Put It Off Or Jump In?

"Do the thing you fear," said David Schwartz, "and the fear will disappear." One reason is because once you've done it, there is nothing to fear. It's over. Another reason, of course, is that doing something scary and surviving usually makes you less scared to do it again.

This leads us to an important general principle: If you have something you know you need to do and you know you will have extra stress hormones while doing it, get it over with as quickly as possible. Don't put it off — try to beat your adrenal glands to the punch. Get to the relief-that-it's-over part as soon as you can.

Unless you can take some time to really think about it ahead of time and if you're pretty good at adopting non-anxious perspectives, then don't spend time "working up the courage." Get to it as soon as you can.

If you wait, if you put it off, you produce a certain amount of adrenaline while you wait because you keep thinking about the task you need to do and getting a jolt of stress hormones every time you think about it. If you jump right in and do it, of course your adrenaline might skyrocket, but it will be for a short time. Overall, you had to suffer much less fear. Your body doesn't get the chance to make as much adrenaline. You just saved yourself a lot of unnecessary suffering (and wear-and-tear on your body).

This basic philosophy was obvious as a kid growing up near the beach in California. My cousins and my brother and I spent a lot of time in the ocean. The water isn't that cold, but when you're skinny, wearing only swim trunks, and you're dry and warm, that water feels pretty darn cold.

We knew once we were in the water swimming around it wouldn't be so bad, but getting in was a shock to the body. We eventually learned the best way to do it was to run and jump in. If you slowly waded out, trying to get used to it, you suffered ten times more. You had to suffer a shock for every inch you got deeper into the water. When you jump in, you suffer only ten units of pain, but going in slowly, you suffer two units of pain per inch, so overall it's more like a hundred units of pain total: Much more suffering.

A friend of mine in South Carolina sent me this advice from down South:

Rule #1: If you gotta eat a frog, it's best to get it over with and do it first thing in the morning.

Rule #2: If you gotta eat two frogs, eat the biggest one first.

If you have a phone call you know you need to make and it produces anxiety, quickly pick up the phone and dial. Try to get to it before your adrenal glands even know what's going on. If it is something that you know you're going to do, jump right in.

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

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