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Do you ever feel that your character is too hesitant and self-censoring? Maybe you get an idea to take action or to share something, and then another voice pops in your head and talks you out of it.
Perhaps you straddle the fence for a while, pondering whether it’s wiser to take action or hold back, and much of the time you hold back. Perhaps you start to take action and then undo or delete what you’ve done because of that voice chiming with objections like these:
- I don’t really need to share this.
- This isn’t important.
- Someone might not like what I have to say.
- What if I’m wrong?
- What if this doesn’t turn out well?
These are the voices of suppression, and we all have them to one degree or another. Unfortunately if we don’t train these neural subnets well enough, then we’ll end up suppressing too much and leaving a lot of potential value untapped. It’s hard to improve our results if we aren’t taking enough inspired action.
The Problem of Self-Censoring
Here’s the problem with self-censoring. While sometimes it may indeed be wise to hold our tongues, if we do it too often, then we strengthen the mental patterns related to suppression, and this training will spill over into other areas too.
When you suppress your ideas for self-expression, such suppression won’t be compartmentalized to just those few thoughts. You’ll be training your mind to get better at suppression all around. This can keep you trapped – in a job you dislike, a misaligned relationship, and habits that don’t serve you.
If your life isn’t awesome yet, one major cause is that you’re self-suppressing and self-censoring way too much. How are you supposed to improve your results when you hold back so much?
You may think about moving on and taking a risk. You may get an idea to stretch yourself and step into what feels more aligned. And then the voice of suppression kicks in and talks you out of it. And so you remain in your current situation, and another year of your life slips away. The passage of time isn’t kind when you overdo suppression.
The best intention of hesitation is to prevent you from making a mistake. Hesitation aims to keep you safe. It tries to reduce the damage your character takes, especially physical, social, and financial damage.
But not all mistakes are equal. Some mistakes are fantastic learning experiences. Mistakes are very often stepping stones to successes. You’re really not going to succeed much unless you make a lot of mistakes.
Hesitation keeps us trapped in our comfort zones because sticking with the familiar seems like the safer bet. Exploring outside our comfort zones seems riskier.
Unfortunately hesitation lies to you. It tempts you with promises of a safe and comfortable life, but what it really delivers is stagnation and decline. And that’s because while you stand still, the world will keep changing faster and faster while you continue aging, eventually leaving you with the impression that you’ve fallen behind. You have indeed fallen behind because this is a world of action.
So many people enter their senior years with piles of regrets about the opportunities they missed. They allowed their inspired ideas to be overruled again and again by the voice of suppression. Don’t let this happen to you if you can prevent it.
Hesitation also lies when it promises that you can revisit an idea later, once you’ve had more time to think it over, research it, or discuss it. But in reality such delays will usually kill good ideas from being implemented at all. You’ll either end up trapped in circular thought about the idea, or you’ll eventually forget about the idea altogether. Either way you never make it through the committed action phase. Sound familiar?
The best intention of immediate action is for you to capture a reward quickly. This impulse aims to increase your gains.
But something else happens when you lean towards action more and more. You get into the flow of acting on your ideas sooner and faster. You train your action pathways to become more dominant. You ride waves of massive creativity and self-expression as the voice of self-suppression fades into the background.
Living in action mode for extended periods is marvelous. It’s a feeling of being awake and alive. It’s stimulating and fun – if you get the balance right.
You can still take breaks and enjoy plenty of time off. During your time off, you can make quick decisions regarding what to do for fun, relaxation, and renewal. You can enjoy the flow of action during work, rest, and play.
My favorite way to travel is to just pick a place and go. It’s super fun to have a destination pop into my mind one day and then to be in that new place within a day or two, sometimes within a matter of hours if I can get there fast enough.
One friend got off a plane at an airport, then used some method to pick a random destination to travel to next. It turned out to be the same city and country he just left, so he hopped on a flight back there and had more amazing adventures. That might sound a bit crazy, but ask yourself this: Which style of action will create the best memories?
Do you think that my friend is going to regret his airport bouncing when he’s older? I seriously doubt it. Today he has a cool story to tell. Years from now he’ll have a delightful collection of memories.
When was the last time you had an idea to go travel to a certain place? And what happened next? You probably told yourself that it would be cool someday. Why not go right now, as quickly as you can arrange transportation and a place to stay? You do realize that you could be there with a day or two most likely, right? Why not now? Ah yes… those pesky suppression subnets will offer up plenty of objections. And yet you could still make the trip happen right now, if only your action subnets were strong enough.
When you think about taking action, especially in big and meaningful ways, just ask yourself:
Do I want the memories of doing this? Or do I want the memory of skipping this?
These questions give me great clarity on some tricky decisions. To be honest sometimes the answer that pops out really pushes me outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes it becomes obvious that I’d treasure the memories that would flow from taking action, even when the journey looks a bit scary or uncomfortable. And then I have the thought: Damn… I think I need to do this.
When you’re thinking about taking action, especially to express yourself in some way, initially you may get an emotional response – perhaps fear, worry, or anxiety – and those feelings can throw you off balance.
One thing I like to do when I feel unbalanced by emotion is to grab three sheets of blank paper and a pen, and then I write out my thoughts and feelings as they arise until all three pages are full. This takes about 45 minutes and is well worth the time investment. It helps to move the energy through the emotional brain into the logical brain. It processes the feelings well enough that I can think clearly about the problem, situation, or opportunity. Using pen and paper (instead of typing) slows me down and provides more thinking time as I write, so the processing feels more thorough. I recommend this method if you struggle with distracting thoughts or feelings and want to feel mentally clear and sharp again. It’s a nice way to restore balance.
I know that if I lean too far in the direction of self-suppression, it will lead to boredom and stagnation. I’ll end up feeling trapped or stuck because I’m not taking enough action. It’s a feeling of being stifled. Sometimes it feels like I’m falling behind, and the world is passing me by.
If I lean too far towards impulsivity though, which I’ve done before, it creates excessive stress because my actions are too random and chaotic. This was the kind of imbalance that got me arrested four times when I was 18-19 years old. I’d do or say whatever crazy idea popped into my mind, illegal or otherwise.
Eventually I learned to balance these modes of thinking more deliberately. I love the stimulation of being in the flow of action, but I don’t need random stimulation from chaotic action. What helps to create the right balance is setting ambitious goals, consciously choosing my own personal growth challenges, and aligning my life with core values and a sense of purpose. This provides a big-picture compass for the action and suppression circuits.
To create the right long-term balance, you must deliberately invite discomfort by stretching beyond your comfort zone again and again. You have to keep encouraging the action circuits, so you don’t over-suppress yourself.
Here’s a recent example of how I mentally handled a situation by leaning into action when the self-suppression circuitry was also active.
Yesterday an idea popped into my mind, which was to create a Facebook group for the upcoming Stature course launch. I thought this might make the launch more fun and social for those who want to feel more connected to like-minded people who are deciding if they want to do this particular deep dive. Since hundreds of people signed up for each of our previous courses during their launches, I could expect that hundreds will also be interested in our newest deep dive course. And I have seen evidence that some of these people would love to connect with that launch energy more directly.
This wasn’t a new idea. It had also popped into my mind now and then over the previous weeks. But each time it came up, another part of my mind suppressed the idea. Not right now… I’m too busy… Maybe for the next launch… I’ll need to research this first… Many of my readers don’t like Facebook… We don’t really need this… I can add this to a list of ideas to think about later…
Suppression will usually come up with some logical sounding objections to an idea, and those objections will tend to halt further thinking. Objections let you off the hook and give you the impression that delaying is best. An objection is really a block to deeper rational thought though.
So I tabled that idea for a while. But this recurring suppression combined with some other recent suppressions made me feel like I was slipping too far into suppression mode. I knew the risk of being in that mode for too long, so I decided it was time to swing the pendulum the opposite way and to encourage my mind to take more action.
I want to play a more action-oriented character for 2020, so I need to calibrate my thinking to stimulate more action and to suppress suppression. This led me to commit to what I shared in the 365-Day Challenges article. I intend to blog every day of 2020.
Swinging the pendulum like this rewards and activates the action subnets while suppressing the suppression subnets. Consequently, it makes me feel more action-oriented each day.
Since committing to this challenge, my days are even richer in inspired action. I’m doing a better job of acting on ideas immediately as they arise. I feel inspired and energized to keep taking more action, which is a great feeling to have as we head into a new launch.
Yesterday the same idea to create a Facebook group for the launch popped into my mind, but this time my thought patterns were different. Because I’d been stimulating my action circuits with the blogging commitment, I’d shifted my inner mental balance. I still heard those hesitant thoughts come up, but they weren’t nearly as present and powerful as the stimulating voice of action.
Think about how this works. Since I actually started my blogging challenge on December 24th, I’ve already gone a week down this path. Each day I still perceive the suppression circuits activating, but they can’t come up with a viable reason why I shouldn’t blog each day, certainly nothing strong enough to counteract the public commitment I’ve made. So now that voice of suppression sounds really weak and feeble when it tries to object, and it surrenders quickly: Oh never mind… go ahead and write. This voice gets quieter and quieter each day while the voice of action grows louder and crisper.
Consequently, within a very short time after that idea popped into my head yesterday, I asked Rachelle if she could look into setting up such a group and make it happen that same day. She agreed. But then a short time later, I felt that this was still a trick of suppression. Was delegating this actually faster or just another delay tactic? I thought: How long could it take to create a Facebook group? I Googled how to do it and saw that it was pretty simple. Then I just did it immediately. The group was created and open within a few minutes. It was simpler than I expected.
Next I had the thought that I should begin inviting people to join. And of course I still heard the suppressing thoughts arise in response: Should I carefully check over the group settings first? Shouldn’t Rachelle and I go over the admin stuff first to make sure we know what we’re doing?
But again, the voice of action was louder because I’d been training it to become so. It squashed suppression’s feeble delay tactics, and I immediately began inviting people to join the group, such as by announcing it in a News post.
It hasn’t even been 24 hours yet, and we already have 177 people in the group – with more joining every hour. So that’s great to see. If I had suppressed the idea, it would be zero since the group wouldn’t exist. Now we already have more than enough people to make it interesting and worthwhile.
Note that by taking immediate action instead of suppressing an idea, I’ve also gained a new skill. I now know how to create and administrate a Facebook group, which I didn’t know how to do 24 hours ago. If it goes well for this launch, we could create such groups for other launches as a way of making them more social.
I also intend to do some Facebook Lives (live interactive video chats) in the new group. I’ve never done this before either, despite having known about them for years. Why continue to suppress this idea when taking action would be more fun and growth-oriented?
You’re of course welcome to join our new Facebook group if you’re interested in the new character sculpting deep dive, which will launch on January 1st. You’ll find the group at facebook.com/groups/stature. How many members does it have now?
Balancing Action and Suppression
Balancing your action and suppression circuits is a lifelong challenge. It’s good to accept this, so you can consciously think about which way you need to train your character next. It’s pointless to beat yourself up for becoming imbalanced one way or the other. Imbalances will happen. See this as an invitation to retrain your character to create the balance you desire.
Look back on your past year. Did you take enough inspired action? Or did you feel that suppression was the main voice of that year? Were your decisions too impulsive and chaotic? Did you create enough cherished memories?
What do you want for 2020? Do you want a calmer, more controlled, and more suppressed year? Or do you want more bold action and self-expression? Do you want more introspection and reflection? Or do you want this to be a year of action and results?
From interacting with my readers recently, I learned that most of them felt that 2019 was too stunted relative to their desires. They want to shift the balance towards more action and bolder self-expression for 2020 and beyond. They want to step up and stretch beyond their comfort zones and censor themselves less. They want to sculpt themselves into more action-oriented characters.
Yet they also want to be gentler towards themselves and others. They like kindness and compassion and don’t want their self-expression to come across as overly harsh and judgmental. The idea of gentle fierceness resonates with many of them.
This is doable, but it isn’t easy. Hence the reason we’re taking this on in the form of a new deep dive together.
Realize that if your 2019 was disappointing, your 2020 will likely be disappointing too unless you deliberately step outside of your comfort zone. I’m doing this too because I want my 2020 to be a more action-oriented year. By the time Valentine’s Day comes up, I’ll already have written more articles for 2020 than I did for all of 2019. This year I expect to write, record, and publish more than I have in any year of my life. So I need to train myself to favor action over suppression. This is partly due to curiosity. I really want to know what it’s like to live for a full year as this kind of character. What will it be like to make creative expression a bigger part of my reality than ever before?
I think it sounds fun and stimulating, even though it isn’t comfortable. I’m deliberately setting myself up for a less comfortable year because I think the character sculpting effect will be worth it, not to mention all the ripples this creates for other people as well. Notice how this plugs back into values and purpose – that’s our compass here.
If you want to train yourself into a more action-oriented character as well, I invite you to do whatever it takes to commit yourself to that this year. Make a commitment that deliberately exits your comfort zone and enters the growth zone. Don’t let another year of self-suppression and self-censoring slip through your fingers. Find your voice this year.