(This blog was originally posted on January 7, 2016)
|Photo by Sara Fogan|
“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” – Unknown
When I studied in London during my junior year at college, one of my friends was fond of saying, “You have ages, yet,” to reassure me that I had plenty of time to complete an essay or project. She was right, of course: I typically started and completed essays as soon as the lecturer had assigned them. (That strategy was all the better for allowing enough time to do countless rewrites and edits, but that’s a topic for another essay.) Somehow, the deep timbre of her voice and calm way of delivering the statement always helped to take the pressure off. I knew that the only real pressure on me was what I was putting on myself. Without explicitly saying so, the statement reminded me that the more stressed-out and worked up I allowed myself to become about the assignment, the more “stuck” I became in my worrying—time would be better spent actually doing the work. Depending on the value of the assignment—weekly essay versus a term project—sometimes I had to repeat the mantra to myself (“I have ages, yet”) while I worked. But I always finished and turned in the essay on time and a little less stressed.
As I look back on those days, I can identify the different stages of repeated and learned behaviors that were going on, based on John Kappas, Ph.D.’s model for the Theory of Mind. Throughout our lifetime, starting from birth, we create and follow a subconscious mental script that dictates how we are likely to feel about and react to different situations. According to the Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder, these responses are based first on what we have modeled and learned from our primary caretaker(s); later, we start to model friends’ and colleagues’ behaviors. For example, I “learned” or model my behavior of taking copious notes during a class and re-copying (hopefully, neatly) them into a separate notebook, from watching my mother do this when she worked on her degree when I was a teenager. I also followed her example of further organizing the relevant information into a structured outline before I wrote the assignment. This process was followed with several edits and rewrites up until the morning the essay or project was due. That may have been my way of “flirting” with procrastination: During high school, one of the girls in my class was well-known for procrastination. Somehow, she was able to put off studying for a test or completing an assignment until the very last minute and still earned very good grades. Her behavior was drastically different from my (known) way of being a student and it ultimately proved too emotionally and physically stressful (e.g., procrastination=pain) for me to successfully imitate. I quickly returned to my own ways of studying.
However, my friend’s perception of time to complete an assignment was an epiphany for me. Perhaps she was able to influence my attitude and study behaviors because we were friends, which increased my suggestibility to her. I knew she worked very hard and was very good student; but she seemed to be better at balancing fun/relaxation with getting down to doing her work when an assignment was due or a test was looming. I envied and admired that talent, so I decided to adopt her perspective about time to see if it would help me relax a little more. I was sick of making myself sick and sleep-deprived as I rushed to complete a deadline I had actually met, several drafts ago.
It worked. Just the act of repeating her words—“You have ages, yet”—reminded me that I did have enough time to complete the project seemed to stretch time out a little bit. Without yet knowing the term “chunking it down” I was able to mentally prioritize what I needed to do to finish my work so I could get a good night’s sleep and go for a meal or to a movie with my friends. I could give myself permission to enjoy my time and experiences in a different country while I learned and achieved academic success there.
After all, I had ages to be able to do it all.
Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.