Your ability to create a life you love is driven by the stories you generate and self-administer. That is the good news. The bad news is the same.
Dr. Donald Hebb, fellow Canadian, was famous for his work on neuroplasticity. He is known for Hebb’s Law, the idea that neurons that fire together wire together.
The more you identify with your stories of past challenges – a business that bombed, a what-was-I-thinking relationship, a public speaking meltdown – the more those stories are reinforced.
These stories ping into your consciousness when you’re trying something new.
Creating anything, from a nourishing meal to a kick-ass life, requires the right relationship with self-belief. There needs to some “I can do this” going on.
STORY NUMBER ONE: I Can’t (also goes by codename, ‘I’m not ready yet’)
This is the tale of victimhood that reminds you of all your past screw-ups. A panorama of face palms flashes before your eyes. What a woeful vista.
Buckle up. The resistance is rollin’ in.
It’s easy to see resistance as code for ‘back off baby.’ And most of us do.
We get back in our box.
I prefer Steven Pressfield’s interpretation: ‘Resistance presents itself when you are ready to go to the next level.’
Resistance is a sign. It’s your body’s way of preparing for the good stuff that’s coming.
Start before you’re ready. Because you’ll never be ready. You start. Then you ready yourself in the process.
On your marks. GO. Get set.
Unless you’re a pilot or a surgeon. Then be ready before you start. Pretty please. The rest of us are good to go.
STORY NUMBER TWO: I Could Fail (with backing singers “I have failed, I have failed, I have failed”)
My dad learned to swim after being thrown into a lake. My first bike had no training wheels. There’s a reason Nike’s motto is Just Do It.
Fear comes from thinking.
I’m not suggesting you stop your thoughts (impossible anyway).
I mean being more selective about which thoughts you believe. Some thoughts pump up your fear (‘You’ll blow this – remember that time…?).
Some thoughts reinforce your resilience (‘You got this – remember that time…?).
Victim or creator? You can’t be both at the same time.
In his book, Why Your Life Sucks, Alan Cohen suggests imagining a bouncer (dark suit, mirrored shades, ear piece) manning your thoughts. Only the nourishing, useful thoughts get into the velvet rope area. The undesirables get chucked out.
Fear and victimhood come from thinking.
Empowerment and creation are the result of a similar process, with this important twist of the velvet rope: think – notice – choose. Your bouncer is here to help.
STORY NUMBER THREE: Good work has to be hard work
This is a particularly crafty story, because we often associate hard, back-breaking work with a good, solid outcome. No pain, no gain.
As a child we had a sign in the kitchen: Them Who Works Eats. I also remember the sepia photos of our hardworking ancestors, looking tightlipped and grim.
From a young age, I learnt that good work was hard work. It was terribly serious, this working business. It certainly wasn’t meant to be fun.
Interestingly, I’ve noticed that my best work happens when it feels effortless and easy. I’m not slacking. I still have to show up and put in the hours.
But it doesn’t feel arduous and soul-destroying. I’m not forcing it. I’m not pushing the river. It just flows all by itself, with ease.
Danielle LaPorte makes this important distinction when she describes ‘cheap easy’ and ‘quality easy.’
When you feel fearful, check in with yourself if you’re pushing too hard. Having fun with what you’re creating takes the fear out.
Great work can be easy – quality easy – when you choose the right headspace.
Your decisions mirror who you are. When you make choices to create your day from a place of expansiveness and courage, you fear less. Way less.
Make Hebb’s Law work for you. Neurons that fire together, wire together. Don’t like your current neural super-highway? Create a new one.
The next time fear comes-a-knockin’, you can say there’s a new sheriff in town.