Relaxing with Rob

Tolerate Stress to Achieve Goals

January 19, 2020 Rob Sepich Season 1 Episode 31
Relaxing with Rob
Tolerate Stress to Achieve Goals
Show Notes Transcript

Taking that first step toward your goal is great, but it's crucial to continue--in spite of anxiety.

We might want a shortcut to success, but there is tremendous value in working through problems.

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[ music ] . Hi, this is Rob Sepich, and welcome to Relaxing with Rob. Have you heard the Chinese proverb that's usually translated, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step?" It's from chapter 64 of the "Tao Te Ching." Well, it's true. And it's a helpful way out of procrastination, so that we focus on just getting started. But what I'd like to talk about today is that *second* step. That's pretty important too. In a Zumba video interview I did, I mentioned that when I started, it was almost harder for me to return to class for the second time than to go there the first time because I could see what I was in for. And a friend who watched it asked me to say more about this, and I did. And then she suggested I also share those thoughts in a podcast. So here goes. If you try something new--some behavior that stretches your skills--and it's harder than you thought it might be and you get nervous, you can pretty quickly stop just saying, "Hey, I tried it; I can't do it," or, "It's not for me." It's very little investment. Plus, now we have justification for not going further because after all I tried it right, so quit bugging me! New Year's resolutions can fail for lots of reasons, and one of them is that we don't stick with them long enough for a new habit to have the chance to form. We've often heard how new habits take six weeks as if that time period is a given. It really depends on the person and the behavior and environmental factors, but the point is it does take time. New habits don't form instantly. So if you vow to give up chocolate entirely, forever, and after three days of walking past that darn bowl of M&M's feeling less and less like the master of your domain, you give in and clean it out. You might conclude that your resolution was pointless. You can say, "I tried and I failed, so why bother at all?" Regarding relationships: Alanis Morissette, in her song "Out is Through," brilliantly expresses her gradual behavior change from giving up at the first sign of conflict in relationships to working through problems, and recognizing that's in fact the only way out of them. Or think back to Dante's "Divine Comedy" where the narrator finds himself in the middle of some pretty dark woods. This work would not have become an epic poem that we still study today if there was an easy escape from the woods. Dante has to move *through* them. I think we understand this at an emotional level, though we might not want to really think about it or face it at a behavioral level. We'd like an easy button, but I guess only in commercials. New behaviors, whether they involve managing stress or something much bigger, usually create anxiety and they take a while to feel comfortable, even longer to feel automatic, so that's normal. One writer [Saadi] said, "All things are difficult before they become easy." Let's say you have a financial goal. You figure out something you want to buy--long term, and what your savings plan needs to be in order to achieve this goal. That's a great first step. But now comes the second step: actually beginning to save, which means foregoing some things you might want in the short term. With practice and things like automated withdrawals, it becomes easier and less anxiety producing. Moving from what's called "conscious incompetence ," where I was at in my first Zumba class, to "conscious competence" where I developed some skills, but I really had to concentrate, took a long time. And that second step was when I could feel the glimmer of a commitment to give this type of exercise a real try. I felt that this was worth pursuing even though I'd have to endure a lot of public awkwardness of not knowing how to do this. I could not even picture a time where I might reach "unconscious competence." Just being able to perform without really thinking about what I was doing, just being in the moment. In fact, I'm still not there, but I'm a lot closer than I ever dreamed. So as I say to people after their first class if they liked it, but feel really awkward, "Please come back for a second and third class at least, before deciding if you like it." I have a friend who struggled with astronomy in college, but she wanted to learn it so much that she eventually became an undergraduate TA for that class before graduating. She took that second step. I also know somebody who struggled with Spanish in high school, but in college she decided to minor in it and to get a job that required fluency--all from taking that second step. Both of these talented people were willing to endure some anxiety in order to achieve something bigger, and they tell me it was worth it. While studying abroad, that second person chose to scare herself a little each day (those are her words) in order to just keep expanding her comfort zone. That mindset inspires me. I think Edmund Spencer wrote, "Be bold, be bold, but not too bold." So sometimes just a little prudence can be wise. And when you discover the view from that second step or third or 10th is not at all what you signed up for, it's okay to turn back or at least make a detour. But if we give up too soon, we miss the opportunity to find a way through. Thank you for listening, and we'll talk again soon. [ music ] .