I hate doing stuff that’s difficult. It’s frustrating. If it’s got just the right amount of challenge, it can be really interesting, but when it just feels all-around hard with no apparent ease in the near future, I just don’t like it.
As many of you know, I’m learning to play the guitar. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine that only took 30+ years to move on!! And guess what? Learning the guitar is hard. I have difficulty motivating myself to practice oftentimes simply because I know how awesome I’m not. Luckily, I have an amazing guitar teacher who is not only skilled at teaching technique and musical concepts, but also happens to be rather philosophical – much to his own surprise!
So there I was last week in my guitar lesson, trying to learn some finger picking for an Adele song that made my fingers feel like engorged mallets thwacking blindly at silken horse hair (that one’s for you, babe), and after a few futile attempts to procure something that could be considered “musical”, my teacher asks me,
“So? What do you think; does that make sense?”
To which I replied, “Yeah, but….it’s hard.” (flashback to being 5-years old and being asked to clean my room).
To which he replied, “It’s not hard; it’s new.”
Oh. What? Yeah, but….well, hell… Suddenly I felt like a child again, learning the piano for the first time. It’s so simple! There’s nothing difficult about it, I’ve just simply never done it before! Duh.
Sometimes I think our child selves are so much wiser than we are now. When I was kid, I think I had a lot more patience. I think I gave myself more space and less judgment about being less than perfect at something. Probably because i wasn’t much good at anything! Not that I’ve perfect anything at this point in my life either, but there are several things that we become very skilled at throughout young adulthood and on into adulthood, and we suddenly want everything to be so easy. After putting so much time and effort into perfecting a few key skills, starting over at square one again like we did when we were five seems an insurmountable task.
Therefore, “it’s hard.”
I’m amazed at the power of words, particularly the words we use to speak to ourselves (yes, we all speak to ourselves, it’s not just for crazy people). Changing just one word can make such an enormous difference. Once we change “it’s hard” to “it’s new”, suddenly the judgement in our voices leaves. Suddenly we open ourselves up to an acceptance of imperfection, an embracement of a new challenge, perhaps even the start of an exciting adventure! We remove the roadblocks that separated us from where we are now and where we want to be, because there is no longer an entitlement of ease or even an expectation of failure. In fact, there’s no expectation at all – because it’s new! You’ve never moved your body, or stretched your brain, or exercised your emotions this way before. We spend years and years since our adolescence trying to get to this place of comfort where the world around us holds still: we come back to the same house everyday, meet the same challenges at our job, kiss the same partner, express similar levels of empathy, play mostly the same chords, flex our muscles with similar strength, greet the faces of the same friends and family… so altering those regularities in some way to learn or experience something new can feel quite daunting.
Whatever challenge you find yourself tackling today – maybe you’re learning a new skill like I am, or starting your next block of schooling, or entering an altered state of an important relationship, or enduring a life experience that was unprecedented, or trying to develop a new habit – remember that the words you use to describe this challenge will make all the difference in how you are able to approach it. Saying “Its hard” almost invokes upon yourself an assumption that you do not have the capacity or endurance to surmount the task at hand. Strike it from your vocabulary. It’s new. It’s unfamiliar. It’s something that would require practice of anyone who, like you, had never attempted it before.
Hopefully this small reconstruction in self-talk will take you from this overwhelming position facing a massive boulder, and instead place you in front of a massive pile of feathers.
Because the fact of the matter is, you CAN do it. You always could.
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