I have a plan, and a lot of energy and enthusiasm to get going on it. Getting started is easy. Finishing with what I envisioned sometimes seems impossible.
For instance, I want to write a book, or booklet, on scapegoating. I have a lot of enthusiasm around this topic – it’s important to me to get this out there. I began this project 2 years ago: did a lot of research and thinking, interviewing and writing. And then got overwhelmed with possibilities that began to form some months in. After a while, I felt more frustrated than enthused, and eventually decided to give my brain a break and let it go for a while.
If you’ve gone through this kind of scenario, you probably ended up feeling frustrated – like me – and begin to lose confidence in yourself. So the question is – how can you and I train our enthusiasm to get things done?
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.