New Year Resolution #1: Give up New Year Resolutions.

Timing is everything. Mess it up in a joke and your whole routine will go to crap. Go in for a kiss a second too late and you won’t be getting a second date. Everyday in thousands of ways we need to get our timing down to a tee.

Unfortunately we do the same when we set ourselves promises to change; waiting for the right moment to lose weight, the right season of our life to start a project, a dream, the perfect timing is coming. It’s just not right now.

For some reason humans are great at procrastinating. This is why New Year’s resolutions mostly always fail. After Christmas we can start afresh, we feel positive that we can get rid of that Christmas tummy at the turn of the year; next week will be different.

But why?

Why will we be ready on January 1st when we aren’t ready now? We won’t and the reason is because nothing changes. If we convince ourselves that once an arbitrary date comes around we can change then we are fooling ourselves that we won’t do the same when the New Year hits us. If we delay now then why won’t be delay later? What will be different?

The truth is more likely that we don’t want to put the work in. We expect that a magic wand will wave itself and that we will be motivated in the future. But we don’t like change. We like the idea of it sure, but when push comes to shove and we need to put some effort in we tell ourselves that there is no point starting our New Year’s resolutions when it falls in the middle of a week when next Monday will do just as well. Better to start at the beginning of the week eh? Then we have a wedding the next day so you might as well wait until that is over. Before you know it you might as well wait until Easter is over with all that chocolate and candy.

Or maybe as we promote our New Year’s resolutions on social media and we receive feedback even before we have stepped onto a treadmill, we have tricked ourselves into thinking that we have succeeded already. Just speaking out our goals might actually have a detrimental effect on their implementation.

So if we’re so good at committing to then breaking promises of all the things we will accomplish this year, how do we actually start on the road to change.

Well the answer is we start now. It may be painful, we may (in fact we will) want to put it off but when that happens we have already been defeated. We’re so frightened of what might come up later to prevent us from starting, the fear, the criticism, the lack of time, the “I’m not good enough” thoughts; that we never begin.

Or if we just bite the bullet now, when the criticism hasn’t come yet or when our schedules haven’t kicked in yet and the voices telling us we are inadequate haven’t grown loud yet; we might actually find that those things don’t come. Or when they do then we know that we have at least started. And we know that just for today we have began and made some progress even when things tell us to stop. We have begun and we can feel encouraged. We have seen that there will always be something telling us to wait so we need to start now or truthfully we never will.

We can pass over so many moments and lose so many opportunities just because we are looking for the perfect moment.

Here’s my only tip for changing behaviours, starting a dream, learning a skill, whatever it is for you.

Start now because tomorrow won’t let you.

For more on change and New Year’s Resolutions check out these two fantastic posts by Don Miller and Seth Godin

Advertisements

The X Factor effect. Cliches that are true.

How many of the X factor winners can you name? Maybe you can name them all. But out of them who has actually gone on to have a lasting career in the music industry? Of those who achieved a Christmas number 1 after the show was over has gone on to have another one? Not very many I bet. Even Leonna Lewis hasn’t released anything is a while.

We all want to be successful but very few of us want to put the work in. We want success now. But when we get it overnight can we keep itgoing?

When I was a kid I hated being made to practice the piano for 1 hour a day. It’s not that I didn’t want to be good. I just didn’t want to put in the effort getting there.

Funnily enough things haven’t changed. I still don’t want to put the work in. So I want to be a great writer but I don’t want to write every day to find my voice or I want to run a marathon but I don’t want to run small amounts many many times to build up the stamina. I want community but I don’t want to have to grow intimacy and closeness every day, especially when it’s tough.

We often see where we want to be but are not prepared to do the small steps to get there.

The reason I think I and many other people feel like this is because we get frustrated when we start out and realise we aren’t as good as we thought. So when I went for a run a couple of weeks ago and realized I had lost most of my fitness and I was slow and dead after just a mile, I felt awful and wanted to be marathon fit already. I haven’t ran since.

But what if we look at it differently?

We all know the cliché taking it one day at a time. It’s true, but what if we saw our attempts each day as they really are. That is, the best that we can achieve right now. So when I run if I can only run a mile and have to stop to walk every so often and finish in over 30 minutes that is alright because right now that is my best. I have given it all I can. This is my peak fitness right now.

Or when I write tomorrow I write one blog but that is all I can come up with presently. That is my best. Yes in a few weeks I may be able to write 3 or 4 blogs a day but that is then and right now I owe it to my current best to achieve it.

Suddenly I am hitting my best work every day rather than feeling despair as I compare it to some hypothetical event in the future.

Soon though we find that we can run faster longer, we can write better and clearer and we can tell how our friend is doing without even having to ask.

This is how we get better. Not by beating ourselves up because we aren’t living up to our expectations (as reasonable as they are) Not by pretending you are better than you really are. But by achieving your optimum result whatever that is today.

Afterall, all you can do is your best.

Writer’s don’t have to write

Most of my time writing is spent looking at a blank screen. Not typing. Not forming sentences. Just staring. That is if I can find a moment from checking twitter, facebook or watching Breaking Bad.

I was going to write “most of my time as a writer…” in that first sentence but I couldn’t bring myself to it. If I am a writer I’m a pretty bad one. I don’t actually write. That’s what writer’s do isn’t it? I don’t call myself a plumber because I don’t fix sinks or work with pipes. I don’t call myself a professional footballer because I don’t pray professional football (even though I still think I can). Then I shouldn’t call myself a writer if I don’t think of words and document them somehow…right?

Wrong.

Writing is unique in that some days we can write a bunch of stuff that flows well and we work. We have so many ideas we don’t know what to do with. We work hard and it feels great. Other days not so much. Other days the words are scarce and even if I do manage to write something it is basically crap. It’s full of clichés and its boring and its dull. But at least I have written. The days when I don’t write feel like I am wasting time and am living as a fraud.

But here’s the point. Being a writer is more than writing. Yes at some point I am going to need to write, yes I can be a writer but never put in the effort and leave a gaping hole where my work should be, but if I start defining myself by what I do or don’t do I will never get anywhere. If I don’t write and then decide that that means I am not a writer I will wake up tomorrow and not write. If on the other hand I don’t write but sit down and try then at least I gave it a shot. I will wake up the next day ready to give it another go. In my head I have called myself a writer and that is what I am.

But the magical thing, and it is magical, is that when we sit down to write eventually it will happen. We will think of something or inspiration will hit us and we will write. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not.

You’re a writer.

Maybe not a very good writer, but still a writer.