"Start slow and start small. Stick to it and stay consistent." That's the motto with which I live these days.
When I was 11 years old and got my first mp3 player, I started listening to music while stalling in my verandah. I used to listen to music, and imagine myself in some unrealistic scenarios. Those unrealistic scenarios soon started to become grand, but absolutely ridiculous. In a year or two, that habit got so, enforced that whenever I had anything to think about I would start listening to music, and walk. Whether it is problem in a relationship, studies, or any possible issue for which one might worry.
Music started to fade away in the background, I would stall for hours, sometimes. It was getting pathetic. Wait pathetic? Isn't walking good for your health? Yes, definitely, but not on the expense of your mental health.
Emerging as a trigger
Listening to music while walking had become a trigger for compulsive thinking. I could not just stall and listen to music, instead music was just some background noise which isolated me from the real world, and walking was just the response to my anxiety. It got so bad that I would keep walking for hours in the scorching heat of Delhi summers while I'm sweating pints of sweat, feeling dizzy, and brain's hurting because of all that overthinking.
Until the end of 2020, I didn't realise the actual underlying problem.
I was caring about the outcome
If I started doing anything whether it is studying for a particular entrance exam, playing a sport, or even starting a new relationship, I would start focusing on the outcome. And the outcome would be like the topper in that exam, champion in that sport, or the perfect romantic relationship. I would try to imagine a future which doesn't exist. I know those are great goals, and it is good to visualise success, but it is definitely the worst to start living in that imagination, because life will happen and life won't happen according to the plan. When life doesn't go according to that imagination, one starts to ruin the real deal which inevitably will be more boring or not as lively as that imagination. I was trying to fit the reality in those imagined scenarios.
I've stopped caring about the outcome. Last weekend I went to play golf for the very first time and that too alone. Previously, this would have been a daunting task, because I would've created high expectations for myself and somehow, if I didn't exceed those expectations, then I would have been a loser. Not anymore, now I only care about what I can do in the moment. Well, in the moment I could just go to golf course and, ask the coach for a begineer lesson, leaving the outcome out of my mind. And that is what I did.
I still had a little bit of anxiety because I was doing something new, but hey, we don't have to eliminiate anxiety. That's what makes us human. Try to accept it but don't let it run your imaginations on steroids.
That's it for this blog post and if you feel that you've something to add to this or you have a different perspective then share it and discuss it on r/StoicHuman or go to the Reddit discussion post for this blog post linked down below.
Stay healthy, Stay safe!
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