Just do it

I just found an old notebook upstairs, while looking for something. There was an entry dated February 2012, and it said something like “there’s no way I can go out running in the snow.”

Well, in January last year I did just that – I ran parkrun, 5k, on freshly fallen snow, and it was great. So that’s that excuse blown out of the water.

Because that’s what it was – an excuse. And I’m realising more and more that the excuses I come up with are ┬ánot reasons for not being able to do things, they’re the excuses I make when I don’t want to or I can’t be bothered.

Every excuse I can think of has now been shattered. Too wet? Too cold? Too tired? Too dark? No, I can think of occasions recently when I’ve run despite all those, and enjoyed myself. Not enough time? Nope, that one’s no good either. Not fast enough? Nope.

I’ve got to the point now when I love being active, and I feel like something is missing if one day I don’t exercise, but if I go beyond that one day it’s tough to get going again. I know, though, that any excuse I can come up with can be countermanded with a concrete example, either from my recent past or from people I know, and I can recognise it as a whining excuse and force myself over it.

This brings me to the new mindset I’m trying to cultivate.

When my children were young, I took them along on a playschool outing, to an indoor playground. A couple of weeks later, eldest son and I both started feeling ill, and the next morning we were covered in spots. In fact, half the playschool children did the same, thanks to the young child running around the indoor playground with chicken pox.

Now I had it pretty bad, and it took a while for the spots to heal up. Every day I would examine them and convince myself that I was doing so much better than the day before. Until the day when I started to shift my viewpoint and instead of thinking how much better I was than I had been, I started comparing myself to what I should be.

That’s what I call the chickenpox paradigm shift, that shift from comparing something with how bad it could be to comparing it with how good it could be.

That’s what I’m starting to do with my running – I’ve had enough congratulating myself with getting out there and doing something. Now it’s time to start really pushing myself and seeing what I should be able to do. It means getting over this mindset of how much better I am than I was, and getting used to the mindset of how much better I can do than I am already.

No more excuses.


Putting my time where my desires are

Having decided that there will be no more excuses, it’s time to start putting my money where my mouth is, or in this case my time where my desires are. It’s no good constantly saying I want to… without starting to say I’m going to…

If I’m not prepared to commit time to it? Then I’m not really that interested in it. It’s as simple as that. And as interests drop off that shows me where my desires really lie, and where I should be focusing my efforts.

So what do I want? I want to be able to write well. I’m trying to see past all my excuses with this: there are too many authors out there already (so what difference would one more make?), some of the stuff out there is of poor standard (so why should that stop me?), I’m not sure I could better (but how will I know if I never try?), I’m positive I could do so much better than them but I don’t have the time (if I don’t put in the time and effort I’ll never improve), I can’t think of anything important enough to write about, I have so many ideas I can’t pick out those important enough to write about, I don’t have any time to write (but I have plenty of time to sit around complaining I don’t have time for anything), … you get the idea.

Basically I can sit around all day writing about how I don’t have time to write, or ideas to write, or skills to write. I can read other people’s writing and feel I could never do as well/I could do far better. At the end of the day, the only way I can know for certain is to actually go out there and start writing and see where it leads me.

A few years ago I did exactly that with my career; I decided that it was time to stop thinking “I wonder if…” and find out whether I can or not. The verdict is still out on that one, to be honest, but I’ve never regretted the decision to try, because to try and fail is better than to not try at all. Of course, far better to try and succeed, and it will take a lot of effort before I’m ready to throw in the towel, but message is clear: stop wondering and get out there and try.

I also want to be able to use my creative skills in other ways: art, of all kinds, and coding to create projects for myself. Again, the prerequisite for skill in this area is practising in this area. I can’t expect to write a bestseller/design and code a bestselling game/draw or paint a brilliant picture without having taken time to build up my skills.

All these activities – writing, drawing, coding – are all enjoyable in themselves, whatever my level of skill, so it’s time I got on with them, and worry about the outcome later. I know I’ve come to this conclusion before, so what I need to do now is to push it on further. I need to make a commitment to adjust my timetable to allow for these activities to take place. Then I need to follow through on that commitment and allow my skills to develop. This means not just during holidays, but as a routine part of my life every day, term time or not.

Every time I find myself sitting in front of the TV idly surfing, I need to remind myself of how little that achieves. Every time I find myself falling asleep too early, I need to remind myself that exercise gives me energy and makes me feel better. Every time I find myself idly wishing I could so something well I need to get up and go do something towards that aim.

So can’t stay and chat, I’m off to do some writing. After all, there’s a gap to close, that one between what I want to do and what I can actually achieve, and it won’t close itself.