Whenever we are engaged in an activity that we don’t want to do, we are acting in opposition to ourselves.
Part of our energy is going towards doing the activity.
And part of our energy is going towards resisting doing the activity.
This energy shows up in procrastination, inner disharmony, suppression activities (watching TV, drinking, addiction), anger, and depression. Sometimes it shows up as unconscious sabotage. This is what I call counter-intention.
In contrast, when you are doing something you love and believe in, you are fully engaged. Every part of you is into it, and you are happy. An incredible amount of joy, creativity, and productivity is possible from this place.
Now some of our counter-intention is resistance that comes from beliefs like “I don’t deserve to be successful” and “I’m not good enough”. But the kind of counter-intention I want to talk about right now is the kind that comes from the belief “I have to do this” or “I have no choice”.
This is never true.
We always have a choice.
Our mind has often been conditioned to believe we don’t. And that belief causes untold misery.
Because I detest misery, I have made a primary commitment to myself to eliminate all activities I do not truly want to participate in. This includes:
- not meeting with people I am not interested in meeting with
- not picking up the phone if I don’t feel like talking on it
- not going to social events if I am not into them
So you might say “well, but there are some things you just have to do.” Like your taxes. Like your laundry.
Yes and no. If you think about just how much resistance you have to certain tasks, and how much of your life energy and time you are wasting just in resistance–you may find the motivation to find another way to get those things done.
For years I’ve hardly ever met with my web design clients in person or talked to them on the phone.
Now, how can that be? I run a web design business and it’s kind of standard practice to have face to face meetings with your clients.
Well first, I primarily attract them through search engines, so they are usually web-oriented. So my chosen marketing method attracts the kinds of people who like to work primarily through web and email. That works for me.
I have a huge amount of internal resistance to the whole ritual of meeting with clients. So I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to volunteer to do that unless I really felt like it. Sometimes I would if the client seemed fun (if I thought I would have a good time). If they seemed like a client that wants to have a lot of meetings, I steered them somewhere else because I knew I would be unhappy (and my resistance would show).
For a long time I had a jackal that said there was something wrong with me for not wanting to do client meetings. Even writing it here I feel a little nervous–what will people think? But the bare truth is they just aren’t fun for me. I’m an introvert, and I don’t think well on my feet, and it’s like a mini-interview. I’m not at my best.
So, have I turned away business that I could have gotten if I’d been more willing to do in-person meetings? Yes. Could I have missed meeting some interesting people by doing them? Possibly. BUT–is the energy and joy I reclaimed by saying no to an activity that I had a huge amount of resistance around insanely worth it? YES!
Here are some things I get to say YES to by saying no to things I don’t want to do:
- lying in bed till noon thinking of cool ideas about what I want to do with my businesses and what the spiritual purpose of life is
- going to lunch and hanging out with my friends
- writing in my journal and my blog
- making art
- working on passive income strategies
- producing great work for my clients
- going to personal growth workshops
- going for walks in the park
Another area I say no to is deep cleaning my house. $40/month for one hour every two weeks is entirely worth it to me. Do I have to pay for that? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. It’s my choice.
How much energy are you spending resisting, procrastinating, and arguing with yourself?
What do you currently make yourself do?
First just accept that you just don’t like doing this activity. For me, for instance, a major one is exercise. I hate it. Treadmills, weight-lifting, it’s all ick. I feel sad sometimes and do wish I had more aliveness in my body that I know would come from moving my body more. But until I find a form of exercise I can wholeheartedly say YES to, I’m just not willing to force myself to do something I hate. I won’t do that to myself anymore.
So you might not be entirely happy with the things you don’t like doing. But this is you. And you’re OK. You don’t have to like it. And it’s OK to find some other way for it to get done. Get support. Ask for help. Delegate or outsource it. Or just say no, this is not something I offer.
Self-acceptance is a major key to happiness.
If you can’t accept what makes you happy, you’ll never give it to yourself. If you can’t accept what doesn’t make you happy, you’ll keep forcing it on yourself and stay unhappy.
Next ask yourself what you truly love (and it’s OK if you don’t know the full answer yet–I’m still figuring that out too!). Now imagine if you had all of your energy directed just towards that. What could you accomplish? How much fun would you have? How much would your heart sing every day just to be alive?
Now ask yourself, do I really have to do that thing I hate? If someone was holding a gun to my head, could I figure out some other way for that to get done?
Now think about that gun. Imagine you are killing a part of yourself (the part of you that wants to have fun and enjoy life) every time you do that task you hate and tell yourself you have to do it.
That’s really what I believe happens. I believe we suppress parts of ourselves that are honestly saying “no, I don’t like this” and we endure it because we think we have to. But we don’t. We always have a choice.
I’ve been dedicated over the past 5 years to eliminating anything I was “enduring” and doing only what truly was alive for me. It’s a practice that is completely worth it.
There are still things I do that I don’t completely love every second. But I don’t have that soul-grinding internal resistance anymore, because I just say no to doing those things. I make a conscious choice about where I spend my energy, because it is my very aliveness that I’m talking about. I will not tell myself “I have to do x” because that is a lie, and when we lie to ourselves in that way it creates an internal schism that causes depression and illness. Our souls know we are free. We just need to listen!
Lastly, I trust myself that I’m working to get things in place so I don’t have to do any remaining tasks I don’t truly enjoy (ie finding a bookkeeper). That trust is essential. There is something that happens when you make an internal commitment to no longer participate in your own oppression. Other people may have their ideas of what you should do, but you know in your heart that only you decide what you are going to do. This is an inner independence that is essential to happiness and to personal power. And it’s something you choose for yourself. You develop it out of your own will. It’s a personal and internal decision to value yourself and your life energy. It’s a decision you make to be your own friend rather than your own oppressor.
And what follows is a commitment to give yourself everything you need to be fully alive and happy. And that’s another post!
Emma, this article really speaks to me. I struggle with the belief that I can’t make enough money doing what I truly love to do, which is to be creative, artistic and make the world a better place.
I am working to let go of this belief but it is a practice for me. What has really helped me is surrounding myself with a spiritual community who looks me in the eye and truly believes I can be and do what I love to be and do.
Awesome. I love that you write about spiritual community–that’s something I am working on building for myself. That reinforcement sounds wonderful.
I agree wholeheartedly with this post. Unfortunately I’m not that great at putting it into practice just yet.
I too have a list of things I cannot stand, yet still force myself to do them. I always hear a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I’m not up to par, if I don’t suffer and do things I can’t stand, on a daily basis.
I’m not fond of the telephone, for instance. I have hundreds of clients, many of whom want to call me on a regular basis, even for the smallest things. This problem is two fold: one, I have a terrible memory and can’t remember what was said, 10 minutes after I hang up. Email remedies this. Two, I find that people tend to drag their conversation out, telling me all sorts of things that really aren’t relevant to the topic/problem at hand, wasting my time. With email, I can skim through this. I feel super guilty “hiding behind email”, but it’s just how I am…it’s what works for me.
Sometimes I feel like my entire life is a battle of what that little voice in my head tells me I *should* do, versus what I want to do. I have a long ways to go…
Yeah, I hear you on the phone. You’re not alone, lots of people are saying this nowadays, especially people who do a lot of emailing.
There are a couple of ways to reduce phone traffic:
1. Screen your calls and respond via email. I do this for people who ramble. I will write, after a few hours, “I got your voicemail. Here is what I think …”. Usually after a few times at this they get the hint that you prefer email. Voicemail transcription and caller-ID greatly aid this strategy.
2. Be up-front with clients at the beginning about how you prefer working via email for specifics and why.
3. If someone says they work mostly over phone, let them know you aren’t a good fit to work together because your working styles don’t mesh.
But the bottom line of course is that you have to be firm, and what helps this is the certain knowledge that there is nothing wrong with preferring one mode of communication to another.
Your words really helped me get relieved.
I was raised by parents who believe self-sacrifice, either for our own longtime happiness or for those important ones, is just part of the life. Therefore every moment I struggled with my work and study, I chose to take on any challenges, ignoring my inner voice, which is constantly trying to weaken my willingness, take away my creativity and joy. I also feared of failure, which I think everybody thinks is the proof for incapability, no tenacity.
I would try to avoid things I don’t feel like to do from now on, if completely eliminating such activities is not that easy.
This truly resonates with me and I really appreciate to find this article at last !
I’ve been struggling with my beliefs about forcing myself for years now and I’ve been trying to get rid of them since a few months. It’s really hard to do that though but I’m receiving a lot of help from protectors and this article is definitely part of that help, thanks a lot for sharing that amazing point of view !
You’re welcome Lucie!
You literally wrote everything i’m feeling. I say NO to any and everything that i dont want to do.
People think i’ve changed or in depressed- i’ve never felt more alive.
Thank you for this post. It made me realize that there are different reasons behind a counter-intention. I thought I had to say no, more times. Turns out that the source of my problem is not with the things I don’t want to do, it’s expressed here:
“Now some of our counter-intention is resistance that comes from beliefs like “I don’t deserve to be successful” and “I’m not good enough””
Thank you for clearing that up in the beginning.
Thank you so much for writing this post. For the longest time, I had been pointing to things and saying to myself, “That looks good to other people. I’ll be that.” And it took me down a very bad path. When I let it all go, though, such a weight was lifted! And then I began to wonder to myself what exactly it was about forcing myself to do things that I hate that is so much worse than even just finding a boring job and doing that. But, you’re right. There’s some sort of internal conflict, a schism, and a person comes to be at war with him or herself.
Again, thank you for writing this.
I totally needed to hear this. I’m struggling with internal conflict and whenever i try to search for articles i just find omes that tell me about how i shouldnt be unhappy about it or how i just have to push through the discomfort. You see, a few years i found a passion for martial arts. I was very fit and trained almost daily. And i loved it. But unfortunately i found a teacher who criticized me a lot and put me down and made me feel like i “had” to train and i found this quite oppressive and damaging to my psyche. As a result, I quit. I didn’t like being treated this day. But ever since I have found it very difficult to train because everytime i want to i feel horrible. I feel forced and very guilty for training, for not training well enough, for not training at all. So i stop training and then i feel guilty for that… i need someone to tell me that it’s ok that i don’t train perfectly or that i don’t need to train… i just need to do what feels right for me. I need to heal from the mental and emotional damage that my former teacher has put on me, but before i do that i need someone to tell me that it’s ok that i dont train super hard and everyday. I swear, he made me feel like if i didnt spend every second of my time and every bit of my energy training, then it wasn’t good enough. I need to hear more of your beautiful words. It’s very wise because i do force myself to train and im not fully engaged and i do it just to “get it out of the way”, whereas in the past i was entirely immersed in my training and it gave me a very spiritual experience. Now i just feel tension in my muscles like my muscles are screaming at me to stop because it feels like i am being emotionally punished. I just wish i could heal from this.
Sorry it took me so long to respond. That is a difficult experience but it is possible to heal from it. You wrote in your comment, “i need someone to tell me that it’s ok that i don’t train perfectly or that i don’t need to train… i just need to do what feels right for me”. This is exactly right, and the only thing you are missing is that you can do this for yourself. You can tell yourself this message, every day. You can be the advocate for your needs that you want someone else to be. And while that can sound like “not as good” as someone else saying it to you, the good part is that you are always with you, always available, and you can give yourself this message anytime you need it.
The other thing that is important is to fully process the experiences of abuse from your old trainer. He was in a position of power relative to you as his student, and he abused that power. Abuse of power creates a deep wound, and you need to validate to yourself the seriousness of what you experienced. Abuse of power takes our vulnerable need to have someone to trust and believe in and follow and turns it against us. Instead of the affirmation and support you needed, you got criticism and put downs. This landed even more deeply because of the trust you put in him as a teacher. This experience has to be fully acknowledged and grieved before its lingering effects will dissipate. The depth of the wound in no way means you can’t heal from it, but it does mean the grieving and acknowledgement has to be deep as well.
Finally, you need to deeply acknowledge that it wasn’t your fault. When bad things happen to us that seem inexplicable (why on Earth would a teacher treat you that way?), our mind can decide it’s our fault. To try to prevent ourselves from being hurt in the same way again, we take responsibility for someone else’s behavior–behavior we had nothing to do with and was out of our control. This is our mind trying to protect us and trying to make life more predictable by imagining we have control over others behavior. Unfortunately it can lead to guilt and compulsive behavior you are experiencing. Some part of your mind is saying, ‘If only I had trained harder, this wouldn’t have happened’. It is trying to retroactively prevent the abuse by appeasing the person who hurt you. Part of the grief and healing process then is to acknowledge to yourself that you had no control over he behaved and it wasn’t your fault. Let go of feeling responsible or any idea that you could have made it turn out differently.
I hope these suggestions resonate and are helpful. If not, that’s OK, you can still heal and find the meaning of your internal behavior and struggle by listening deeply to yourself. The internal struggle is just your inner self trying to process this emotional trauma. If you listen with compassion to each voice they will tell you of their pain and sorrow, and listening will help them heal. Sometimes it can help to identify the voices, such as “The one who wants me to keep training hard”, “The one who wants me to be nice to myself”. The important thing to remember is that ALL these voices are parts of you and doing their best to look out for you the best they know how. If you listen with curiosity and try to empathize with their point of view, they will trust your intention and open up to you and that will start the healing process. I do this inner dialog process in my journal and it always helps.
Every wound contains a gift. The wisdom that is gained from healing from abuse of power is reclaiming your own power of discernment in deciding for yourself what is right for you and rejecting what is not right. Seeking healing and to have a more compassionate relationship with yourself is a step towards claiming that wisdom for yourself. Just keep going and you’ll get there!
I am struggling to finish an exam that I truly don’t want to do because I just want to give up. I am struggling becAuse I chose to take a leave of absence to complete this program. I was wanting to make more because I did not get promoted in my current role and I was rushing to get everything done. I just wanted to start a family with my partner…. it is the most horrifying feeling right now.
I showed that I did not value my health over money and I really hate it for that. I was not content and i blame myself.
I was not brought up to value myself. My mother was depressed and never emotionally supported me. My father passed away when I was young. I have no idea what I am worth.
I am really sad inside. I keep getting into relationships and I depend on them to make me happy. I just don’t know how to get myself out of this mess.
That is why I am trying to. Finish off this exam but I really just want to cry
My heart goes out to you as it sounds like you’re really struggling. It’s great that you reached out, because asking for help is a crucial part of recovery.
Here are some thoughts for your situation – please take what is useful to you and disregard anything that isn’t. The only authority on what you need is yourself.
First, it’s OK to be sad. When we grow up in an environment that doesn’t meet our needs, there is a lot of grief that needs to be processed to heal from it. So please, let yourself cry. Crying is a natural process that helps us heal from our wounds.
Second, it’s up to you to treat yourself better now. Nobody will be able to give you a sense of worth, but the good news is you can create it for yourself. It starts with a choice to treat yourself well. That includes not beating yourself up for mistakes. Every mistake is a learning opportunity and you can decide to look at it that way. Take each mistake, decide what you have learned from it, grieve any losses, and then decide to let it go. That way you are not carrying around your past with you. You are learning from everything, and moving forward with each new choice.
Lastly, your desires are OK. It’s ok to want more money. It’s ok to want to start a family. It’s ok to try something and later change your mind because it didn’t go as expected. All of that is OK.
Regarding your exam, only you know what is right for you–whether your resistance is your heart saying you made the wrong choice and you need to re-evaluate, or if it’s asking you to take care of yourself so you have the energy to finish the path you chose. You are the only one who can truly understand yourself, love yourself, and give you what you need. And the beautiful thing is that you can do exactly that. You can start loving yourself exactly the way you need to be loved, right now.
Thank you Emma for all the great articles!
I really like this article, I think I’m convinced I should find an alternative to using social media.
Because I’m an artist trying to make a career out of what I do, but one think I can’t stand, but I do it somewhat half-heatedly anyway, is engaging in Social Media. It feels so fake. Just promote, promote, and hope for the best. I hate doing it, and it always drains my spirit. Like yesterday, I was just painting for about 6 hours, quite happy and content, then after lunch, I did some SM checklist works, basically sharing some images on facebook, using twitter a bit, ect…I abhor it. But I feel like it’s simply necessary. I really wish there we’re another way. I actually prefer physical interaction, but on he other hand, very soon I’ll be opening my online shop for people to buy prints. It seems every business requires and uses social media. I’ve tried to force myself to use it in a myriad of alternate ways, trying to find joy in it. Maybe I would if I had separate motivation outside of getting attention to my artwork, but I don’t. Pandering to people, constantly tweeting, engaging with people online, it all feels so fake and I hate doing it. The only problem is, I don’t really know if there is an online alternative, in my case. I like blogging (or writing) actually, but not constantly, and at my own rate. Like I’m working on a short story I will post, I put some poetry on there, but I recently blogged on art feature (other artists) that I really didn’t want to do, the only reason I did it was to have arbitrary activity on my SM platforms, to have something to share. Just meh, the act/goal of gaining followers alludes me. The only think I could do is use SM in a light, half-hearted manner, just sharing my new photos of my art on InstaGram and such. But actually committing to anything like a campaign, and actually engaging with my audience? F that, that sounds horrible to me, personally.
You might like Pinterest better. It’s technically “social media” but it’s really more of a visual search engine. You don’t have to do any social engagement, it’s more about producing visual content that people want to collect & share. There is a strategy to it, but it’s not a social strategy, it’s more about consistency and brand alignment. TailWind is an app that lets you pin in advance so you don’t have to do it every day. Anyway, just an idea, if it’s mostly the social part you don’t like. If it’s promotion in general…I hear you, the best I’ve come up with to make it fun is making a game out of the numbers.
Thank you so much for the article, it saved me from forcing myself to get a job just because my family wanted me to, a decision that I could have been regretting to this day and that could have made my life and health so much worse.
Awesome! Do what you love to and always be true, do what makes you happy and puts a smile on you because you only live once and there is no time to waste so focus on what you enjoy and your dreams you should chase!+??+