Tag Archives: pressure

Trying to Get Out of My Own Way

I haven’t written much in weeks. And most of that was just some training log notes. I shouldn’t say “just”, because writing is writing, and even in training logs I try to write well.

I tend to build up an anticipation and pressure around writing. Usually it’s about writing xxx number of words, or so many blog posts, or even staying up-to-date on training log notes. The anticipation and pressure become so great that they become a barrier to even trying.

This phenomenon isn’t solely limited to writing for me, and it dates back over 20 years. The first specific incident I remember was related to writing, though. In 5th grade, I ended up getting myself homeschooled for about the last half of the school year. I had a school district provided tutor/teacher. I kept getting behind on assignments. The knowledge wasn’t an issue, I’d just build so much anticipation and pressure about the assignments. My tutor recognized this and gave me a due date for a history report that he was pretty sure I’d miss. I did, and he explained that he thought I’d miss it. I think he said it was procrastination and overwhelming myself, and he was pretty close.

I’m pretty sure the same phenomenon was why I ended up homeschooled in the first place. I’d worry so much that I’d get sick in the mornings either at home, or on the way to school. I think I did finally finish the report, but I don’t really remember how rest of the school year went.

I had similar problems missing school days all the way through high school, culminating in leaving school halfway through my junior year. I took correspondence courses through the mail (internet courses weren’t around yet) for the second half. I went to community college through the Running Start program for my senior year of high school.

The anticipation and pressure still get to me sometimes. It’s not things that are actually mandatory like taxes or bills. Though I do usually procrastinate on my taxes. Sometimes it creeps into my business, unfortunately. Working for myself, there’s no one else to hold me accountable, so sometimes I find myself doing enough to get by rather than hustling to flourish. It’s a lot more invasive in creative endeavors, things that I want to do, and tell myself that I should do, like music, videos and, of course, writing.

I haven’t come up with a good way to overcome it when it does build up. If I don’t overthink whatever the task is and just get to work on it, I don’t have time to build that obstacle for myself, and there’s little resistance. Sometimes I can just ignore it and get to work, but that’s not yet a consistent strategy. Maybe I’ll find another way, or maybe I need to continue chipping at it and slowly build up the strength to act despite the pressure.

For now, I just know that writing again feels great.

Don’t Let Other People Decide How You Act

Earl Nightingale tells a story in “The Essence of Success” from Sydney Harris. Harris went to a newsstand with a friend. The vendor was rather unfriendly. Harris’ friend thanked him graciously as the vendor remained quiet and sullen. Harris asks about the vendor’s attitude, and his friend says he’s always like that. Harris asks, “Then why do you continue being so polite to him?” His friend replies, “Why should I let him decide how I’m going to act?”

Letting other people decide how you’re going to act, whatever form that takes, turns control of your life over to someone else, and you don’t know their motives. They’re probably not malevolent, but it’s unlikely that your interests and desires are at the top of their list.

We can take a few lessons from that question, or turned into a statement; don’t let other people decide how you act. First, we can take the particular example in the story. I’ve run into a similar situation at my local grocery store. There is one employee who never said anything other than maybe asking about bags unless I said something first. I always thought she was unfriendly, unhappy, and like she didn’t like her job. I usually left in a slightly worse mood than than when I entered.

Then I realized that an interaction between people isn’t one-sided. If I want something from a relationship with someone, even if it’s just the brief interaction between a customer and cashier once or twice a week, at least half of the outcome is due to my own actions, or inactions. The Golden Rule, treat others as you would like to be treated, is not just a reminder to not treat people badly. It also means that much of the responsibility of any relationship or interaction you care to have falls on your own shoulders. If you always rely on other people to initiate a conversation or take charge of a relationship, you’re going to be pretty lonely.

So I started asking how her day was and making small talk. Her demeanor seemed to improve. Maybe my original perception was a mistake. Or maybe she was mirroring my actions and portrayal towards her. Whatever it was, our interactions have definitely improved.

Another way to not let other people decide how you act has to do with social or cultural pressures. Rollo May said, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.” Conformity, whether to advertisements, magazines, social media sites, news, or peer pressure, lets other people decide how you act. If you’re choosing whatever it is because you want it, that’s fine. But making choices to fit in is giving up control.

Liking what’s popular is different than deciding to like (or dislike) something because it’s popular. I regret conforming a couple times as a kid. It’s not so easy to resist external influences when you’re still trying to figure out who you are. Anyway, in the mid-90s, I decided that I didn’t like Nirvana, still one of my all-time favorite bands, anymore because of what some other guys said. Fortunately, that didn’t last long.

Neither of those examples are particularly important in the grand scheme of things. It can be a very powerful rule to live by, though, and just as powerful to ignore. Jim Rohn said, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” Not everyone wants their own business. Some people prefer to work for others. That’s fine, as long as it’s part of your plan, and your decision. Don’t work at a job you don’t like just because that’s what you’re expected to do. If you don’t like your job, look for something else. At the very least, it should be part of your plan for the future, whether it’s advancement at the same company, or as a stepping stone to something better elsewhere. Falling into someone else’s plan is letting them decide how you act, with possibly life changing consequences.

The lesson from the story of the unfriendly newsstand vendor really struck home with me. Don’t let other people decide how you act. I’ve spent the last couple years really trying to work on myself, become happier, figure out what I really want, and how to create the life that I want. Acting in my own interest is certainly part of that, and so is how I react to other people. I didn’t always realize that the way I react to other people, the media, news, etc. can play a big role in my overall well-being.