My Medium column this week talks about “A mental trick to make any task less intimidating.” That is a click-bait headline for sure (maybe it should have been “one weird mental trick…”) but here’s the idea. Whenever you’re facing something that seems a bit intimidating, picture yourself on the other side. When one of my kids wanted to ride a particular roller coaster, but was struggling with losing his nerve, I noted that it would be over in less than 2 minutes. Even if it was terrible…it was only 2 minutes. Whereas if he didn’t do it, he’d spend a lot more than 2 minutes debating that choice on the ride home!
Picturing ourselves on the other side is good for discipline — you can picture yourself on the other side of that cold morning run, elated and on a runner’s high. That image can help nudge you out the door. But it’s also good for happiness. As with the roller coaster example, sometimes we don’t do things because they seem challenging in the moment. But if you are excited about doing something, most likely you will be happy to have done it. You just have to overcome a little inertia (or sometimes a little anxiety) in the process.
In the second half of the column, I used the example of going to a downtown outdoor ice rink. That might have seemed random, but in fact I wrote the column as a reminder for me. I’d bought timed tickets to take the big kids to an outdoor rink on the river in Philly on Friday afternoon. It seemed like a cool adventure, but then there were various things in the moment that made me tempted to…not do it.
For starters, our original skating time (4:00 p.m.) was canceled due to a snow storm. The rink said we could reschedule or they would honor our tickets later in the evening. Going in the evening seemed easiest, but that meant I was going to be driving downtown on newly snowy, icy roads in the dark. Not my favorite! Also, I learned to drive in Indiana, so urban parking just makes me anxious. Where can I park? Will my car fit? There was going to be the rigamarole of getting four kids in rented ice skates, and I haven’t ice skated in years, so was I going to fall down and hurt myself?
This all seemed like a lot of bother in the moment. But I figured that by 9:30 p.m., we’d be home. And since it sounded like fun when I booked the tickets, most likely we would be happy to have been ice skating.
And sure enough, that is what happened. To be sure, the experience was not pure bliss. For starters, Google maps took us to the bus circle over the ice skating rink — you can get down on foot, but not by car! So we had to circle back through downtown to wind up at “sea level” as it were. I feel like several of my children are old enough to have required less help lacing up their ice skates than they did.
But! Once we were on the ice it was a lot of fun. After a snowy day, the night was nice, the lights were twinkly, the air crisp. We skated for about an hour and I drove home feeling like I had conquered a mountain — a sense of triumph that was enough to take me through an unexpected detour (power line work on the main road home).
The kids enjoyed it so much that we wound up reserving more tickets for the remaining weeks the rink is open. So we’ll have more outdoor winter adventures to look forward to. Good that I pictured myself on the other side.