I love mental and emotional resistance training because it has done so much for me over the years. It’s a fabulous way to think about skill-building when you’re diving into new territory, especially when you feel anxious, uncomfortable, or off balance.
Consider learning how to record and publish videos online, for instance.
So much of this is about how you model the experience in your mind.
A video can be a performance. It can be a conversation. It can be a form of play. It can be a gift. You can frame the experience however you like, but you won’t really feel free to choose your framing until you crush the automatic frames foisted on you by society, like the performance framing.
A simple way to break the automatic frames and discover greater freedom is to notice what you’re resisting about an experience and deliberately do those very things with the intention of losing your fear and resistance.
So don’t fuss over trying to provide value when you begin. Focus instead on shedding your fear, anxiety, and discomfort with the medium. The value will come through more strongly as you do that.
Suppose you want to get comfortable with making online videos. For many people that can feel very awkward and uncomfortable when you first start out.
Even after years of practice, some people still feel awkward and uncomfortable – sometimes even more than when they started. Partly that’s because they didn’t deliberately chase down the resistance. They mostly tiptoed around it, so the resistance remains. Sometimes the resistance even grows as you gain experience.
Consider this type of goal:
Make and publish 50 videos.
That’s an okay goal to gain some experience, but it’s not the same as deliberate practice. You can make hundreds of videos and not practice in the direction of your true resistance. You can still end up trapped into being a bit of a perfectionist, not feeling truly free. You may find that the conditions have to be just right before you’re able to hit the record button. You may procrastinate a lot too.
Consider this way of framing an initial goal instead:
Explore and discover how to make videos anytime, anywhere, under any conditions, on a variety of topics, off the cuff with ease and lightness – without feeling any fear or anxiety.
So the goal isn’t just to gain experience with making videos. The goal is to crush fear, so you become free. Then you can fully express yourself through that medium.
Once you’ve framed your goal in terms of crushing fear and resistance, you can break it down into practical subgoals like these, which immediately suggest action steps you can take:
- Make a video when you don’t feel like making a video.
- Make videos in lots of different locations, including some locations that are far from ideal.
- Make some videos where you feel ugly or unattractive, like when you haven’t showered and your hair doesn’t look right.
- Make some videos with bad lighting.
- Make some videos where the audio isn’t as good as it could be.
- Make some videos while walking with a selfie stick.
- Make some videos out in public around other people.
- Make videos in one take, and publish them with no cuts or editing.
- Make some videos with no pre-set topic or mental script, and speak entirely off the cuff.
- Make a video in your bathrobe or pajamas.
- Publish a video that you really wanted to redo because it didn’t turn out well.
- Make some videos on controversial topics that will surely invite criticism.
- Share something about yourself in a video that you’ve never shared before and that makes you cringe to share it.
- Make videos when you’re hungry, tired, sleepy, etc.
- Make videos when you feel nervous or anxious.
- Make videos with other people.
- Make a video when you catch yourself making a justifiable excuse not to make a video.
- Make videos when you feel like an impostor and have zero value to give.
Whatever makes you feel self-conscious, do exactly that.
Whatever makes you feel like hiding, lean into expressing yourself.
Remember that this is just a training phase. You don’t have to live this way all the time. Just do it while you’re deliberately training through the resistance. You can even split that into multiple phases with breaks in between.
Look for the resistance in yourself, and then resolve to face it. Brainstorm a list like the one above of all the angles that make you cringe a bit. That becomes your to-do list.
It’s not just a matter of checking each item off your list once. Do them once if that’s all you need. Or do them repeatedly. But do them until you realize that it’s not a big deal to do more of them. You can feel that the resistance is either gone now, or at least it’s low enough not to stand in your way anymore.
Maybe you only need to record and publish one video in your PJs to realize that it’s not a big deal to do more videos like that. Or maybe you still feel so self-conscious after the first one that you realize that you have to do more videos like that, maybe the next one in your bathrobe and slippers, to feel comfortable being so casual on video.
You know you need to do more when you feel fear, anxiety, or worry, suggesting that the idea still appears stressful to you. You don’t need to do more when you feel bored over an idea because there is no meaningful stress anymore. What you once feared may eventually feel boring, as it should because the stress was created by a false framing anyway.
Making a video in your PJs isn’t actually stressful – it’s actually a pretty boring goal and a low bar to clear. So once you’ve cleared that bar, and it would seem boring to continue doing more in that direction, turn your attention back towards more fear-busting. Where is the resistance now?
Claw your way out of the pit of fear one step at a time. It’s a gradual process. Keep building on what you’ve done. Keep leaning into the fear wherever you find it.
This is a form of resistance training. When you train up by facing the resistance, you get stronger, and the resistance seems lighter.
Another benefit is that you build up a collection of reference experiences that you can lean on for the rest of your life. You’ll always know that you can make a video in your pajamas. You’ll always know that you can still record and publish when the conditions are far from ideal.
I know that I can make a video in my bathrobe. I can make a video when I haven’t shaved for many days, in my exercise clothes, with salty skin after a sweaty workout. I can make a video when I’m really not sure what to say or if I’m even being coherent enough. I deliberately courted those experiences a few years ago, so I could feel comfortable and be fully myself through that medium. Now it’s been years since I’ve gone more than a few weeks without being recorded on camera somewhere – CGC coaching calls, interviews, YouTube videos, etc. Most weeks I’m recorded on video at least once or twice. So it’s really useful to feel comfortable on camera without being perfectionist about it. Just show up and go.
When you do this in one medium, you can stretch it to others too. One of my best stretch goals was to do a three-day workshop with no plan, no prepared content, and no pre-chosen topic. Just do all three days off the cuff with the flow of inspiration and audience suggestion all the way through. And most importantly, do it with no fear or nervousness – just playfulness, fun, connection, curiosity, etc. It was a beautiful experience, both for myself and the attendees. It helped me reframe public speaking even more than I already had, allowing me to see it as a rich and playful form of co-creation.
What medium of expression would you love to really pwn? (Not a typo, look up pwn if you don’t know the word. It’s in modern dictionaries now.)
Gaining experience alone won’t necessarily get you there. It’s all too easy to keep dodging the scariest parts. Then you might become a control freak who can only express yourself under narrow conditions, and when something throws you off balance, you’re back to fear and anxiety again.
On the other side of your fear is freedom and expansion. You know this. Now you must summon the will to act on that knowing, or you’ll never gain access to those gifts. If you commit to such a process, you can gain access to a new medium of expression that you’ll cherish – and be able to leverage – for the rest of your life. And you can do this repeatedly with a variety of expressive forms. You can be a true multimodal creator then.
When I was younger, I was afraid of many forms of expression that involved speaking off the cuff around other people, other than a small group of close friends. So much opened up when I finally decided that this was no way to live the rest of my life, and I resolved to conquer these fears step by step. You may look far down the road and assume there’s no way that you can reach such distant goals. Don’t worry so much about the distant goals unless they really inspire you. Just focus on the immediate steps you can take right now, like sending me a link to your next YouTube video that you recorded in your bathrobe. 😉
You might figure that you’re doing people a disservice by recording and publishing some material that isn’t your best, but there’s value in that too. You’re encouraging other people not to hesitate so much and wallow in perfectionism. You teach people that it’s okay to just go. You can even weave that lesson into the video. My bathrobe video is about overcoming perfectionism, for instance.
You also never know where your self-expression experiments will lead. During his youth Stephen King submitted a short story to a magazine, and his story was firmly rejected. Years later after King became famous, the guy who’d received that story went up to King and asked him to please autograph the original copy, which the guy had kept all those years as part of a massive collection of Hollywood memorabilia. What may just be a small stepping stone today could have a totally different meaning a decade or two from now.
You’re not the true judge of the value you provide. Other people will receive value in ways you cannot predict. The crappiest video imaginable can still provide plenty of value to people in ways you wouldn’t expect. Let others decide if they’ll watch past the first few seconds. Don’t deprive them of the opportunity to soak up some of your light.