Matt from 30Vanquish left this really good comment on "The Cognitive Costs to Doing Things" - I think he's mostly right on with how he's going with it, but I have a few additional thoughts. Okay, here's Matt -
“Neurosis/fear/etc – Almost all humans are naturally more risk averse than gain-inclined. This seems to have been selected for evolutionarily. We also tend to become afraid far in excess of what we should for certain kinds of activities – especially ones that risk social embarrassment.”
This really hit me. I never thought of it as neurosis but that’s what it really is. I think I’ve made it a life goal to want to minimize this feeling as much as possible. It’s such a huge challenge for me that it’s something that’s worthy to challenge and overcome everyday.
It’s a daily battle because neurosis (especially in the social realm) is like a rubber band. Every time you do something neurosis inducing, it stretches out a metaphorical rubber band out more. That symbolizes how “flexible” you are with this neurosis. It’s like momentum. When you continue to do it, you have more leeway with novel experiences. (It’s not as neurosis inducing after the 10th risky situation in the same day for example.)
However, the rubber band bends back the moment you stop having those neurosis experiences, so it’s a never-ending challenge.
Of course, people have metaphorical rubber bands that range in many sizes (their ability to resist neurosis naturally).
So in summary: if you’re someone with high sensitivity to neurosis like situations, then it’s just a matter of tons of exposure to expand the “rubber band”.
Overall, I like the analogy a lot. A few points that I think are worth thinking about, though:
1. I use the terminology "neurosis inducing" which I think is accurate-ish, but it's important to not necessarily make mountains out of molehills. That's just a fair warning about my own terminology there. Something to keep in mind.
2. "I think I’ve made it a life goal to want to minimize this feeling as much as possible." That's a very solid goal, though I come at a bit differently - I want as much of it as I can handle. That's what I wrote in "Give Me Strife and Suffering (but in manageable doses)," and it's still true.
3. The rubber band analogy is good, quite good. Where it fails, though, is that even minor differences in situation, mood, energy level, sleep level, can have drastic effects on your ability to persist, endure, etc. Also, there's lots of people that can be have a "very stretched out rubber band" in one domain (maybe, sales) but have a hard time in another (say, speaking up when unhappy in a relationship).
4. "However, the rubber band bends back the moment you stop having those neurosis experiences, so it’s a never-ending challenge." -> Sometimes that's true, but sometimes not! Some gains are permanent like riding a bike. For instance, traveling to a new place scared me when I first started doing it, whereas now I'm comfortable striking off to somewhere without any research or place to stay, and I know I'll just figure it out when I get on the ground. My travel-neurosis is basically zero, and spending lots of time in one place doesn't seem to increase it at all. So, some things you conquer are basically permanently conquered afterwards.
Overall, very good comment though and I agree with the gist of it.
Here's Matt's blog. He previously did a guest post here called "Letting Go of Your Ego Enables You to Live Without Limits."
"Life is suffering," said Buddha. His plan? Release your attachments to this world and end your suffering.
I'm not with Buddha on this one. Give me strife and suffering. And once I have grown stronger, tempered, hardened by the strife, give me MORE.
Life is strife, suffering, struggle. Your body and mind are kept alive by a series of violent chemical reactions, your heartbeat, the acid in your stomach, the cells constantly breaking apart and dying as new ones are created, the battle towards homeostatis with different bacteria and cells combating each other, all inside your body.
Your mind - your thoughts - may come into conflict, especially when you're trying to do meaningful things. It's easy to feel the pull of distraction and ease, and to choke up and pause in fear when you look at the mountain you're set to climb. The mind is not in harmony, especially at the beginning. Struggle, strife, conflict, suffering.
I say - give it to me! But not so fast that it will break me. I must be pragmatic. We must be pragmatic. We have our limits. We can expand them over time. It's not brave to go into the gym for the first time and try to lift 400 pounds. It's foolhardy, unrealistic, stupid. Being pragmatic, aware of our limits takes its own sort of courage.
I wrote this as a guest post on the Beeminder blog — comments can live there.
It’s dark. Warm. Safe. You’re in bed, about to fall asleep. Pre-dream hallucinations of commanding a mighty bear army are playing across your sated mind. Zz — wait — what about that CrossFit Beeminder?!
You forgot. You got behind. You skipped CrossFit yesterday, but Beeminder said that was okay as long as you did it today instead. You meant to, but life happened. At this point, you think, “I am sumptuously swaddled in my favorite luxury bedding material, it’s late, and there is no way I’m going out in the street to do the workout-of-the-day in the dark, by myself, in my pajamas. And Beeminder will just charge me $5 this time. Okay, deal. Zzz.”
But I think there’s a better way to use Beeminder. When this happened to me, I didn’t even have to think about what to do; I just found myself out there grunting my medicine ball against a telephone pole and jumprope-sprinting into gloomy rosebushes.  It wasn’t even worth considering losing my wager over the tiny matter of some physical discomfort. What wager? Not money — just the certainty that I will always do what I promise myself I will do.