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Spiral Staircase

How to Keep Your Enthusiasm Spiraling Upward

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: brownpau
You’ve probably been there more than once – high on enthusiasm, you leapt into a project only to encounter barrier after barrier – and down the spiral you tumbled… Uh oh.

Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do you know how to renew your enthusiasm after you’ve taken a tumble? Getting going again after a disappointment, finding the next up-step after tumbling backward, accepting blue funks and moving through them anyway – these all could be so much easier if we just knew how to renew our precious but fragile enthusiasm.

The future is called ‘perhaps,’ which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you.

— Tennessee Williams

The future can be especially scary if the latest barrier that’s sent you tumbling downward, heart and soul into the abyss, also launches you into a spate of catastrophizing.

You know the drill: Suddenly you’re imagining – no, make that CONVINCED – that your entire future hinges on this latest failure to succeed, that the sky is falling and everything else in your life is collapsing under its weight! Down, down the slippery slope you slide, crashing right through disappointment and into depression!

That’s when it’s important to remind yourself. Perhaps all that catastrophizing is right and true. Then again, perhaps it’s not.

What If…

You might think that learning not to catastrophize would make life easier but there is a time when catastrophizing-on-purpose can be a good thing – that would be before you leap into a new venture, not after a fall.  Elizabeth Buie of Luminize Consulting advises:

We must catastrophize.

… Only by knowing what the potential problems are can we prevent them. We must look to the future and anticipate all the things that [could] go wrong.

Why? So we can plan for the “best” course of action plus prepare a Plan B. And inform our consciousness that, even in the event of “failure,” there are still some kernels of hope and opportunity.

No matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. So what if my stroke left me with a speech impediment? Moses had one, and he did all right.

— Kirk Douglas

How to Renew Your Enthusiasm Even as You Tumble…

When you’ve done your catastrophizing after the fact, when you’ve started spiraling down, then what?  Bill White of Chipur.com offers eight ways to fight the depressing effects of catastrophizing; I’ll share three and encourage you go to his blog to learn the rest:

Once you understand the dynamics involved in catastrophizing, your life instantly becomes a whole lot easier. I pound this point home time and again: Understanding why we feel, think, and behave as we do is insight. And between insight and its generated hope, 3/4 of the battle is won… Ways to Fight:

  • Believe that 99.9% of the time, “What Ifs?” and worst case scenarios never occur.
  • Learn how to observe your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors – viewing and receiving them as an outsider…
  • As catastrophes occur – pause. And with insight, move forward with your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors within the context of reality.

And once you’re aware that you’ve catastrophized yourself into a depressingly downward spiral, challenge all the negative beliefs that your musings have unearthed – you have to decide whether you’re better off believing or not.

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.

— Nido Qubein

To help you challenge all the negativity that your catastrophizing has dredged up, I’d like to direct you to a post that I wrote a long time ago – well, maybe not so very long ago: Optimism is as easy as A-B-C. But, just in case you don’t have time right now to go there (after all, the sky is falling…) here are the absolute key ideas you need to know to get you grounded again:

  • If the consequences of believing your dire conclusions are unacceptable, then distract yourself from spiraling into the negative consequences by mentally shouting, STOP!
  • Then dispute the veracity of your negative beliefs.
  • Once you begin to realize that you can doubt and dispute your negative beliefs, then you can energize yourself and find positive ways to bounce back from the barrier that first sent you tumbling.

Nurture Yourself a Bit…

Ok, so now that you’ve self-talked yourself back into a balanced state of mind with feet planted solidly on the next upward step – take a few moments to nurture your spirit… reacquaint yourself with that happy place in your heart where enthusiasm grows.

While we are focusing on fear, worry, or hate, it is not possible for us to be experiencing happiness, enthusiasm or love.

— Bo Bennett

In her post, 100 Ways to Nurture Yourself, Meg of DemandingJoy.com comments:

Probably the most important component to demanding your joy is learning to take excellent care of yourself – mind, body, and spirit. Think of caring for yourself as if you were your own child – giving to yourself at least as much as you give to others. You are worth it! Like joy itself, self-nurturing comes in many little bits.

Here are a few of Meg’s 100 self-nurturing bits for your consideration:

  • Take a walk without a destination. – It’s a great way to get some exercise and clear your mind. Be mindful of what you see, hear and feel.
  • Write in a journal. – Write anything that calls you. Ideas, experiences, dreams, frustrations – get them out of your head and down on paper.
  • List the things that you’re grateful for. – You can’t help but feel better when you literally count your blessings.
  • List the things that you like about yourself. – We can all list the things that we don’t like about ourselves. Turn that around and think about your many positive qualities.
  • Create something. – Many of us have gotten away from actually making things. Create some artwork. Write something. Build something. Make something that didn’t exist before. It can be functional or frivolous – as long as you enjoy the process.
  • Write your own rock star introduction. – Image you’re on tour with thousands of screaming fans.  How will you be introduced?  “Please welcome the brilliant, the amazing, the gorgeous…you!”

Now that you’ve nurtured yourself, pledge to nurture your enthusiasm – you need it to carry you up, Up UP!

Enthusiasm normally manifests itself with all of its force during the first years of our lives… We lose enthusiasm because of the small unavoidable defeats we suffer during the good fight.  And since we don’t realize that enthusiasm is a major strength, able to help us win ultimate victory, we let it dribble through our fingers; we do this without recognizing that we are letting the true meaning of our lives escape us.

— Paul Coelho
from The Pilgrammage

The next time you’re about to slip-slide into a downward spiral, remember that your enthusiasm can be renewed! Keep the faith.

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