELLA, because being vegan is important to me and integral to my values.
I wanted to stand up on stage and talk in front of people last Saturday night, because I actually really love public speaking and hosting events.
Huh? So if I wanted it, why didn’t I feel like doing any of it?
Because I felt, amongst other things (*clears throat*): Scared, nervous, uninspired, small, warm in bed, tired, worried about being different to my friends, apprehensive, lazy, demotivated and not very creative.
In those moments, it would have been so much more easy and comfortable to let my feelings drive my decisions and actions. Seriously, if you’d held a microphone to my brain, you would have heard this:
“I’ll write when I feel more creative. For now though, I’ll just go on Facebook and Twitter and look at tattoo designs on Pinterest.”
“Oh, I don’t need to go for a run, it’s raining outside and it won’t make a difference to my training overall.”
“It’s ok to press snooze one more time on my alarm, I’m so tired, I’ll get up early tomorrow instead.”
“Maybe I’ll just leave off talking to my friend, she’ll be fine. It’ll be awkward anyway.”
“Stuff your face WITH ALL THE MOZZARELLA, it’s only a bit of cheese!”
“Standing on stage is too scary. I’ll just ask Laura to do it, she won’t mind.”
As humans, we’re hard-wired from the day we’re born to respond positively to instant gratification. We feel hungry – we cry – we’re soothed by getting a bottle of milk shoved in our mouth. We pee ourselves – we feel uncomfortable – we cry – and someone comes along and changes our nappy and rubs soothing cream all over our bum. Have you ever spent an afternoon with a toddler? They’re all, “I WANT, I WANT, GIVE ME, GIVE ME, I DON’T WANT THAT, GIVE IT TO ME NOW.” Seriously, two-year-olds are extremely annoying, right? And yet beneath their irrational behaviour, they’re just being human and they want to be gratified. RIGHT NOW. If you don’t give them what they want? They have a spectacular meltdown in aisle 12 of the supermarket, and people start backing away as you calmly try to reason with a screaming mini-child inferno.
Here’s the thing though! You’re no longer a two-year-old, you’re a grown adult! And yet you still act like you need to instantly act upon every single feeling you have.
You feel sad, so you stay in bed all day instead of going out for lunch with your friend like you promised her. You feel tired so you get the bus home from work instead of running like you’d planned to. You feel bored so you face-plant a giant chocolate cake. You’re instantly gratified. You feel good. It feels like the right thing to do in the moment. Until about 2 hours later when you get that shitty sinking feeling going on. And so how do you respond? You eat the last slice of the chocolate cake, because you feel guilty about earlier stuffing your face. “Why not”, you tell yourself, “it’s not going to make a jot of difference now.”
This merry-go-round of feeling after feeling after feeling is the root of yo-yo dieting. It’s the reason why millions of people are trapped in unhappy marriages – they’d leave, but they feel too scared to, so they instantly gratify themselves over and over by staying put. It’s the reason why gyms are half-empty by March, vacated by people who just don’t feel like exercising today.
Here’s the second thing! Constantly listening to and acting upon your feelings will rob you of doing the things you want to do.
We wait and wait and wait for the perfect job to come along, because we’re more comfortable whining about our shitty job to our friends and family than pulling our finger out and making it happen – all because we feel uninspired and uncertain. We gain more and more weight and hate what our body looks like, while speed-dialing the local takeaway, because we feel lazy and unable to change. We don’t have THAT conversation with our mum, boss, friend, partner, because we feel awkward and scared of confrontation. We don’t stand up, step out, and say what we want to say because we feel small and nervous.
Fuck that. Stop it. Right now. Stop reacting to your feelings.
If you’re now thinking, “Why should I completely ignore my feelings? Feelings are important!” My response is this: You’re an intelligent person. You know exactly the feelings I’m talking about here. They’re the horseshit ones that are holding you back in life.
If you wait for your feelings to subside before you start, you’ll never do anything.