Have you ever had that moment when you get an idea to do something and you’re so damn excited that you just can’t wait to start it? Be it a blog post, a hobby, a job change or just about anything that you feel so hyped about? But then, slowly, your head starts producing reasons NOT to do it. You start coming up with excuses, counter-arguments, and the more you think about it, the more you hear that inner voice that does just about an excellent job of giving you all the damn reasons to give up. And then you start rethinking it. And, well, maybe the idea wasn’t so great in the first place … And the more you think, the more you spiral down that path of doom … until you give up. The inner voice has won. Again.
It happened to me today as well. I got an idea to write an article called “Stealing the Inspiration”. Hell, was I so damn excited about it! Excited as in – “oh damn I’m so pumped about this that I’m actually anxious about even starting it!”. So I sat down, wrote a title and walked away to brew a cup of coffee. You know, just for the full pleasure of it … and then, it started. That inner monologue that, at first, starts with simple questions, like:
- Hm, but what are you going to write about actually?
- Are you sure that you have enough information about that topic?
- Are you sure that you know enough about Renaissance? (don’t even ask …)
And then, once it warmed up and got me all shaky, it started making suggestions:
- Maybe it’s not a good time to do that now?
- Maybe you should research that topic a bit more?
- Why not write about something else until you think this through?
Finally, once it got me completely out of my zone and excitement, it started issuing commands:
- Don’t be ridiculous! People will laugh if you say something stupid!
- Forget that. Write about something that you are confident about!
- Actually, just go and do something else until you are sure that you know what you are doing!
How the hell did I even get here? I started this blog with the sole idea of not giving a crap what others will think and writing purely for the joy of it. And yet, here I am, pondering all the crazy scenarios of what will OTHERS think and actually going fully against the initial idea of it! Well, say hello to my little friend – the inner voice!
We all have it …
This is what I find to be really puzzling. On one hand, I’m aware that we all have that voice that bothers us, right? But, on the other hand, most of us just assume that others don’t have it. Or at least not that often. Or that it just decreases its intensity over time, or … well, whatever it is, but, when it comes to myself, I was pretty damn sure that it’s just me coming up with valid reasons not to do something.
What I found to be even more funny now is that I’ve read about this phenomenon bunch of times. As in, the last place where I remember reading about it was in the Tools of Titans book (highly recommended, btw!) and I think I read something related in Why procrastinators procrastinate article. But it wasn’t until I was re-listening to JRE #1417 with Kevin Ross that it actually hit me.
The backstory of this podcast (which I highly recommend!) is that Joe and Kevin Ross were talking how we all dream of a moment, or whatever you want to call it, when we reach our goals and our inner voice shuts itself down. Well, it was when Kevin Ross said – “Man, you never, ever, ever shut that voice down. You can’t even silence it. You just have to accept that it’s there and that you have to push against it. Every. Single. Day“. Boom! Listening to that podcast actually got me into writing the quotes and thoughts that I hear in those podcasts (I’ll be writing a separate series of articles about that).
How to handle it?
Well, from all my readings, and trust me – I read A LOT on the topic of self-help and self-improvements, the conclusion seems to be – you will never get rid of it. There seems to be some evolutionary benefit to that, in terms of – that inner voice actually helped us survive through hundreds of thousands of years. The problem is that evolution is slow to adapt and even though that in the last tens of thousands of years we learned how to protect ourselves much better, that part of our brain didn’t evolve that much. And that voice doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
So, what are we left with? Well, as Kevin Ross said – you just have to accept it and fight it. Day after day. Good thing is that the process of STARTING something is what the problem is. Once you get past that fear of starting something and you get the ball rolling, that voice seems to go away. You eventually end up wondering why you even listened to it in the first place.
I remember reading once that, the best advice for writers to get themselves unstuck is to aim for writing just ONE sentence. Literally. Write ONE sentence and then put the pen down and go do something else. It sounds easy and stupid, but the thing is that once you get past the STARTING point, which is where the 99% of the problems lie, you kind of unstuck yourself and you are way more likely to continue working on whatever it is that you wanted to do in the first place.
So, take my word for it. Whatever it is that you are planning to do, just figure out what is the smallest and easiest possible step that you can make towards it. Figure that one out and no matter how laughably small it is – just go and do it. Chances are that, the moment you make that small step, your inner voice will realize that you won’t kill yourself and it’ll release you from its chains, making you free to actually do your thing! Good luck!