Q:

 

Dear Doctor George...

How often do you write your columns? Does it sometimes feel like a burden? I find that once I start something, I get compulsive about doing it. For example, to feel healthier, I started jogging three times a week. Now, I'm doing it every day, even when my knees hurt and I don't feel like it. How do you regulate the things you do?

... Compulsive Personality

 

A:

 

Dear Compulsive...

When Doctor George first began writing his columns, he kept to a strict schedule with a deadline for getting one column done by the end of every week. That's because he couldn't trust himself just to write whenever he felt like it because he often wouldn't feel like it and then the writing wouldn't get done. The strict schedule built up the discipline to get the website off the ground. After firmly establishing his schedule, there were times when Doctor George didn't feel like writing. If he wrote anyway, his effort would be focused on the deadline rather than out of inspiration and desire. That's because the deadline, itself, had become the goal rather than the joy of writing a useful column. This was when Doctor George realized that he had to cut himself some slack, not to compulsively adhere to his original, self-imposed deadline.

Whenever we are starting a new project, before our momentum has been established, we usually need to kick ourselves into gear. A good metaphor might be the stages of rocket launching into space. On take-off, huge fuel cells are needed to break the pull of gravity. Then, smaller engines can take over. The same is true for our pursuits. Dissatisfaction might be our initial catalyst (like your wanting to feel healthier). But, after you're in motion, your "fuel" needs to change from dissatisfaction to inspiration. Otherwise, you can end up hurting yourself, which is ironic since your initial goal was to be healthier.

As stated, you were dissatisfied with your physical condition and/or concerned that you weren't living a healthy life. So, you conditioned yourself and established a discipline. Your compulsion might come from feeling worried that if you don't do it every day, you'll quit it all together. The danger, now, is you'll begin to feel burned out and also might increase the risk of an over-use injury. If we use the rocket fuel metaphor, it might be time to glide a little on the after-burners, to run when you feel like running, out of the pure love and enjoyment of it. Ideally, you want to be running because you enjoy it, not to fulfill some self-imposed mental goal (just like Doctor George had to realize when it came to his writing deadline). Being inspired feels much better. If running doesn't make you feel that way, then Doctor George recommends exploring other avenues for your physical well-being. There's no reason we can't have both: enjoyment and well-being.

Although a concentrated effort is usually necessary to make things happen in life, we also cannot continue forcing ourselves (without ultimately suffering a consequence). Sometimes, when Doctor George is answering questions, his ideas dry up. If he got worried about having nothing of relevance to say (ever again!), he might try to work harder and find himself getting desperate. Inspiration can't emerge when feeling burned out and/or desperate. Doctor George has found that if he trusts his own internal process, takes a break from writing, and gets involved in the normal activities of daily life (such as washing the dishes, which pleases Mrs. Doctor George), an idea will seem to suddenly pop up out of nowhere. Actually, it's not out of nowhere because the unconscious part of the mind is always working. What we often label as "out of the blue", the "aha-experience", typically happens only after the conscious mind has spent considerable amount of time focusing on and trying to solve the problem. These sorts of sensations come most frequently when we trust ourselves.

Perhaps you can ask yourself whether you merit some more trust, and see if you can replace your compulsion with inspiration. Ultimately, we need to work for a better future (by pushing ourselves with goals), but we also want to enjoy the present.

Sincerely,
   Doctor George