Who you are now may not be able to do something that is hard, but you can create a version of yourself that can.
“I can’t do it,” she said, “I’m scared.”
“Yes you can,” I replied, “scared and incapable do not always have to exist as one.”
There is this moment that happens before action, where we are subconsciously committing to the action.
When you pick up your toothbrush and put the toothpaste on it, in the moment before you put it in your mouth, you are subconsciously committing to the movement of your hand that allows you to brush your teeth and follow through to complete the task. And when you go to start your car and drive away, it is the same thing, as it is in the moments when you are tying your shoes or getting dressed.
But it is also the same thing that happens in the moments before we do something we fear or start something that is hard. Just in these cases, it’s not always subconscious.
I stood there reminding her that she could. That the reformer carriage underneath, while feeling unsteady was not going to fly away, and that while her mind, feeling rattled, could commit and accomplish.
This is that dance we play in our head, in our thoughts, in our commitments. It’s this back and forth battle where the voice tells us we can’t, but where in that moment just before — pain, struggle, challenge or fear — we can remind ourselves that we can.
Brene Brown calls it choosing courage over comfort. I call it commitment over conformity. That moment where you defy what your thoughts and brain are saying to you are the thing you are supposed to do — the safe thing, the comfortable thing — and instead commit to the other thing.
What if we asked ourselves, in that moment before pain or struggle, what it is we need to do, and then rewrote the narrative that plays in our mind to reflect that?
The narrative that plays out for most of us is the “you can’t do it” reel. The stories of how we aren’t strong enough, good enough; how we may have failed at it before or how we have never been able to accomplish it before.
The narrative that plays out for most of us is the “you can’t do it” reel.
That time you were running a marathon and your thoughts tried to tell you that you couldn’t do it; that time when you were trying something new at work and the reel started up about how you were going to fail; that moment when you had committed to a new healthy eating routine, but had hit day seven and fallen off track so many times that your mind told you that you were destined for the same place.
“Well Not this time Linda,” you say, “not this time.”
Here’s the thing. That moment before the action is the time when you get to call on your courageous brain, and decide to commit 20 seconds of courage towards the action. Whether it is something that scares you, something that you hate, or something that you have never been able to accomplish before, the action and the words and the mindset pattern are the same.
Throw away this pre-written book of contingency, where you have let yourself believe that whenever X thing happens, Y thing follows. Most of us don’t like to read books we have already finished anyways.
In fact, we and would rather read a new one, where we don’t know what happens and we wait in excitement and anticipation for the end.
We hear this narrative and pre-written script play out all of the time:
“I’m bad at A thing;”
“I can’t do B thing;”
“I have X bad habit,” or “this X part of my body is bad.”
Bad? What did it do? Talk out of turn? Bad at that thing? Who says?
Because if it is just the narrative in your head that is continuing to tell you these stories, you’re missing a piece: it’s set on single track replay and will go on indefinitely if you don’t insert in something else.
“The story we tell ourselves about ourselves is who we become,” Brown reminds us.
I’s true in running, in food choices, in life choices, in challenges. It’s true when it comes to commitment, tackling hard things, changing your mindset, or doing something new. You can change the narrative you have written or the (too low) expectations you have laid about yourself or your actions or your abilities any time you like.
But it starts in that moment before the action, and it requires that courageous brain and the 20 seconds of courage to make it happen. It might not ever be easy, but persisting to show up to do it is always going to be worth it.