Having your cake and eating it is as impossible as we decide to make it

Are you confused by that title?   Don’t worry, all will become clear. The point I wanted to make is that there is almost always an element of choice in what we do – even in how we feel.

Today’s post is inspired by The Great British Bake Off, as I think it’s a perfect example of choosing to (or not to) get swept up in our emotions. And of course, it is also ideal for a pun about having your cake and eating it…

So as I sat there watching episode 1 of Bake Off, I felt two things really strongly. The first feeling was a hunger for wagon wheel biscuits! But the second was a creeping anxiety that grew in me as the episode went on. With each section of the competition, this feeling grew until I had to pay attention to it.

Not only was I rooting for my favourite participants, (yes, I’ve chosen them already) but also I was increasingly worried for whoever wouldn’t make it through the first week. Without spoiling anything if you haven’t watched it yet – there was a lot of anxiety in that tent.

It got me thinking about how making something competitive can really take away the enjoyment – or rather, we can allow our fear of coming in last place to ruin our enjoyment of an experience.

For most of us who aren’t professional bakers, baking is something that we usually do at home as a relaxed activity. For many people it is enjoyable and even relaxing. But add the element of competition and suddenly it’s a high-stress activity.

But does that have to be the case?

What if we could separate ourselves from that feeling of anxiety? Often, things like anxiety come from cyclic patterns of thinking and worrying that produce no answers for us – they only serve to raise our heart rate, distract us from focusing on the task, and make our hands shake. It’s not a useful feeling; especially not when you are trying to ice with a piping bag!

So how do we have our cake and eat it?

I think it’s about recognising the futility of worrying, and bringing in a little mindful awareness. If we are talking about being a contestant on Bake Off, then I would suggest focusing on the feelings of enjoyment you get from baking, and from eating the end result! We will get sucked into the stress of competition if we focus on the competition – so instead focus on the positives. This is having your cake and eating it.

Of course, most people reading this won’t go on to be a contestant on The Great British Bake Off. For most of you, this is an analogy. But have a think about what you could apply it to.

Let’s look at a really different example. If you are a journalist in a team of many, stressed about the new, young hipster staff joining the team, writing better pieces and showing you up – focus on your love of writing a good story. Take your focus off the competition, and bring it back to your strengths. As long as you are still enjoying your work, the chances are you will be doing a great job at it. Worry, fear, and self-judgement won’t help your cause, so don’t choose to focus on those feelings.

Whatever your ‘Bake Off’ situation may be, just remember that you can have your cake and eat it. The trick is to choose where to focus. It’s so much better to focus on enjoying the ride, than to worry about an outcome, when the act of worrying itself will not improve the outcome, but will in fact hamper you. So focus on enjoyment – it’s a game changer.

P.S.  If you’d like a little help with re-calibrating your focus…

From Monday, September 3rd, I am running a 4-week challenge to get a group of like-minded people feeling like their best selves again.

Do you remember that feeling you had as a kid in the summer holidays – that sense of endless freedom? My aim is to get that feeling back for us adults too.

It’s called the September Freedom Challenge, and each week I will be sharing an inspirational story, a simple task as homework, and checking in with you along the way.

If that sounds fun to you, then I would love for you to join me. Head here to sign up!

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