Many of the best insights I have gained over the years have often been counter intuitive.
For example, as I have been developing muscular strength with a rigorous weight training program, I have found that I can push more weight and complete more sets when I relax and calm myself mentally before and during each set. The calmness helps me push through the pain.
In this example, the more obvious approach (for me at least) would be to pump myself up with a bunch of deep breaths and yell out loud in aggression before my set. The calm approach is far more effective and DEFINITELY a counter intuitive solution.
In the title of this article I am suggesting another counter intuitive method when I say “embrace the anxiety” of problem solving.
You might be thinking, “why would I EVER want to embrace anxiety? I mean anxiety causes stress and stress causes health problems.”
Here’s the deal:
Have you ever sat down to write an article on a new topic that you were not comfortable with (or maybe an essay in school), read a complicated instructional manual for a new piece of furniture or attempted to learn a new piece of software on your computer that was out of your technical capacity?
If so, do you recall the sensations of frustration and anxiety that swept over you especially in the earliest phases of the task?
How did you react to the uncomfortable feelings associated with that frustration/anxiety?
If you’re anything like most people, you quickly sought relief by checking Facebook, watching Youtube, checking email, sending a text, turning the TV on, eating a snack or doing any other “comfort” activity that helped you escape the horrible feeling you had been experiencing.
What you probably did NOT realize at the time, was that this phase of anxiety is the most natural experience in the world. As your brain is working to solve the problem and perform the work in front of you, this anxious feeling is simply a byproduct of the experience.
Instead of running away from the anxiety and the unpleasant feelings that come along with it, I am going to suggest you EMBRACE it instead.
Celebrate the fact that you have given yourself a tough problem and your incredible brain is busy working away. Much like the body builder learns to actually enjoy the physical pain of a difficult weight lifting set, you simply change your perception of this process from a negative experience to something positive and exciting.
And here’s the best part…
Do you recall any times in your past where you faced a deadline and you were FORCED to work through the anxiety because you had no choice?
What likely happened was after a certain period of time had elapsed, you moved from a frustrated state to a flow state and the work started pouring out of you. You went from anxiousness to excitement. All because you were patient and persistent enough to allow your brain to work the problem and give you the answers you needed for your situation.
So… the next time you sit down to build that next “whatever’, keep this lesson in mind and REFUSE to allow yourself to indulge in temporary relief. You are only prolonging the pain anyways. Put that iPhone away and stick with your problem until you get in the zone.
Then you can simply let go and let your best ideas pour out of you.