I was recently watching an episode of Doctor Who that I had not yet seen. For any fans, it’s the episode titled, “The Eleventh Hour.” The first episode after Matt Smith has taken over as The Doctor and Amelia Pond is meeting him for the second time, having first met him when she was a child. The world is ending in twenty minutes and The Doctor, as usual, is trying to save it. However, Amelia thinks that The Doctor may just be a figment of her imagination. She’s convinced she’s losing her mind so, in an attempt to give herself more time to sort it out, she closes The Doctor’s tie in a car door and locks it, essentially holding him captive. The Doctor, urgently trying to free himself, tells Amelia, “Just believe me for twenty minutes.” And it works. She lets him go and (spoiler) they save the earth, once again.
Just believe for twenty minutes. That phrase really stood out to me and I found myself imagining the different ways in which I could apply it to my own life.
Self doubt comes to mind first. In any situation where we are unsure of our abilities, couldn’t we choose to believe in ourselves for just a short time? To believe for even just twenty minutes? Just long enough to avoid 20 minutes of anxiety or to get the ball rolling on a new way of viewing ourselves.
I don’t recall where I learned it but, somewhere along the way, someone taught me to break up large tasks into smaller ones to make them more manageable. One way to do this is with time. Tell yourself you’re going to spend just 30 minutes (or 20 or 60) on a task, rather than committing to the entire task, just to get yourself started. More often than not, once you’ve started, you keep going and you get a lot more done than you would have had you avoided the task altogether. The worst case scenario being that you worked on the task for the amount of time you committed to, which is still not a bad scenario.
Couldn’t we apply this same concept to how we feel about ourselves or feel about our abilities to give us just enough empowerment to take action? What if instead of avoiding creating that budget, starting that business you’ve been dreaming of, writing that blog post, or asking out that friendly barista, we told ourselves that we are capable and we are worthy for just a short time. Maybe it’s not possible to believe in ourselves all of the time but pretty much anything can be believed for a short time. When we watch sci-fi or fantasy movies (most movies really), we suspend our disbelief for 90 minutes on average. Why not suspend our disbelief in ourselves for just 20 minutes at a time? Over time, getting used to what it feels like to trust ourselves, we would then have the ability to suspend our disbelief for longer and longer periods of time. Maybe even believing in ourselves more often than doubting ourselves.
Envision what a different life we’d lead if we imagined ourselves into doing things we would normally visualize ourselves too shy or unintelligent or too old or too fat to do. We would start to challenge our long held beliefs about ourselves and about our place in the world just through sheer imagination. If we can imagine or believe ourselves into NOT taking charge of our lives, into staying in our current, inhibiting patterns, routines and habits, then we can most definitely imagine ourselves into DOING what we have always wanted rather than just wishing for it. We hear over and over again that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. That trying and failing is still success versus not trying at all. But so many things still seem out of reach for many of us. We hold ourselves back. We procrastinate. We tell ourselves, even if in subtle subconscious ways, that we don’t know what we’re doing. We convince ourselves that we will always struggle with money, that we will always struggle with weight/health or with relationships or with all of the above. Yet, for many of us, there are no physical barriers holding us back, only mental ones. So if we can imagine ourselves into a life that we don’t fully love, that means we can CHOOSE to imagine ourselves into a life that we WANT to live. We can imagine ourselves taking first steps without knowing the outcome and imagine ourselves being healthy enough to cope with failures or setbacks, being able to continue on. If we believe for even just a short time that we are capable of anything then that becomes our new reality. We’ve created the life we currently live and the person living it. We can choose to create another life, another us.
“What you do in life chooses you. You can choose not to do it. You can choose to try do something safer. Your vocation chooses you.” – Jim Carrey
“[Peak experience] involves a renunciation of the notion of the perfectibility of man. Man can be perfect – but for five minutes . . . in a peak experience. Some great moment. It’s possible. But we just can’t stay perfect. You must give up the notion of the permanent heaven. We can get into heaven – but for five minutes. Then you have to come back to the world again.” – Abraham H. Maslow