Do before you think

The best way to handle things you need to do, but don’t want to

At this point, most people would step out of the shower. I’ve washed my face, hair and body. I am squeaky clean. But one thing remains.

Before I have a chance to question whether I really want to, I turn the temperature nozzle all the way to the right. After a second, the water goes from hot to cold. The water hits my back and I gasp. I start counting to sixty.

Since I’ve moved into a new place, I’ve begun this new practice. I end every shower with sixty seconds of cold water. Why? There’s two main reasons. The first: I feel better and more energised after a dose of coldness. It does something good to my body and brain. The second: I want to practice being comfortable in the absence of comfort. Cold showers are an easy way to do so.

You’ve signed up for a bungee jump. Your two friends have gone ahead of you. You watched them get strapped up, approach the platform and step off the edge. Now it’s your turn.

The instructor fastens the final clasp on your chest and nods towards the precipice. You walk up to the edge and pause for a second. Then you step out into the nothingness.

Cold showers are very different from bungee jumps. But the successful undertaking of both of them has something in common. If you pause for too long before you do it, you won’t do it at all.

By pausing, you give your monkey brain a chance to chime in. “What are you doing? This is crazy! You don’t have to do it. Nobody will think any less of you. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t go through with this stupid resolution. You don’t gain much from it anyway. Don’t do it!”

Doing something that is uncomfortable and scary is hard enough without having to spar with your monkey mind. That’s why, when it comes to unpleasant and uncomfortable tasks, the best thing you can do is start. Don’t give that little voice a chance to weaken your resolve and hinder your determination. Start doing before you start thinking.


This post originally appeared on Phronetic, Matthew Sweet’s daily blog about mastery, strategy and practical philosophy. If you liked it, check out Disconnected: Ideas and Provocations, Matt’s first book.

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