Do The Hardest Thing First
Doing the hardest thing first doesn’t mean doing the most physically difficult task. The hardest thing is the one you are most resisting. The one that fills you with dread. The one you’ve been avoiding. Yeah, that one.
The one that your gut tells you really matters but scares the living bejeezus out of you.
Or the thing you keep using as your excuse.
What is Your Hardest Thing? Or What Are You Most Resisting?
Somedays it is sending the uncomfortable email. Other days it is having a difficult conversation. Or letting go of the relationship that isn’t working. Or saying what you really mean even though you’re scared you’ll hurt the other person’s feelings.
Or it might be finishing the house project that has been bugging you for months. Or facing the reality of your financial situation. Or getting rid of the unneeded possesions you’ve been saving for “someday” but haven’t touched in years. It might mean putting your shoes on and heading out for a walk first thing in the morning because despite all your well-meaning intentions, you never do it when you get home from work.
Or it might mean writing word after word of your novel despite the ever-present “I don’t know what I’m doing” mantra thrumming in the background. Sometimes it means facing your fear of rejection and asking a friend to slow down and listen.
The Seductive “Keep You Safe at All Cost” Voice of Your Inner Critic
We have two voices inside of us. The first and often the most prominent is your inner critic. It is deep-rooted biological programming designed to keep you safe and accepted in the group. It is the one that tells you to keep your head down and your mouth shut. It wants you to embrace mediocrity. It is the voice that tells you, You’re not enough to do that thing you’ve always wanted to try because if you actually try that thing, you might get hurt. You might get rejected. You might fail.
The inner critic is the voice that can sound angry, harsh and judgmental. But it can also be sexy and seductive. Alluring. It is the one that says, “Dreams? Baby, let’s talk about those dreams of yours later. Until then, let’s numb out and surf the internet for a few more hours.”
If you get hurt, your inner critic failed. It likes failure just as much as NASA’s Gene Kratz.
The Wise Intuitive “You’ve Got This” Voice of Your Soul
The second voice is your wise, intuitive, deep in your gut, speaks-the-truth-of-your-soul voice. It is the one that whispers, You can do this. You’re able. It is the one that says, This thing that scares you is what you’re supposed to be doing even though you have no freakin idea how you’re going to pull it off. The one that says, It doesn’t matter if you fail, what matters is you went for it.
Your wise intuitive voice is the one that tells you: It is never too late to switch careers. You’re not too old to learn another language. These extra 30 pounds aren’t you and it is time to let them go.
Your wise intuitive voice is the one that says, It’ll work out. I’m here with you. Let’s do this.
Learn to Distinguish Your Inner Critic from Your Wise Intuitive Voice
Choosing to do the hardest thing first will cause your inner critic to go into hyperdrive. Learn to distinguish your inner critic from your wise intuitve voice. But don’t ignore your inner critic. The more you ignore it and pretend it isn’t there, the louder and more insistent it will become. Give it a seat at the table. Thank it for trying to protect you. You might want to give your inner critic a name. Then listen to the guidance of your wise, intuitive voice. This is the voice that will help you achieve your dreams.
Why Doing the Hardest Thing First Matters
1. Preserve Willpower. Willpower is a finite resource. Doing the hardest thing first will give you all of your willpower to complete the task. Saving it for later in the day when your willpower is depleted is like trying to run a marathon without eating breakfast. Ain’t gonna happen, Sweetheart.
2. Build Momentum. Completing the thing you are most resisting makes everything successively easier. It has a snowball effect.
3. Feel Proud of Yourself. Even if you only get the one hard thing done, you’ll know you’ve done it. Blow off the rest of the day and you still have a sense of accomplishment. You were successful. Celebrate. Reward yourself.
4. Expand Your Comfort Zone. Doing things that are hard and uncomfortable increases our comfort zone.
Bigger comfort zone = bigger life. [Tweet]
As astronaut Chris Hadfield shares in his TED talk about going blind in space:
You can fundamentally change your reaction to things so that it allows you to go places and see things and do things that otherwise would be completely denied to you …
Doing your hardest thing first will create breakthroughs. It allows the impossible to become possible. The uncomfortable becomes comfortable. Doing the hardest thing first is simple, not easy. But if you want to achieve your dreams, it is the only goal you need. Trust me, it’s worth it. I’m right here with you.
What insights have you had about doing your hardest thing first? Share in the comments.