I am a creature of habit, almost detrimentally so. I never change my running route, I swim at the same time most days, I write my diary, I buy the same things from the supermarket, I have two bicycle circuits. One goes down the big hill then up a short, steep climb to the golf course; the other takes the same roads but the other way around which including a long tough hill on Saddlescombe Road.
It’s this second version that I dread, enough to stop me enjoying the entire trip, enough to sometimes make me not go, or certainly not go as often.
I’m a coach, I help people manage things like dread, right? It’s a mindset, I tell myself. How is it serving me to put so much energy into worrying about my lungs exploding, or how grim I’ll feel if I give up before the signpost? Does it make the climb easier to be so afraid of it beforehand? Does it make me enjoy the achievement more? Not at all, no and no, respectively.
Oh sure, there’s a value in dread. It makes me rally self-discipline to do something that will be good for me, if unpleasant; it prepares me for the exercise, reminding me to tackle it when I’m feeling energetic, when the winds aren’t too strong in the wrong direction.
Dread is what we humans do. We dread things. We dread getting sick with this virus; we dread the prospect that those we care about will get sick; we dread how the economy is going to impact everyone when this is over; we dread how the post Brexit UK will be for our children, for us; we dread going back to work after furlough; we dread the dentist after a year of not going. Lots of things about life, (especially at the moment) are difficult, and painful, and dread comes along with that.
The last time I tackled the difficult hill I was so consumed by dread that I found myself working out ways to avoid the dread, rather than prepare for the climb. I guess that’s when you know it’s out of hand. Dread, like most other unpleasant feelings, is worse for being fought.
If you can, just put up with the dread. It’ll pass once the event gets underway. Most things are easier to manage in the present moment than in the anticipation. And time spent worrying about or wishing away the dread makes the whole thing a whole lot harder.
I’ve been dreading writing this post. I haven’t visited my site since last June, and the longer I’ve been putting it off, the more I’ve dreaded it.
Was it worth it, all that dread? Not really.
Would I have got on with it sooner without it? Undoubtedly.
Could I have managed it any other way? No.