There’s been a lot of times that I couldn’t keep pushing on a goal. When life wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t good either. I felt like I should be doing something productive or fun – but I didn’t have the energy or motivation. And that idleness drove me nuts. Almost without fail I would turn to binge eating or drinking or some other exciting but harmful activity. As if I was climbing a mountain and got bored/tired, so I decided to just let go of the cliff face and fall.
The thing is…life doesn’t have to always be exciting
This took a while to diagnose. In the moment I knew I was taking a step backwards on my goals. I knew the binge eating and other activities were not good for me. But I wasn’t sure why I always reached out in those moments for something to distract me.
It’s a farce that life always has to be exciting or easy or happy or full of sunshine. You don’t have to make a bunch of progress on your goal every day. I don’t think we should aim for that, and we certainly shouldn’t do self-destructive things just to add some excitement or get out of our own head.
Thinking too much might make your mind a dark place, but you shouldn’t poison your body to escape it. It’s this type of downward spiral that will completely derail a goal. Clearly it’s great to read or paint or exercise or call friends when you can, but sometimes you just don’t feel up to it. What then?
Three options – Positive, Negative, and Neutral
On good days we can take the “positive option” like working out and really moving forward on the goal. Those things are wonderful when you have the energy and motivation. If you’re like me, there’s some days where you don’t have the motivation, and it can be easy to slip into the “negative option.” The binge eating, binge watching, or whatever distraction is exciting or numbing or instant gratification. That’s moving backwards.
But there’s a third path – the “neutral option.” Can you do nothing? Can you take a break and just sit instead of distracting yourself? It might be uncomfortable at first but it’s important to see that this option is better than the negative option. You can only numb painful thoughts and run from them for so long. They’re gonna be there when the excitement is over, when the distraction is over, when the numbness wears off. Do you want to deal with them now or damage your body first and then deal with them? Said another way, sometimes the best way to move forward is just to consistently not jump backwards.
The neutral option does not have to be scary or lazy. And doing nothing is not bad compared to doing self-destructive things. Remember it’s like we’re climbing a mountain and start to get tired. To quit is to let yourself fall, to let things get worse. Can you just rest on a ledge and sit still? You don’t have to climb all the way to the top right now. You don’t have to be perfect or do everything right now. But you don’t have to make things worse either. Just hold onto where you are and you can try to climb again tomorrow. When tomorrow arrives you’ll either be right where you are now or you’ll be down at the bottom.
You don’t have to climb up right now, but please don’t let go.
Further reading: If this post resonated with you then I highly recommend Awareness by Anthony de Mello. Most of our anxiety/self critical thoughts in life comes from falling behind in a race we never asked to run in. The more we stop and notice where these feelings come from the more we can remember what really matters. This book has helped me and many of my friends notice thought patterns that don’t help us and filter out the noise. I think this book could help you if you want to live your life instead of performing it.