Have you ever spent a few hours around a four-year-old? Once an obliging child, my nephew has now moved into the phase where he’s testing the boundaries of what he wants to do vs what he’s being asked to do. Upon these requests, there was one phrase that continued to arise—“I don’t want to.”
Over the past eight months this phrase has flooded my mind as well. It isn’t associated with one particular situation or scenario, but has shown up across the board in various ways. I’ve heard it in my head in my interactions with people, learning technology, seeing my house a mess, and managing the day-to-day of business.
The thoughts I’ve been watching are:
I don’t want to reply kindly right now
I don’t want to learn the best setup to film a video
I don’t want to have this difficult conversation face to face
I don’t want to research yet another online platform
I don’t want to have another technology glitch
I don’t want to disappoint another person
I don’t want to stop eating these pretzels
I don’t want to be here
I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to!
We all have this thought deep inside of us. It started when we were about my nephew’s age (four years old or so) and it has taught us to seek pleasure vs pain or more accurately, comfort over discomfort. When asked to do something that takes more effort, our inner child starts quietly saying, “I don’t want to.” By now (assuming you are of adult age), you should be pretty good at overcoming this desire on a regular basis. But never have we ever been pushed like we have this past year, so our inner child has been in full tantrum mode, “I don’t want to!” And as you parents know, if the tantrum is loud, strong, and long, eventually you give in. And we do that as adults as well—we give in to our inner tantrum. It’s not that we can’t do all of the things that we’ve been asked to do, it’s that we simply don’t want to.
When I teach yoga, I always nudge students to where they can just barely hold a pose. I ask them to turn on a bunch of muscles and then stay there. It’s not a harmful place but an uncomfortable one. I know the thought “I don’t want to” is loud in those moments and eventually some students come out of the posture—not because they’re moving towards injury or they physically can’t do it, but because they give in to that desire to not do. And so they don’t. We have this liberty in many areas of our life. In some areas, it just doesn’t matter all that much. As an adult, if you don’t want to eat your peas, don’t freaking eat your peas. However, other areas are the places we can grow the most. It’s important to know the difference. When it comes to holding a yoga pose, learning a new skill, responding kindly (even when not receiving the same), or sitting with an uncomfortable emotion—if you accommodate the thought I don’t want to, you stunt your growth.
You may not think this concept is significant, and perhaps it isn’t, but consider this—we often regret or wish we did the thing we didn’t want to do. We act as if the problem or hardship is going to go away if we avoid or take care of it in a mediocre way. The likely result is that we end up spending more time (and energy) taking care of the situation than had we done so in the first place. Here’s a relatable example to put it into perspective…
I hate putting gas in my car. It’s obviously not difficult, nor does it take a lot of time, but it disrupts my mission from point A to point B, so I find it intrusive (big problems, I know). So I delay putting gas in my car until my light is (has been) on. So let’s just assume I’ve run out of gas at some point in my life. It may have even been as I was pulling into the studio for a workshop and I just barely managed to putter halfway into a parking spot. Now, instead of taking 5-10 minutes to stop for gas, now I have to call my husband and hope that he’s home to take the gas can to the gas station, fill it up, bring it to the studio to fill my car and hope that it’s enough to get the car started because the tank is so depleted. Now, I have a situation that will be hard to put aside so I can fully lead my workshop. Now, I have to spend 3x the amount of time and effort handling this problem because I simply didn’t want to (and didn’t)!
So not only have I spent more time and energy handling the problem, but I’ve also inconvenienced others. Which, hopefully as any good human would do, I’ll now spend more time and energy apologizing, appreciating, and all the things that go along with doing something super silly like not filling up your gas tank. (rookie mistake, wish I could say I’ve only done it once).
When we give in to the thought of “I don’t want to,” what we don’t realize in the moment is that it creates within us more problems and discomfort than if we had just done it in the first place. AND, it tends to impact other people.
“Exceed yourself to find your exceeding self.” – Baron Baptiste
It’s hard to overcome this thought on a regular basis, especially when it is so persistent. But when you do, you preserve your time and energy in the long run. You move forward. You exceed yourself and become known as a reliable and trustworthy person. Some call this resiliency or becoming high functioning. Others, as in the quote above, define it as a whole new way of being. You “find your exceeding self” over and over until it just becomes who you are. By practicing overcoming I don’t want to, you become great at moving through hardships, and feel good because you do the right thing. And, you become proud of yourself for doing what serves you and others the most.
Justina and the Ignite Team