An all too common hindrance we may encounter to learning a new idea or skill or engaging in a new activity is a lack of relatability. We have not attempted the particular activity or contemplated the particular idea before, hence cannot relate to or conceptualize its benefits. Sometimes it sounds as if the mentioned benefits are exaggerated or the idea is altogether eccentric or cliché. So we judge a subject on which we have no experience, based on preconceptions we have - which may be speculative, unfounded, misguided or simply wrong. This leads to a paradox: we do not fully believe and cannot fully appreciate the benefits of an idea because we have never experienced hence can't visualize them, yet because we can't visualize the benefits, we do not get a sufficient urge to engage in the idea - which would otherwise expose us to its benefits. 

This is typical with self-help, mindfulness and spiritual wellness topics such as yoga, meditation, spending time in nature, prayer, chanting, doing a kirtan, keeping a gratitude journal, doing breathing exercises etc. Yoga, as an example can sound spiritual, eccentric or even eerie to the untrained ear. It may draw upon images of people sitting in rooms making quirky noises in unison. Such preconceptions could easily trigger some resistance. Having never attempted it, you may have a hard time imagining its benefits. Certainly, being told about its benefits is not as effective as experiencing them for oneself.   It's indeed not obvious how holding your attention on one thing for several moments could make you more relaxed or increase your overall focus. Sometimes too you may have experienced it but not consistently or long enough to feel its benefits. You don't appreciate its benefits so you don't do it. But because you don't do it,  you can't appreciate its benefits.

This paradox is also visible in activities and ideas relating to productivity and exercise such as waking up early daily, deleting social media, working out consistently, creating specific routines, and a lot of other productivity hacks. Possibly because these are challenging and uncomfortable, or often sound cliché or may be suggested in a manner that comes across as arrogant or self-aggrandizing. For one reason or the other you do not practice the activity sufficiently so you do not get to appreciate its benefits, yet because you do not grasp the benefits sufficiently enough to change your behavior,  you do not do the activity. 

Here are some suggestions to cope with this chicken and egg situation.

  1. In the same way you would avoid advice from someone who had no experience on a particular topic, avoid advice from your ego when approaching novel ideas.  Taking a position with no base knowledge or experience is egotistic. 

  2. Choose consciously to be comfortable with not-knowing hence to have an open mind. Resolve to listen from a place of acceptance that your current knowledge and experience may be insufficient to build an opinion on experiences that would be novel to you. That way you can attempt to take in new information as if you knew nothing.

  3. Reframing is also an effective strategy. Replacing certain words and phrases that stir up some resistance within you based on your preconceived notions,  with words that state the proven benefits of the activity of interest. e.g as this article suggests, if you are hesitant about meditating, you could replace the word “meditation” with the phrase “retraining the brain so I am much more happy, patient and like everyone more”. This might sound tedious, yet the benefits which you will accrue from meditation after a change of mind on the subject due to such rephrasing are totally worth it.

 "If…the word meditation was replaced and was called “retraining the brain so I am much more happy, patient and like everyone more”, maybe more people would do it. "