According to psychological research, the anticipation of an event is almost always more emotionally powerful than the event itself.
The dread of asking your boss for a raise is paralyzing and can last months. But once you convince yourself to finally do it, it’s over before you know it. The excitement of attaining some object or objective can become obsessive. But shortly after you obtain your desire, you’re bored and in search of something else. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a Cornell University psychologist.
Interestingly, your mind can seduce you so much so that the idea of something becomes more satisfying than the thing itself, so you stop at the idea and never make it real. That’s why in his new book, Ego Is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday explains that a primary obstacle to success is the idea of success.
It’s so easy to dream.
It’s easy to tell people about your ambitions.
It’s easy to create vision boards and write down your goals.
It’s easy to stand in front of a mirror and declare affirmations.
And that’s where most people stop.
The very act of dreaming stops you from achieving your dreams.
You’ve played it out in your mind with such intoxicating detail that you become satisfied enough. You become numb. And you deceive yourself into believing you’ve actually done something productive.
Consequently, when you attempt the activity itself, you immediately hit a stone wall of resistance. More often than not, you quickly distract yourself from the discomfort with some form of momentary pleasure. But as Robert Greene explains in his book Mastery, you can learn to love this internal resistance. In his words, “You find a kind of perverse pleasure in moving past the pain this might bring.”
In his book Living with a SEAL, Jesse Itzler tells the story of being inspired by a certain Navy SEAL and consequently inviting him to live at Itzler’s home for a month. Itzler admits to being in a personal rut and wanting to shake himself out of his routine.
Day 1: “SEAL” asks Itzler, “How many pullups can you do?” and Itzler squeaks out eight shaky pullups.
“Take 30 seconds and do it again,” SEAL says. Thirty seconds later, Itzler got on the bar and did six, struggling.
“Take 30 seconds and do it one more time,” SEAL says. Thirty seconds later, Itzler got on the bar and did three, at which point his arms were exhausted.
“All right, we’re not leaving here until you do 100 more,” SEAL states. To which a puzzled Itzler responds, “All right, we’re gonna be here a long time. Cause there’s no way I could do 100.” But he does, one pullup at a time. SEAL convinced Itzler that he could do way more than he thought he could.
The principle SEAL taught is what he calls the 40% rule, which essentially means when people feel maxed out mentally and physically, they stop, even though they are at only 40 percent of their actual capacity. Pushing past the 40 percent capacity is when it becomes uncomfortable. So SEAL’s mantra is this: “If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it.”