A Lesson from Death Slides on Getting Stuff Done
When I was a kid, I had a love-hate relationship with death slides.
See, I liked to think that I’d do pretty much anything – jump out of a plane, swim with sharks, eat frogs legs. I liked to think I was different from those wimpy people who didn’t try stuff.
(Now though, I know that I hate that falling feeling you get from vertical drops on roller-coasters, so jumping out of a plane would be a stupid idea. I dread to think what my ten year old self would think.)
But, aside from the frogs legs (which I did try, much to the disgust of my frog-loving sister), the closest I came to being a daredevil was perching at the top of death slides.
Thinking about it now, ‘death slide’ is an odd name for something usually found in kids’ indoor play areas. And just in case you’re not with me, a death slide is a slide which pretty much goes straight down to start off with. Like this:
I’d be adamant that I was brave enough to push myself over the edge and fly down to the bottom, grinning at my daredevilry (I thought I’d coined a new word there but apparently someone beat me to it. Boo.).
But, each time, I’d end up sitting at the top, my legs dangling over the edge, watching as tiny, barely-even-able-to-walk child after tiny, barely-even-able-to-walk child flung itself over the edge.
I’d peer down, and try to get my head around just how steep the drop was. I’d wonder if my bum would stay on the slide as I went down, or if I’d essentially fall to start off with. I’d wonder if I’d get a bruise or a burn.
My parents, sister and friends would call me, telling me I could do it, that I’d done it before. And, every now and then, I’d get a surge of confidence in my tummy, and start lowering myself over the edge. But then I’d get a surge of fear, panic, and pull myself back up.
And so I’d sit there. Chickening out again and again.
But I couldn’t go home without doing it.
If my parents called to say we were going, I panicked. But this was a different sort of panic. I had to do it NOW.
And you know what?
I’m pretty sure I managed it every time. Because I would have been disgusted with myself if I’d wimped out completely.
But wow! The stress and the time wasting!
How much time did I waste in those indoor play areas, panicking at the top of those slides?! All the time, I could have been hiding in the ball pool, beating up punch bags, or pretending to play Gladiators. What a waste!
Whether I went down the slide as soon as I arrived, or waited at the top til the end of our trip, I went down the slide. But when I waited til the end, I sacrificed fun elsewhere in the play area, and felt rubbish for pretty much the whole time. What was the point in putting it off?!
My problem was overthinking.
The longer I sat there, the scarier the slide became. Once I’d done it once, doing it again wasn’t a problem – I didn’t need to sit there and think about what might happen.
By letting myself imagine everything that could possibly go wrong, I was scaring myself, and making it a bigger deal than it actually was. Those little kids probably didn’t even realise that they could hurt themselves by going down it, and so they weren’t scared.
I’ve been having a similar problem recently.
(Though I haven’t been on a death slide in yearrrrrs.)
This story isn’t quite as daredevil-ish, but the showers at home haven’t been working recently, so we’ve been having to have baths. But who feels like a bath at 7am in the morning? Persuading myself to get out of my warm, cosy bed and plonk myself into a bath at that time in the morning has not been easy.
It’s the same with just getting up. If I have to get up super early, and I lie in bed thinking about how tired I am, it’s going to be a long time before I haul myself out of there.
But if I don’t think, it’s over before I know it.
If I wake up, and leap out of bed before the words ‘I don’t want to’ have even run through my head, I’ve skipped the miserable moany bit, and succeeded without any pain.
If I don’t lie in bed, thinking about how long it will take to run the bath, and how horrible it will feel when I step out of the bath, dripping and cold, and don’t let my brain go there, I can’t get hung up on how much I might not like it.
If I’d just climbed up to the slide, sat down, and pushed myself over the edge whilst thinking about ice cream or something, I wouldn’t have been able to get scared that I might bruise my bum.
I’m trying to use this approach at the moment.
If I find myself laying in bed, thinking about the work I’ve got to do that day, and how much I can’t be bothered to do it, I make myself stop. I get up, or pick up some work and start, or distract myself in some other way, before the dread can build up and become more than it needs to be. (Don’t get me wrong – I don’t do this EVERY TIME yet, but I’m working on it.)
Whenever you know there’s something you don’t want to do, but that you’ll have to do eventually,
- just do it,
- make yourself stop thinking about it at all (don’t even try and convince yourself that it’ll be fine), or
- think about or do something completely different until it’s time.
Do that a few times, and see how much less painful annoying tasks become.
How else do you get yourself to do things you don’t want to do?
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