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Burning up because you're asking too much of yourself

When things don't go well for us, we quickly tend to focus on what we can't do now. If life hadn't been so hard, your future might have looked different. Or, because of the current pain, you can't do what you used to do easily. Why do we do that? And how do you do it differently?

Targeted and negative

Our brain has two characteristics that have their pros and cons. The first is that we naturally strive for better and different. As a kind of survival instinct, it seems programmed in our brain that good is never good enough. There is always more to learn, a better condition or a leaner body possible. 

Another characteristic is that our brain focuses more easily on the negative. It's easy to think of what you don't have right now or what you want to get rid of. It takes a lot more energy and awareness to think about what you are happy or thankful for. Scientists think our brains do that because it used to help us survive better. By avoiding negative things, the chance of survival was greater than when you keep thinking about the things you are happy about. 


The problem of purposeful and negative

The disadvantage of a 'negative filtering' brain may be well imaginable. The chance of pain becomes greater if you end up in a negative spiral. Where negative thoughts and feelings start to dominate. In previous blogs I wrote about having fun and gratitude.

Then to the purposefulness. Being now is having goals, if you find them valuable, not a bad idea. The goal to do more sports can work fine. The annoying thing is, that a goal will work against you if you pursue something that you can't achieve now.

Suppose you want to build up your condition and start walking, despite your pain. If walking is difficult now, but you always have in mind that you eventually want to walk the 4-day walk, then this causes frustration. You come into a frustrated state where you are mainly focused on yourself and your performance. This makes the fun go away, making it difficult for you to maintain your ambitions. 

Negative self-talk

You notice yourself ending up in such a 'circle of frustration', when you 'have to' do all sorts of things with more and more negative feelings of yourself. You put yourself under negative pressure. Maybe you have negative thoughts like 'if I don't succeed in this I've really failed' or self-confidence like 'come on now.... Let's keep going. You used to be able to do this too, weakling. 

If you notice this, you're at the beginning of the end. Achieving forced goals from which all fun and relaxation has disappeared is not going to bring you much. Even if you achieve your 'goal' it is with so much negativity that your brain doesn't get much better from it. 


Searching for balance

There's nothing wrong with goals like the 4-day hike. The best way to behold such a goal is as a 'positive by-product'. Nice if it works out, but no problem if life turns out to be different. The 'real' goal is to have fun while doing the activities you value. Build quietly or in small steps on and focus on what you can do right now. See if you manage to carry out your activities as relaxed as possible. Chances are you'll make even faster progress.