TikTok isn’t my idea of fun.
TikTok feels like cheap entertainment. You typically get less than 60 seconds of “content” and then get left feeling groped and empty. So you keep watching more. After two hours, you don’t know where the night went.
A friend sent a video to me by TikToker Jason Capital. The video is about how we go through change. He argues change makes us feel inadequate. Feeling weird is uncomfortable, so we go back to wanting to be comfortable. That’s where our phone plays a role.
Notice when you look at your notifications. It’s right after trying to do a hard task. Notifications are an escape to comfort.
TikTok equals comfort too. It’s better than facing reality and changing. Once you understand the cycles of change, it’s easier to see where you’re getting stuck so you can push through. Otherwise you bounce from task to task and never make the progress that gives you meaning and fulfillment.
Here’s what change looked like for me when I started writing online.
Phase 1 — Uninformed Optimism
“So you’re saying you can write online and inspire people? And that can lead to a business, public speaking, or even an amazing 9–5 job? Let’s do it.”
You think it’s going to be easy-peasy. Then you start writing. The first few weeks are cruisy. Your mind is silent. There’s no audience yet. There are no critics. You’ve got a mile-long list of ideas to play with.
Life is amazing. You buy a gelato.
Phase 2 — Informed Pessimism
“F*ck. This is hard. Writing takes a lot of time. Is it there/their/they’re? Where are my high school grammar books.”
What looks easy is actually hard. There are new skills to learn like sourcing images, editing, social media, marketing, and formatting. You’ve got to spend money to get better, which is hard if you are earning peanuts like I was.
Then you start trying to meet others who have the same goal. Because you’ve got zero traction, they avoid you like you’re infected with a deadly virus. You go to a networking group for bloggers. You try and enter a conversation. It’s as though you farted silently and people gravitate away from you.
Then committing time to the change hits you like a brick in the face.
You realize writing online is a daily habit. You realize you’re going to have to do this for at least twelve months and probably get zero traction. Then the boulder rolls over the top of your fragile body and reminds you “this will probably take five years.”
Nobody wants to wait five years. We want what we want now.
Phase 3 — Valley of Despair
All the negativity builds up in your mind. It’s overwhelming. You find yourself throwing tantrums at random readers and writers for no reason.
“My time costs money, you know,” you say quietly to yourself.
Now comes the “I’m-gonna-quit moment.” You stop believing you can do it. The evidence so far shows you probably suck. So you quit.
Phase 4 — Informed Optimism
If you make it past the valley of despair then things look up. You accept the difficulty of the change you seek and say “I can do it.” Once you accept it, the difficult things get easier.
You keep pushing through. You get plenty of sleep. You mute rude people. You ignore critics. You drink plenty of water. You do a little exercise. You may even dare to practice being aware of the present moment aka … meditation.
The progress feels good, although it’s painfully slow.
Phase 5 — Change Occurs
If you keep progressing for enough years, you get the change you seek.
The results start to show themselves. Friends see what you’ve achieved. Family members are proud. You become an accidental expert and may even decide to teach what you’ve learned to reinforce all the lessons discovered along the way.
What Stops Us Progressing Through the 5 Phases?
Getting to phase five with any goal is hard. Not many survivors can endure. It’s not because they’re dumb or lazy or need more self-help. Nope.
We get stuck between phase one and phase three. When phase three hits you and the pessimism of the pursuit is realized, the easy answer is to quit. But we don’t just quit. No. We keep changing the goal we go after. We keep looking for the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that is an optical illusion. It sounds like this for writers.
“Writing on WordPress sucks. I’m going to LinkedIn. LinkedIn sucks too. Maybe Twitter. Nope, Twitter is too old and I’m too late. Okay, I’ll quit writing and take photos for Instagram. Crap this is hard too.”
The steps to have a goal turn into insanity looks like this:
Too hard. Give up. New idea. Repeat.
Switching ideas removes painful thoughts — we’re pain-avoiders by nature. If you don’t notice what is happening, it becomes a death loop in your mind. The Darth Vader enemy to defeat is the valley of despair. If you can beat the terrible days, you can win.
Once you know the phases we go through to transform, you have the self-awareness to get the change you so desperately seek.
Now you know how change happens and what it feels like. When you get stuck in phase three, the valley of despair, remember the following:
- You can do this.
- It’s hard. That means the result is worth it.
- Everybody else who tried to do this experienced similar feelings.
Stay focused on the change you want to destroy the barriers.