The Advantage to Being Vulcan: How Feelings Can Undermine Our Goals

Anyone who has ever seen the original Star Trek (and most people who haven’t) knows that Vulcans are humanoids that value logic above everything else. Spock, who is half-human, half-Vulcan, constantly battles with his feelings, certain that they will only cloud his judgment and impair his ability to make a decision. While the writers of the show made sure we realized that without feelings, humans aren’t human, Spock was right, too. There are times when our feelings just get in the way.

SpockMeme

I suffer from insomnia. Last week, I was awake for hours in the middle of the night. I do not function well without a full night’s sleep. When I finally got up in the morning, I was groggy. I spent time goofing around on Facebook, trying to clear my fuzzy brain, but it didn’t help any. I accomplished a few simple tasks, but I knew that I wasn’t going to feel any better as the day wore on, and I had work to do.

Faced with the question of what to do next, I decided to go for a run.

Did I feel like going for a run? Not at all. Running’s hard and I felt tired. But I couldn’t focus well enough to do any more writing, and I couldn’t face any of the other things on my list. So I talked myself into going. I know that I sleep better at night if I get some exercise during the day, and I wanted to be sure to sleep that night. Also, it was sunny and warm out, and I had the time to go. There was nothing to stop me.

I promised myself I would keep it simple and do the short trail. I would walk whenever I needed to catch my breath and I could stop whenever I’d had enough. Even as I stepped out into a glorious fall day with my shoes laced up and my excited poodle by my side, I didn’t want to run. I didn’t feel like it. But I did it anyway.

Because I had promised myself I could quit whenever I chose to, I kept close tabs on how I was feeling. By the time we reached the place where I originally thought I’d turn back, I wanted to run farther. We covered twice the distance I had expected to. As I alternated walking and running, I started to feel better. Not I-can-conquer-the-world better, but much less I’m-too-tired-to-sit-in-a-chair than I’d felt before.

“I don’t feel like it” is my adult brain’s diplomatic translation of my inner brat’s “I don’t wanna!” scream. I may have committed at some time to regular exercise, eating right, or spending an hour writing blog posts, but when the time comes to act on the decision, nine times out of ten, I don’t wanna. I no longer feel like it. I am attracted to different shiny things (a new novel, a knitting project, the latest in art supplies) or to something that seems far simpler (watching TV or even taking the dreaded nap). If I act on my feelings alone, I don’t get a whole lot done, because most of the time, I don’t feel like doing anything hard, time-consuming, or scary. If it looks like work, I’m outta here.

This is where Spock comes in. Feelings are like children. You don’t want them driving the car. (You also shouldn’t stuff them in the trunk, but that’s another post.) I channel Spock for a bit and talk myself through my resistance. I remind myself of why I decided I should exercise every day, why I choose to eat broccoli instead of cheese, why I put this appointment to write on my calendar. When I made these decisions, I had my long-term goals and my own best interests in mind.

My feelings don’t care about that. They don’t think about the future, unless they’re worrying about something imminent and probable, like an alien invasion. They blind me to what I really want, making me think that what I need is something else entirely. They try to convince me not to do what I’ve already decided to do, because now that the moment’s here, well, it isn’t that hot of an idea. I mean, I didn’t know I’d be feeling like this, or I never would have promised to do what I said I’d do.

Much as I am lauding the “ignore your feelings and do it anyway” approach, I admit that it’s more complicated than that. There are feelings we need to listen to. If my “I don’t feel like it” is an upset stomach or a sore knee, I might want to think twice before going for a run. Some of the things my body feels are warnings, to keep me from hurting myself and to let me know when I need to rest. But “I don’t feel like it” because I’m a little tired is not one of those feelings.

When the time comes to do what you planned on doing, whether it’s your daily creative session, getting some exercise, or eating a healthy meal, don’t let a wimpy “I don’t feel like it” slow you down. That voice doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Get Spock to come talk to you and tell you the truth: it’s just a feeling. You can ignore it and get on with your project, your training, your dreams.

I didn’t feel like running, but by the time I got back, I was so glad I’d gone for a run. I had a clear mind, a renewed sense of well-being, and this blog post bouncing around in my head. I was ready to get to work at last.

How about you? Do you have things you know you want to do but you get stopped because you don’t feel like it? How do you deal with your resistance?

Author: Kit Dunsmore

Kit is a writer and an artist who adores living in Colorado. Whether she's hiking in the mountains or walking the prairies, she's always watching the wildlife in order to learn more about the natural world.

4 thoughts on “The Advantage to Being Vulcan: How Feelings Can Undermine Our Goals”

  1. I am really resistant to writing right now. The sad part is that I want to write, but when I sit down, I start stalling. The child voice in my head is saying, “I don’t wanna.” Recently, I’ve started switching my writing spots up. For academic things, I make myself sit at the table (I hate sitting at tables), and for creative things, I try to find a place that I don’t associate with social media or Skype or any other “shiny”. It’s been difficult, but I managed to write a little over 700 words yesterday. I’m aiming for the same today. Habit . . . I just need to make it a habit.

    Good for you for getting out there and sticking to your goal. I find that usually happens for me, too: once I start, I go farther than I thought I would. Keep going!

    Like

    1. I definitely have days where I am resistant to my writing. I find setting a tiny goal (ten minutes) can get me moving. Like you say, once you’ve started, it’s not so bad. It’s getting started that’s such a challenge.

      700 words is nothing to sneeze at. Lots of people who say they want to write a book never write 10 words. I often remind myself that consistent small efforts beat occasional heroic efforts every time. I get way more done as long as I show up regularly.

      Thanks for the encouraging words. Happy writing!

      Like

  2. Thanks for the pep talk! I should come back and read this post every morning. It’s all true, and I know it is, and yet the resistance can be so hard to overcome. I waste hours putting off starting writing, but once I get started I resent having to stop again! I get so frustrated with myself.

    I often have to trick myself into starting by telling myself I’ll just open the document and read over what I wrote yesterday. A few corrections later my writing brain has warmed up and I can get going.

    Like

    1. Whatever works works. Little tricks can really help. And I know how you feel. Starting’s hard and stopping’s hard. Frustration is one of my most common emotions, and it’s usually aimed at me. šŸ™‚ Wishing you happy writing!

      Like

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s