Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's Tricky*

Lately I’m beginning to think that the key to a happier life lies in getting good at tricking oneself. I don’t mean that habitual self-deception is healthy or desirable, mind you. I just mean that sometimes to get out of our own way, we have to practice a little creativity in how we present things to ourselves.

Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say – just as a crazy, random example, of course—that I have several huge piles of laundry to put away. (Hush, internets. This is an entirely fictional scenario** that I’m making up to impart some crazy sage-like wisdom on you.) Of course, the longer said piles are left to sit they tend to multiply. In no time flat, I’m left with an overwhelming amount of work. And because I’m only human, internets, the more overwhelming it is, the more likely I am to avoid it. Then every time I’m confronted with the reality of it, guilt and depression and all manner of self-defeating ugliness flares up. True story.

But as I’ve discovered in my 40-something years on this planet, the way to manage such things is head on. The only way through it is through it... but to avoid all the angst and drama, I can play little games with myself to make it more manageable.

I tell myself, “OK, Peg, just put away the underwear today. That’s the goal. Just the underwear. They're relatively small, and wadding works just as well as folding. How much time can it take?”

By making it small, I neatly side-step that whole I-don’t-have-enough-time-to-tackle-this-chore craziness. One of two things happens next:

1) I feel a rush of accomplishment as I check the task off my To Do list. I win!!!
B) I feel such a rush of accomplishment as I check the task off my To Do list that I’m inspired to do more and I finish ALL THE CHORES. I am mighty! Rawr! I win!!!

See? Either way is a win-win and I only had to reframe the situation to disarm my silly self-defeating behavior and WIN. Hooray!

Other times, though, I have to be a self-created Dread Pirate Roberts to my inner Westley.

Stay with me here, internets. What I mean is this: In trying to tackle better habits, which intimidates me not on the day-to-day scale, but when I consider how important it is to have consistency over the long haul, I Dread Pirate Roberts myself by telling myself, “Good night, self. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you let you quit in the morning tomorrow."

But then tomorrow comes and I no longer feel like quitting, until I do. So I remind myself that I can always quit tomorrow. And so on.

It helps me keep from falling victim to the all-too-common syndrome wherein one realizes the vastness of the journey ahead, and plays out all the scenarios and work/effort those scenarios will take... thus getting so exhausted from over-thinking it all that there’s no energy left to take the first wee step.

As with the chore breakdown method, the amount is no different. It’s all in how you present it.

It makes sense, when you think about it (and probably even if you don't). If someone approaches you with a new idea or some constructive criticism or whatever, how they go about it makes all the difference. Applying the same logic to ourselves is, well, logical.

So, yeah. Tricking oneself. Opposite day. Crazy, or crazy like a fox?

You’ll only know if you try. What could possibly go wrong? ***

* Once again, bonus points to anyone getting my old school hip-hop reference.

** I can make such statements and still look myself in the mirror because I don’t currently have several huge piles of laundry facing me. But let’s just say that there’s a reason the scenario has that vérité ring to things, mmm-kay?

*** Don’t worry, internets. It’s not like I followed that up with, “Hey, y’all! Watch THIS!” or “Somebody hold my beer…” because we all know that way lies madness. And probable ER visits.

1 comment:

  1. I've found the best way to convince myself to do chores is to plug in the iPod's earbuds and dance my way through them. I'm quite positive my neighbors think I have epilepsy or something because of the rarity that I actually WALK in my house.