Do you like bullets in your foot?
It really hurts when you shoot yourself in the foot. Especially when you keep doing it over and over.
I see this happen all the time with people with a rebel, nonconformist kind of mindset. It’s typical for these types of people to sabotage their own efforts and start rebelling against themselves. (I’m one of these types of people, in case you haven’t guessed yet.)
Here’s an example of the way this typically works:
You start something you’ve really wanted to do for a long time. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to draw. So you sign up for a class, and you’re really digging it. You’re getting better and drawing all kinds of awesome stuff. Maybe you even come up with a tattoo design for yourself. Sweet.
Then a few weeks later the class ends and you’re still going. But since you’re the type of person that wants to really master something, you start this mental arithmetic of requiring yourself to practice drawing. You want to get better, right? So you practice, and you’re excited.
Then something not-so-good happens. You don’t practice one day and you feel like shit. You beat yourself up over it and now you’re not so sure you’re “disciplined enough” to practice mastering your craft. (You don’t realize that you can establish new habits without discipline.)
But you keep going anyway; you keep practicing. And then you start judging yourself, not when you miss a day of practice or play, but when you don’t practice long enough. You think you could do more. You think an hour’s not enough, because that one guy from your class draws all-the-time. And look at you, you’re not doing it all-the-time so you must not be dedicated, right? Or so you think.
What used to be something you pursued because it was fun and enjoyable, is now a chore. It’s now something you must do.
Your inner rebel is awakened, and it’s pissed. Those of us with nonconformist tendencies typically don’t like doing things we must do. So we rebel. We disobey. We can’t help it, this is just the way we’ve always been.
There’s some great benefits to rebelling against the status quo and questioning authority. You learn to think for yourself and form your own opinions. You learn to explore, research and investigate; and this helps you to develop your consciousness.
But there also tends to be something not so good about rebellious tendencies… Sometimes you rebel against yourself.
Kind of counter-productive, don’t you think?
But how does this happen? How does being anti-mainstream lead to being anti-you? It has to do with one word:
When you must do something, it’s not fun anymore. Your level of passion completely flat lines. When you must do something, you naturally want to rebel because you’ve backed yourself into a corner. You resist because you feel that you no longer have a choice.
Restoring the choice
I’ve been dealing with this very problem for quite some time. I’ll commit to doing something, but I’ll feel like I’m letting myself down if I don’t commit to Olympic level ascension. I obviously see that this is kind of silly, but I hold myself to high standards. Sometimes too high.
But what’s more than that, we often think that there are less options than there are. You don’t have to do anything. That’s your ego spiraling out of control.
What I’ve found helpful is not just to realize that my standards are absurd, but to realize that there are always more options than you think there are. So here are a couple of good questions to ask yourself when you think you must do something:
- What would happen if I did?
- What would happen if I didn’t?
Sometimes it’s better to ask “What would happen?” instead of “Why do I want this?” When you ask why, you have a tendency to feel like you have to justify yourself, and it’s too easy to let your emotions cloud your judgment. By asking what would happen, you’re allowing yourself to explore the possibilities of the many possibilities that are available to you. Then you can choose one of those options, instead of feeling like you only have one choice: that you must do this.
Whenever you think you must, ask yourself those two questions. And ask yourself if there are any other possibilities that you might not have considered. Ask yourself if you missed something. Go past your Herculean ego-driven desire to be record-breaking best, and ask yourself what else is there.
Where you previously saw a cage, you may now see a hidden door or an alternative path.