I was trying to take a really sticky sticker off of some plastic, and I’d been failing for about 15 minutes. I was about to give up, but then I decided to take one last shot. I took a deep breath, I told myself I could do it, and as it would happen, it finally came off.
When people ask me what my biggest weakness is, my answer is always what I call “a fear of looking under the rock”. When I’m worried that a project is too big or too difficult for me, or when I fear that I’m going to get bad news, my impulse is to avoid it. But over the course of a couple decades, I realized that this impulse invariably made whatever I was dreading that much worse. By contrast, usually what I’d been dreading was far from as bad as I had imagined. And, even when it was as bad as I’d imagined, I’d come to find out that I’d underestimate my ability to overcome that obstacle. So I came up with this solution: I’d take a deep breath, I’d say out loud and with conviction “I can do this”, and then I’d make a best effort. My coworkers can attest that, sometimes, this was accompanied by some air-punching a la Rocky Balboa.
I don’t think it was the power of positive thinking, and I don’t think it was The Secret. I think it’s just because I’d gotten increasingly frustrated over the course of the 15 minutes I’d spent working on it, so by the end of that time my efforts were half-hearted at best. At worst, I was subconsciously making frail attempts so that I’d have an excuse to give up. And taking a minute to calm myself and to make an audible resolution to figure it out is almost always enough to get’er done.
Similarly, when I got frustrated with dating back in undergrad, I made a checklist of the things I wanted in my next boyfriend. And while some people might say that I told the universe what I wanted and that the universe delivered, I think it’s much more likely that once I had on paper the things I wanted, it gave me something against which to measure my options and thereby made it easier for me to hold myself accountable. I stopped making excuses to go out with the wrong guys, and I started to go after the right guy.
Which is all to say that I’m a big proponent of articulating and vocalizing what we want.
If I want to accomplish something, the first step I take is to admit it to myself.
Despite that once I say it out loud, I must either succeed or fail. Because once I say it out loud I must either succeed or fail.
Posted in: Progress