Sunday, February 17, 2008

So much for La Resistance

The problem of psychological blocks is as old as humanity. There are so many actions that would sometimes be both beneficial and socially acceptable to perform, but we just can't bring ourselves to. Trying to convince yourself to perform a task that you just don't wanna do is like trying to claw your way out of a very deep, very slippery well.

I've just been given the proverbial leg up. For the past month, I've been working in my company's Business Development team (aka sales), and a big part of what this team does is cold calling. Not the sleazy 7:00-call-when-you're-in-the-bath cold calling, I hasten to add. This is strictly business-to-business stuff - the people we're calling up are managers who are paid to handle this crap.

And it's a job that needs doing. No company can survive without new business and, while ideally we'd garner new work by word-of-mouth, for a small company like ours that just isn't fast enough.

Sadly, my psyche didn't get the message. For some time now, I've just been sitting there, allegedly making calls but in practice finding every excuse I can to avoid picking up the phone. The aversion I feel is incredible, and scarily subtle. It's like that scene in Lord Of The Rings where Bilbo "decides" to give the ring to Frodo, and sets off without being consciously aware that it's still in his pocket.

As a result, until this week, I've been functionally unable to make many calls. On a good day I'd make one call, maybe two, and then I'd find something else to distract myself with. This has been setting up immense cognitive dissonance, because I know I should be doing it. I just couldn't bring myself to. I've been a very unhappy bunny.

However, as of earlier this week, there are signs of change. On Wednesday, I was feeling extremely tired. I couldn't even muster the brainpower to think about the pros and cons of calling. I just picked up the phone and left some of the most incoherent messages ever entrusted to voicemail. It was only at the end of the day that I realised: hey, I just made five calls. What the heck?

On Thursday and Friday, the change continued. I reached for the phone, I felt the block, but I knew I could ignore it. I was able to make five calls a day, and this coming week I'm looking to increase the rate.

This is the first time I've really been motivated to overcome such a deep-rooted mental block, and the ripples of this change are still spreading. I know my enemy now, and I know that I can overcome it. That knowledge lets me do things that I never thought possible. Maybe I'll finally learn to ask girls out...

Funnily enough, this experience has a lot of shared features with some of the conversion stories I've read. I'm not an alcoholic or a drug abuser, but I was as constrained as any of them in my actions. Those constraints resulted in very deep tiredness - so deep that my overactive superego shut down for a bit. At that point, the slightest push was enough to get me over the hurdle. Such a push could well come from religion, but it apparently doesn't have to.

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