Are Your Adjectives Holding You Back?

Image courtesy of  Katie Tegtmeyer
Image courtesy of Katie Tegtmeyer

The beginning of January is typically the season of setting resolutions and trying to do something different.

The end of January is typically the season of giving up and going back to business as usual.

There’s something about doing some tasks that makes them more difficult to do than others.

Most people would rather eat an ice cream than take exercise, even though they might want to exercise and know it would do them more good, they would still rather eat the ice cream.

There is something about the way we think about tasks and goals that make them easier or harder to do.

Surprisingly, the humble adjective can have a profound effect on the way you approach the thing it is attached to.

For example:

If I offer you an apple, you might feel interested, leaning forward in anticipation.

If I tell you it is a delicious apple your mouth might start to water before I’ve even handed to you.

However if I tell you it is a rotten apple you will probably sit back wrinkling your nose in disgust.

The adjective, delicious or rotten, tells you how to respond to the apple.

The adjectives we use to describe things affects the way we feel about them. They let us know how we should feel about them.

Sometimes these adjectives are helpful and sometimes they produce unhelpful reactions in us.

Think of a modest task you need to do like washing the dishes or sending an email.

Say to yourself (substituting your task):

“Washing the dishes is easy.” – How does that feel?

Now try:

“Washing the dishes is hard.” – How does that feel?

Unless you are a person who relishes challenges, I suspect that the first statement evoked a more positive, energised frame of mind than the second.

All we did was change just one word.

The adjectives we assign to different tasks will modify how we feel about the task. Our responses to hard, difficult, impossible tasks will be very different to easy, simple, delightful tasks, even if the tasks themselves are the same.

Unfortunately some of these adjectives might even be hidden from our conscious mind, exerting their effect without our knowledge causing us inexplicable procrastination or avoidance around those tasks.

If you unconsciously think of establishing a new exercise routine as hard or a struggle, then the chances are that you will find it hard or a struggle and you will be less likely to achieve your goals.

This process is designed to identify and eliminate blocking adjectives around some of the things you need, and want, to get done.

The process is divided into five parts

  1. Identify the task
  2. Check your willingness to do the task
  3. Find the blocking adjectives for the task
  4. Tap out the blocks
  5. Re-check your willingness to do the task

To learn the process you will need a task that you are finding difficult to complete.

1. Identify the task

Choose a task / resolution / outcome that is difficult for you to achieve. For the first couple of runs through the process choose small tasks.

We will use “washing up” as an example.

2. Check your willingness to do the task.

Before we tap we need a way of evaluating how blocked we are on doing the task.

Say out loud: I am [task]

How true does that feel on a 0-10 scale where 0 is false and 10 is true?

For example: I am washing up – 2 (not very enthusiastic)

You are probably not performing this task right now but phrasing it in this way provokes your system into giving an indication of how willing it would be to perform this task. If you have trouble getting round to this task or completing it the chances are this sentence will have a low score.

3. Find the blocking adjectives

Work your way through the following list of adjectives applying each to the task you are working with.

Say out loud the following sentence “[task] is [adjective]”  for each of these adjectives.

Adjective List

  • Annoying
  • Awful
  • Boring
  • Dangerous
  • Difficult
  • Dull
  • Frightening
  • Hard
  • Impossible
  • Irritating
  • Overwhelming
  • Scary
  • Selfish
  • Silly
  • Stupid
  • Tedious
  • Threatening
  • Tiresome

For example:

Washing up is annoying – 0
Washing up is awful – 1
Washing up is boring – 2
Washing up is dangerous – 0
etc, etc.

Make a note of the statements that have an emotional charge on them.

Washing up is hard – 8
Washing up is difficult – 6

If the adjective fits there will be a sense that the task has that quality, which may affect the way you approach it.

Create a list of adjective / task pairs that have some charge to them, these will become the targets for your tapping rounds.

Note: This is a very small list of negative adjectives. There may be many other adjectives that could apply to your tasks that may not have been used in the list. Please add your own “favourite” negative adjectives to this list.

4. Tap out the blocks

For each of the problematic adjective / task pairs work on reducing the charge using one of these tapping routines.

Standard tapping.
Use the standard set-up statement: “Even though the [task] is [adjective], I accept myself and how I feel.”

Then repeat rounds of tapping using “The [task] is [adjective]” as the reminder phrase.

For example:
“Even thought the washing up is hard, I accept myself and how I feel”
“The washing up is hard”

Exception tapping
Use the standard set-up statement: “Even though the [task] is [adjective], I accept myself and how I feel.”.

Then alternate “The [task] is [adjective]” with “except when it isn’t” on alternating tapping points.

For example:
“Even though the washing up is hard, I accept myself and how I feel.”.
“The washing up is hard, except when it isn’t”

Visit Exception Tapping for more information.

Work your way through each of the adjective / task pairs, processing each until they have all been neutralised.

5. Re-check your willingness to do the task.

Having worked your way through the list it is time to check how you feel about performing the task now.

Say out loud: I am [task]

For example: I am washing up – 8

Typically the score will rise and the task will seem much less onerous than it did before.

Rinse and repeat the process if necessary.

How does the prospect of this task seem to you now?

If you run this process on your stuck tasks you will probably find that tasks that seemed inexplicably difficult get a lot easier.

If you do run the process on several tasks do some of the adjectives turn up again and again?

Do you have a familiar pattern of resistance?

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