What Self-Trust Really Looks Like
“Gah! Why am I getting so distracted? Why can’t I just do what I say I’m going to do on my schedule!” It was another day of frustration for me. For some reason, I’d lay out a manageable – but full – schedule of things to do, and, yet again, I had disappointed myself. Facebook had distracted me once again, resulting in me wasting another hour being awake, rather than going to bed. The result? I didn’t wake up on time, missed working out, and had to push it back for 3 hours later, pushing back all the work I had to do that day. This is a common occurrence for me, but after my revelation following this incident, I think the days of me not following through on my schedule are over. I finally figured out what was going on.
Lacking Self-Trust Shortly after getting frustrated with myself, I figured out what the issue was: I didn’t trust myself. I just didn’t. By being a drill sergeant in my own head and telling myself things like, “Alright, man, remember, you have to read for 3 hours today,” and “Brett, whatever you do, don’t screw this one up. Just execute. C’mon. Just execute and do what you set out to do today,” all the time, I was actually showing how little I trusted myself. It makes sense: if I truly trusted myself to execute, I wouldn’t have to tell myself that I have to execute. Also, by continuing to tell myself that I had to do things, I established a frame where I didn’t want to do what I planned on doing. That also makes sense — why else would I have to tell myself over and over again what to do? I didn’t trust myself to execute because I was setting up a frame where I needed to be convinced to do the things that I set up for my day (things like writing, programming, and reading). The only people who need to be convinced to do something are those who don’t want to do it. I was blown away by this. Not only was I failing at executing, but my failure was largely self-imposed because of my own assumptions about myself. By yelling at myself (in my head and out loud) to get going on whatever I had planned, I generated a self-fulfilling prophecy. By assuming that I didn’t want to do the work and that I didn’t trust myself to perform, I created a pattern where I didn’t perform and I began to view my work as a chore, creating a huge negative feedback loop.
Letting Myself Do Things In the wake of the realization that I wasn’t executing because I didn’t trust myself, I decided to unconditionally trust myself. Not my whims, of course, but I trusted myself to get the work done. Now, all the voices in my head telling me to do X, Y, and Z in A, B, and C ways are gone. They’re no longer in my head. When it’s time to work, I sit down, and just work. No convincing, yelling, or pep-talks needed. The key here is to have the faith in yourself to start. If you set a rule for yourself that you’ll start doing something whenever you scheduled it to start and you’ll end it whenever you scheduled it to end, and you follow that rule to the hilt, you won’t have to worry about getting things done any longer. The hardest part of doing anything is starting, and if you remove the stress from starting by making it a habit, you’ll be able to trust yourself a lot more. Now, instead of worrying so much about my execution, I’m free to enjoy my work. Free from the voices in my head yelling at me to do things this way and that, I’m now able to focus on my work, get things done, and enjoy the process. Do I need a little bit of a push sometimes to get started? Sure. But I know that a small push is all it takes for me to get going, so I’m not worried anymore about my execution as a whole. I trust myself to start. I trust myself to keep going after I start. I trust myself to stop whenever I set the time to stop. Now that I trust myself, it’s a lot easier to start. Just by assuming that when the time comes, I’ll start, is the most freeing thing in the world.