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.
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?