Use Your Enthusiasm Wisely

I was going to ask you how to lose 10 kilos and keep it off. I would also like to ask you how I could manage to have long term relationships (platonic and business not just romantic). I would also like to know how I could sustain interest in hobbies or work. But I realise that I have one basic problem and that’s what I’d like you to help me fix. I don’t know how to have a balanced life. It is all or nothing. I go through periods of eating what I like and being a slob and then I become obsessed with diets and calories and run marathons to lose the weight, but I am never able to just maintain the weight loss. I love my friends, colleagues and partners so much at first and then suddenly I’m “over” them. I become obsessed with new jobs or other activities for a while (doing nothing else) and then stop doing them completely. I wish I could manage to enjoy people, interests, food and exercise without going overboard. Please help me.

You have a lot of enthusiasm for “new” things, which is great.  There is nothing wrong with enthusiasm.  It is a wonderful stimulant, motivator and activator.  The secret with enthusiasm is how to make it last, or how not to use it all up at once, and then lose interest completely in the trigger that caused the enthusiasm in the first place.  It’s important for you to understand that none of these new interests, goals, people or pleasures are the cause of your “going overboard”.  They are only ever just the current focus, or the outlet for your enthusiastic bursts. The only way to regain any kind of control over the pressure of your tap is first by being aware, and then by choosing to moderate your responses.

You need to watch your reactions.  Be aware of the feelings these external stimulants arouse in you and watch how you react to those feelings. As you notice the first little bursts of energy, feel yourself getting carried away and visualize your internal enthusiasm-o-meter rising fast.  Feel yourself getting caught up in the momentum as your enthusiasm and need for immediate action takes hold. At the same time as your enthusiasm-o-meter races towards the “red zone”, visualize your energy levels dropping fast, (like the mercury in a thermometer), as you head towards the “burn-out zone”.

This process may accumulate over several days or weeks and may not be obvious at first.  The increases in enthusiasm may be slow or fluctuating, but just notice the changes you are feeling in mood and any changes in your behavior.   At first just watch it. Don’t try to change it, just let it run its course and be the witness to your own crash and burn.

Next time, watch it again as it begins, takes hold and heads towards the “crash zone”.  Notice the point at which you feel you are no longer in control and that you are running on impulsive, automatic need, as opposed to steady, calm, clear-headed decision making. Do regular spot-checks. Ask yourself “Am I getting carried away?” “Are my expectations of this solution/person/my own ability  unrealistic?” “Will I be able to sustain this momentum?” If you notice you are no longer asking yourself this regularly, there is a good chance you have stopped being aware and are no longer in control.  Notice this too. Identify the point where you stop making rational decisions and begin to act on impulse.

Watch very closely how your behavior changes past this point. What are the common sign posts? Is this a familiar path? Where does it lead?  Over time you will see the pattern repeating as it begins and you will get to know “the warning signs”.

Remember to monitor your enthusiasm-o-meter and energy thermometer when you notice these first warning signs and then try to moderate your enthusiasm output and energy consumption to maintain yourself within the “safe zone” or at a speed you can maintain and feel comfortable in.  The ideal efficient zone for optimum performance is a smooth cruising speed.  Decide where that is for you, and make this your goal. You may not be able to control the conditions of the road or the impact of the obstacles, but you can control your speed and your corrective responses.

Don’t be too hard on yourself whenever you notice that you are “doing it again”. So many people do it.  Humans are real suckers for novelty, and not so good at long-term commitment.  It’s normal, in varying degrees, but in your case it may be a bit more extreme.

Use your enthusiasm wisely.  It is a useful tool, but save it for when you really need it.

The Spark

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