“Can I Play?” and Other Scary Questions
My wife and I recently moved to South Korea for a year to teach English. Neither of us really know how to speak anything other than “Hello,” “Thank you,” and half of “My name is Anthony.”
I went on a jog the other night, looking for some basketball courts. I haven’t played in months, and I was itching to play some ball.
I finally found some courts. There were about 6 guys playing, all Korean. In Korea, it’s hit-or-miss on whether or not someone speaks English, even a little bit. I really wanted to play, but I was intimidated.
What if they don’t understand me? What if they’re all old friends who play every week and already have set, unspoken teams? What if they dislike foreigners? What if they just straight up say “No”?
It didn’t help that when I was warming up with some preteens on the other court, the ball felt like a foreign object in my hand. I was embarrassing myself — even if they let me play, I would suck!
But I went over.
“Can I play?”
Overcoming Fear Through Incentives
“If you knew something would improve your life, why wouldn’t you?” -Benjamin Hardy
If you know doing something will improve your life, why the hell would you not do that thing?
Don’t worry, I’m not about to high-horse you. I’m currently in a huge creative/self-care rut right now. Here are some of my most used excuses:
- I don’t eat healthy food because it’s hard to make, it takes time, and chicken breast is so fucking bland I hate it.
- I don’t wake up early to journal/write/pray/do these 8 things because I’m tired in the morning. I’m also in a rut where I’m bored and unmotivated.
- I don’t go to the gym because the gym is expensive and I hate weights. Guess it’s back to pringles and Netflix!
We’ve clarified we’re not perfect, and in fact we’re often more prone to self-sabotage than self-care.
But let’s take it a level deeper. Many things we “should” do involve abstinence:
Don’t eat that food.
Don’t sleep in.
Don’t drink as much coffee/alcohol.
Then there is the opposite of abstinence: there are things we need to start doing, all the time.
What I chose to do on that basketball court in South Korea night wasn’t abstinence — it was action. Specifically, doing something that made me extremely uncomfortable.
We need to love doing extremely uncomfortable things.
This means asking scary questions that have high-risk potential. “No, you can’t play.” “No, you can’t have a raise.” “No, I’m not interested in getting a coffee with you.”
This means performing extremely uncomfortable actions, like attempting to publicly order your food in a language that’s foreign to you, or bartering for an item at a market. Yikes.
What I’ve learned is these types of actions — asking risky questions, putting yourself out there, positioning yourself to maybe end up looking like a fool in public — are excellent methods of becoming a better person. Specifically, this happens through the shedding of toxic, limiting fears and people-pleasing habits that keep you stagnate.
Turns out, there was one guy who spoke English and said yeah, I could play. Turns out I played pretty well, surprisingly. Turns out one guy even invited me to play on his adult league team. We’ll be the only English-speaking ones, but practice is tomorrow and I’m excited.
Do things that scare you. Ask scary questions. Make uncomfortable actions.
Call to Action
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