One day a few years back, I was suggesting to my partner that I could do more of what I love if I worked less. I was convinced that if I just had more hours in the day, I would spend it all writing and creating and loving life. It was something that sounded perfectly logical and reasonable to me, but I could tell she thought otherwise. She was gentle and asked some probative questions like, “When would you write?” I answered, focusing on the literal of the question. It was like she was gently lobbing balls for me to hit. I just focused on this fantasy world where I would have everything I wanted if the world would just conform to my wishes. She teed it up beautifully. I didn’t even see it coming. Her last pitch:
What would be different? If you don’t write now, would you really write then?
I sucked wind for a few moments after that. I hadn’t even considered how my “now” was affecting my potential “then.” I write now, a bit weekly. I still work my “9 to 5.” Change is incremental. People push this romantic narrative of “magical results,” “have everything you want NOW,” but that’s just part of the story, a very small fraction of it. “Change happens in an instant,” according to Tony Robbins, and he’s right. But does it sustain itself? How do we create lasting change?
Some VERY general steps:
- Have self-compassion. Easier said than done. Essentially, recognize that what you want is going to take time to achieve. Accepting that also takes practice, but leads to less “G_d, what is wrong with me?! Why don’t I have what I want?!” self-conversations.
- Start now. Do something small, something sustainable. I have a friend who sets aside five minutes a day in order to write. She believes that it improves her writing because her work isn’t fluctuating wildly based on where she’s at mentally/emotionally on a given day. It also means she has developed a habit, and that’s the most important bit.
- Take responsibility. As long as we put the locus of control outside of us, how do we expect to achieve anything that we want? There is an endless list of people and circumstances to keep us from accomplishing/having/being _______. Start by narrowing that list down to one: YOU. Then look at two or three circumstances over which you have control and act on those.
- Establish a routine. If you are anything like me, it is easier to do nothing than something. I sit down to write each Wednesday at about the same time. In my younger years, that felt restrictive. I wanted the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. So now, routine is my friend.
Five weeks of blogs in a row and I will tell you that it feels AMAZING! Even though I wasn’t able to sit down at the usual time last week, I had set the pattern and internal expectation so I managed to muster the discipline to sit and get it done later in the day. Double win!
I want to be clear — those who know me well would argue that self-discipline is a new and astounding trait that I have begun to exhibit in the last few years. It was hard fought, getting to this point after years of cruising through life on wit and improvisation. Greater things lie here…
More soon. Keep being awesome.