Taking assertive action is something I think about often, and encourage moving towards as often as possible. Too many times in my life I have given my brain the opportunity to opt out. Several times on this blog I’ve talked about Mel Robbins 5 second rule: “If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.” This rule is something we know in the depths of our soul, but still find difficult to do every time we feel the drive to act.
The place I feel these instincts most at the moment is at work. I’m not a person who likes talking on the phone much, but maintaining relationships with generous supporters of our organisation, and helping solve any problems is most easily accomplished through direct conversation. In the past I would have shied away from even thinking I could pick up the phone. This would feed the unfounded fear of talking on the phone. For a few years I started writing down what I needed to talk to the person on the other end of the phone about, and a few potential directions the conversation could go. This helped to an extent, but it meant I pushed myself past the five second limit. Thus, I gave my brain time to choose no. I also relied on the information I’d written too much and became flustered if the conversation went somewhere else.
In the past month I’ve heeded this particular instinct to just pick up the phone and make the call more often than not.
And you know what? Less than one of these phone interactions turned into a difficult one, more than half involved pleasant conversation, and all of the phone calls ended with a useful solution to the problem having been found.
Another thing I struggle to act on my instincts to do, is edit my manuscript. This is something I have to do outside my paid work hours, when I’m not playing sport, and around the other life administration in my schedule. Often while I’m doing these other things my mind drifts towards the current scene I’m editing and how the characters are going to get themselves out of whatever predicament they’re in. When that scheduled block of time ends this desire – this overwhelming need – to write, starts to fade. The Resistance wells up in my soul and the temptation to choose to do other things threatens to take over. I have not yet found a way to overcome these feelings every time, but I am developing better strategies to manage them.
Mel Robbins 5 second rule applies here too. One problem I face is being unable to physically edit my book manuscript until I get home. So, I focus on what I can remember of the current part I’m up to editing, and mentally work through improving the scene in a general sense. I can’t recall the exact words and sentences but I can think whether characters are acting appropriately, whether locations are described well enough, and whether all parts of the scene are necessary. When I get home, I start counting “5, 4, 3, 2, 1”, and I start editing before my mind kills those instincts.
It’s not foolproof. But it definitely helps to have a plan to beat my mind’s automatic function to ‘protect me’. The danger here is fear of failure. Feeling my writing is not good enough. Being afraid of sharing my stories.
The process of acting on my instincts to move towards a goal is slow, it’s incremental. But I know it’s working. I feel an amazing sense of achievement every time I finish each little part. And the more I read through edited sections I think, “You know, this is damn fine story. Let’s get it done.”
You can accomplish your goals. You can do what you set your mind to. Get after it.