We all know the old saying about snoozing and losing, right? Well, it actually has a lot of truth (and a little neuroscience) behind it, even if it's a little on the blunt side. There's even multiple angles we can explore it from -- including the literal notion of punching the snooze button! What really fascinates me about it, though, is the impact that snoozing -- or hesitating -- has on our actions and success.
We're all capable of immediate, decisive action in order to achieve a goal. For example, if we see a child drowning, there's little if any hesitation at all to run in and save them. Yet, for all we're capable of doing in an instant, why do we often find ourselves procrastinating when setting off to achieve our goals? This is where some of that neuroscience comes into play.
In the instant we're responding to the child drowning, our brains are running in the emotional, 'gut' response mode. There's no overthinking and analysis; we see an objective, and take action immediately to achieve it. The immediacy is key here, as taking action right away is absolutely crucial in goal achievement and success. This is all well-and-good, but where does the 'snooze' part come into play?
When we're presented with a work project, a school essay, or a desire to change our situation to what we want, often we find ourselves drifting or stagnating off the start. Typically, it's because our logic brain has entered the equation, and is assessing things. If stress is encountered around a particular objective, our brains will seek to 'protect' us from it, and put off or avoid the stressful situation entirely. Ever had the intent of doing or becoming something, only for your brain to come up with umpteen reason why you can't? Yeah, that's the overthinking and procrastination of stress coming into play. We're pressing the figurative 'snooze' button on our lives.
The unfortunate -- and damaging -- language our mind uses inwardly in these moments is one of "can't" as opposed to "won't". The brain is seeking to keep us safe from harm and trauma, which it often perceives stress as. When we're avoiding a stressful task, we're making the choice not to pursue it -- we "won't" take part in the action, as it causes us stress. However, the language is twisted inside of us to often come in the form of "can't" instead. Quick example:
You want to run a half-marathon. You need to train for said marathon. How do you train for it? You run. Now, how many people actually enjoy running? There's no judgement here -- but I know the number of people who dislike running will outnumber those who do. So, if you don't feel like running on a particular day, you're confronted with a decision. It causes you stress because if you don't run, you may fall behind on your training. But you reeeeeeally don't feel like running today. Instead of saying, "I won't be running today...", we end up saying, "I can't run today...", and fill in the rest with some kind of excuse. We're so much more sadistically accepting of a perceived inability (can't) over a choice (won't), as if it's so grossly offensive that we would possibly choose not to do something.
This language leads to all kinds of difficulties for us; instead of empowering ourselves by making and owning choices in our lives (won't), we reinforce negatives and limitations by claiming inability (can't). It's this language that perpetuates our hesitation when we're going after something we really want. We train ourselves to so readily defeat any possible notion of success before we even take one step towards it. It's an ugly habit, to be sure, but when we're aware of it, we can work to break it.
Mel Robbins, author of The 5 Second Rule, proposes a very intriguing pattern-interrupt for when we get stuck in these situations. Make a decision in five seconds or less, and take action. Now, it's not necessarily the best decision-making platform for all your major decisions in life, but what it does is motivate you to act -- and act now.
Immediacy is the key takeaway from all of this. We know our brains will work to subvert our intention if met with stress. Stress is often encountered in change, growth, and all good things -- at least to some degree. In order to not fall into the trap our overthinking minds lay for us, the important thing to remember is to take some kind of positive action immediately. Speak with anyone who excels, and they will tell you that when they set a goal, they start making things happen right away. Doesn't mean that the first step needs to be enormous or ground-breaking -- it simply sets the tone and builds momentum right off the bat. You're empowered by working towards your goal, and when you find stress along the way, your momentum carries you right through it to the end.
We all press the 'snooze' button on occasion in our lives. There are times when it actually may be helpful or needed, depending on the circumstances. When it becomes habit and keeps us from living the kind of lives we want, however, then it's a problem. Do yourself a favour and smash that figurative button, and build the kind of momentum you want. In fact, I'm going to go smash mine right now...