coercing the passenger

By diana - 8:21 AM

If we did all the things we are capable of,
we would astound ourselves.

-Thomas Edison

As a child, willpower was not something I seemed to struggle with. Unfortunately as I've grown, I've really struggled with getting myself to complete simple tasks. I told myself every day for a week that I would go to the gym after work (a very common issue, I know), but even if I was sitting in the gym parking lot, I could not fire the right pistons in my brain to get out of the car and walk inside. I would talk myself out of it and end up driving home. My brain came up with a litany of excuses: feeling poorly, a pending school assignment, double booking myself, etc. 

I thought for a long time that it was a lingering affect of depression. I thought maybe I had some form of ADHD, or it was linked to my anxiety. There have been many, many nights where I'm sitting on the couch and somehow can't physically get myself to stand up and take out the trash, or to shut the water off in the shower, or to make a healthy meal. 

This article details what is happening in my brain. Apparently this is a common occurrence for people that have a Growth Mindset - people that want to improve themselves. The article explains our brains using a driver and passenger analogy. Basically, the driver has a goal and the passenger is too set on primitive ideology to allow the driver to succeed. The passenger is the one in the back of our brains saying "Don't get out of the car. It's safer at home". The passenger is so afraid of the unknown - whether it be a new gym, what a new body would feel and act like, or the success of writing a book - that it's trying to keep us where we are. It understands where we are. It's comfortable with it. But we have to push back.

The article goes on to explain a workaround: make your new task a scheduled event: "Everyday after work I go to the gym". Repeat that five times over and you'll have activated a part of your brain that will override the passenger, because it will think this task is an old habit. You've tricked your brain into thinking that this new experience is, in fact, a safe experience. 

It's hard, though. This worked for me when I wanted to start waking up at 5:30AM every morning. For two weeks I was up and out of bed by 5:35. Unfortunately weekends came and went and I was extra tired one morning and the passenger is always there to try to hold you back. We can't listen to him. We have to push through. We are better, stronger, and more capable than we give ourselves credit for. 

This month I am challenging myself to ignore the passenger, not just with simple tasks, but with negativity. I feel cheesy and weird but I am trying my damndest to be a more positive person. Negativity brings us down in so many ways that are hard to detect at first, but I'm no longer willing to compromise my physical or mental health for comfort. Spring is on it's way and soon these long winter nights will be behind us. It's time to bloom.

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