There have been many times in my life where I’ve wanted to pursue something new and later quit because I was afraid I wasn’t doing it right. I felt like the harder I tried to do things right, the more I did them wrong.
A few years ago I had a burning desire to want to meditate. I wanted to move past my monkey mind and reclaim control of my inner space. I wanted more peace in my thoughts.
I remember listening to an audio recording by Alan Watts on how to meditate. The main focus was on being aware of your breathing while observing your thoughts. So I tried this for a while and of course, like most people that try to meditate for the first time, I was incredibly frustrated.
I never felt like I could do it right. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t quiet my mind. Even when I did experience a gap in my thoughts, it was fleeting.
It usually went something like this…
ME: Okay, it’s time to meditate. This is going to be awesome! All right… focus on your breathing. *Inhale* … ahhh. That feels good. It’s nice to be aware of my breathing…
MIND: I wonder if I have any emails in my inbox. What should I do tomorrow? I should probably go to the gym… What’s the point of just sitting here? I should be doing something productive. The bathroom really needs to be cleaned.
ME: Oh yeah, back to the breathing. Right.
*mind quiets slightly*
MIND: Wow, I’m just observing, this is awesome.
ME: Oh shit, I’m thinking again. Oops.
For a long time I stopped meditating because I never felt that I could get my mind to stay quiet. I’ve since learned that it’s much more effective to follow your thoughts (rather than try to stop them). Trying to stop your thoughts is like trying to smooth out a running river by putting your arm across it… you’ll just disturb it all the more.
Now I meditate often and have gotten over my compulsion to do it right. But I still feel hesitant knowing the critical part of my mind will likely surface and tell me that I’m doing it wrong.
For a while I tried to silence that voice (which only made it louder, of course). Now I do something radically different. I intentionally do-it-wrong from the very beginning.
Whenever I’m approaching anything new, I don’t try to get it right at first. When I do that I set myself up for being overly critical of my mistakes. That just encourages me to be even more self conscious of not making them. It also supports a groove for the pattern to repeat.
It seems weird that intentionally doing things wrong would lead me to do them better and faster, but sometimes life is strange like that. Plus I’m tired of not doing things that I want because I’m not going to do it right.
By doing things wrong I’ve…
- Started a popular blog
- Become self employed by the age of 23
- Got married :)
- Hiked barefoot for 10+ miles
- Became a coach
- Learned to play drums (I had terrible rhythm before)
- Competed in an amateur MMA fight
- Eventually learned to meditate
- And now I’m working on my front flip
None of this stuff I could have done if I was obsessed with trying to do it right.
So what I’d like to ask you is… what have you been wanting to do but haven’t tried out of fear of doing it wrong? When will you give yourself permission to not get it right?
photo courtesy of crystl
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