I sometimes listen to Marie Forleo’s TV Tuesdays, and last Tuesday she responded to a question many of us wrestle with. We feel we have a problem because, even though we have lots of great ideas, and begin with plenty of enthusiasm, we never seem to get anything done. It leaves us feeling frustrated – or worse – and we begin to lose confidence in ourselves. So the question is – how can I train my enthusiasm to get things done?
Her response, I think is worth noting – that we have a gift and not a problem: our gift is that we love life, to venture into unknown territory, we are creative, and we are ambitious. All we need to do is to learn to use it wisely.
It isn’t a problem to be this enthusiastic. What so many of us lose sight of is that we need to learn how to use these gifts so that they work for us. Like all things worthwhile, there is a learning curve – while we train our enthusiasm.
First, learn to appreciate your enthusiasm. Give it room to engage in whatever it fancies. But also set up bounds to that engagement. Freedom isn’t truly freedom until you can control your urges and give them something to aim for.
How do we do that? Cognitive Control. This is a term created by Dr. Adam Gazzaley from the University of California, and he means by it the ability to manage your attention. He argues that this ability predicts our success and happiness in life – and teaches us how to get things done.
What is Cognitive Control? He maintains there are three aspects to it – meditation, completion, and focus.
- Meditation –Gazzaley calls meditation a cognitive control exercise that enhances our ability to self-regulate internal distractions. It’s a way of not only clearing our mind, but placing our mind and our true intentions in the driver’s seat. We don’t have to meditate that long to gain a positive effect. 5 minutes is a lot better than not meditating at all.
- Completion, or more specifically, determine what completion looks like or means for you – is it attainable? Finishing a book you’ve been working on by the end of the week is likely a lot less attainable than finishing a chapter of the book. Reaching for the unattainable isn’t helpful or even useful – it makes us feel bad when we fail to achieve it and, really, it undermines our real abilities and genuine enthusiasm.
- Focus – practice wearing blinders to stay focused. Tunnel vision can be a good thing when it successfully helps us block out all the enticing distractions that interfere with staying on track. Again, make it doable – set a period of time when we choose no distractions. It could be 10 minutes, half an hour, 1 hour. See how it goes.
And that’s how you finish what you’ve started!
Try it out! I would love to hear how it works for you, how you’ve learned to train your enthusiasm.
Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit http://www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.