Sometimes when I feel like I should do something that I don’t want to do, I tell myself that I’ll count down from ten and then do the thing.
Like when I was fifteen and sitting in the movie theater next to my first ever date. “I’ll move my hand closer to his in 10, 9, 8, 7…” And then I didn’t. I just started counting again. “OMG what’s wrong with me? Ok, now I’m really going to do it in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6… “ but I still didn’t do it.
I spent the majority of Jurassic Park III counting in my head over and over, and each time failing to take the action I really wanted to take. Half an hour later when I finally did move my hand on top of the armrest so dangerously close to his, he did nothing. He didn’t grab hold of it. He didn’t profess his undying love, or propose to me, or slap my hand away, or call me ugly. He was busy… he was actually watching the movie.
A few days later I’d pretty much forgotten all about that kid, but the experience of being frozen by fear in my own body, bargaining and arguing with myself to follow my own directions, has stuck with me ever since.
I’m older and wiser now. I’ve held hands with (like at least) ten dudes by now, and I’ve learned a little bit about how my mind works. But almost two decades later I still find myself doing the countdown when I don’t want to do something. Just this morning I was lying face down in bed blindly slapping around on my bedside table trying to find the snooze button. “I’ll get up in 10, 9, 8, … ”
But then I remembered Jurassic Park.
It’s pretty clear my countdown strategy doesn’t work. It didn’t work in the back row at the Regal 13 way back in 2001, and it doesn’t work today. I have so many years of evidence against it, but I’m still doing it. I’m still letting my mind run rampant over me. Why? I’m still trying to bargain with my brain to get what I want, because I thought my mind controlled me. I thought my thoughts were the boss.
This morning, instead of letting my dread and resistance build up through three or four rounds of counting, I tried something different. I said, “UM, NO. Not anymore.” and I stood up before the countdown could make it to seven. It’s incredibly freeing to buck that system, to kick open the door of that mental prison cell I was allowing myself to be confined to.
I was possibly the lamest kid ever. (Afraid to hold hands at fifteen? Like really, girl.) But I’m finding some spunk in my adult years that feels pretty fantastic. Teenage rebellion might have meant sneaking out to get handsy with your boyfriend and breaking all your parents’ rules, but there’s a different kind of adult rebellion we could all benefit from. It means breaking your own rules and identifying the thought patterns that don’t work for you. The ones that you’ve let control you all your life. It means saying, “Not anymore.”
Everyone has their own mental crap that holds them back, or keeps them down, or makes them difficult to be around sometimes. Whatever yours is, you can stop bending your life to exist around it. You can take the control back. You can quit letting your mind control you and start operating from that higher level of consciousness. Some people call it the spirit or the true self. Whatever it is, you can feel it pushing back against those fearful, doubtful, limiting thoughts that you wish you didn’t have.
It’s simple, but it isn’t necessarily easy. First you need to build up a good base level of something I like to call being-true-to-your-true-self-ness. Ever been driving somewhere and wonder what’s down a certain road? Blinkers on. Go find out. Listening to the radio and have that little thought in the back of your mind that you don’t really love this song? Turn the station. Right now. Flip through every one of them if you want, “NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE.” It will feel good, I promise.
Be the boss of your regular day. Break the silly little rules in life to do the things that light you up. Start following your curiosity and your individuality in the small moments, and it will be light-years easier to do it when you’re faced with an ugly pattern you wish you could break.
DISCLAIMER: This website does not render medical advice. I am not a mental health professional. I share the methods that have worked for me and I truly hope they work for you, but I cannot guarantee any specific results.