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Why aren't you JUST DOING it?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I see a lot of blog entries that either quote or address the quote: "My self-esteem is not tied to the number on the scale." Now while I think that's a great quote, it doesn't apply for me, in my way of thinking. The number is temporary. What my self-esteem is tied to is the act of CHANGING that number. The doing, not the being.

Success, to me, is DOING the thing you want. And it doesn't necessarily mean you do it well -- just that you DID it, because we all know, just getting up and DOING the thing is the hardest part.

I am a lucky person, really. I'm lucky in that I have a brain that realizes that I can DO anything I set my mind to:
- Grow tomatoes in drywall buckets? DONE.
- Write a novel? DONE. Done several times, actually.
- Run a 5K? DOING the training, but I think I'll be able to mark it off in a few weeks.
- Learn a 3 minute drum solo with finger cymbals? DONE and performed a lot.
- Paint a watercolor picture of the beach? DONE.
- Draw a self-portrait in charcoals? DONE
- Cook something incredibly complicated from scratch? DONE, several times.
- Lose 20 pounds? DOING...

I hear people talking all the time about the things they'd like to do, bucket lists and whatnot. I always want to ask these people, why aren't you doing them? You want to learn how to paint with oils, go take a class or get a book from the library and just DO it!

But then I hear the reason why they don't just do it: "Well I want it to be good."

NEWS FLASH -- "Good" is what happens over time. With practice, dedication, training, PATIENCE, and love. You don't get "good" overnight, and you don't "get good" at something unless you dedicate your heart to it. (Plus, good is subjective. We've all seen paintings and thought "ugh, I could do as well as this!" while someone else is raving over how much they like them. Right?)

That's not an excuse to do something half-ass. I mean if you're going to try to learn to cook, get good ingredients (never cook with wine you wouldn't drink yourself) and invest in a decent chef's knife. If you're running, get good shoes and socks. If you want to paint, get the good stuff -- not the cheap walmart brand -- and just buy a few tubes at a time. Take a class with a professional. They can steer you away from problems, and save you a lot of time (flattening that learning curve a little.) No pros in town? Then try a dvd or book, and search the internet for a forum or community of people who do that activity and who share their knowledge.

JUST DO IT -- in a few easy steps:

1. Be patient. Stop thinking about how long it will take to do something. So you will be able to lose 40 pounds but it will take you a year to do it? SO WHAT?! The funny thing about Time is this: that year is going to pass by whether you work out or not. So in a year do you want to be a year older and 40 pounds lighter? Or just a year older? Same with learning ANY new skill. It takes time -- but time passes whether we enjoy what we do with it or not. I prefer to spend my time DOING. It's taking me 9-10 weeks to build up the endurance to run a 5K. One thing I'll never do is look back at my life and say, "Wow, I wish I had that 30 minutes three times a week back, so I could watch TV instead of running a 5K like I always dreamed of. :)

2. Be fearless. I MEAN IT! There is NOTHING to fear from trying something new (unless it's tightrope walking without a net, but how many of us have that on our bucket list anyway?) I've met people who are afraid to take dance lessons. Why? Because they are afraid of what other people might think of them. (Let me tell you right now, in ANY dance class, ain't nobody looking in that mirror and looking at YOU, girl! They're looking at themselves or staring at the teacher's butt. True fact.)

"But I might fail!" The only way to fail is to quit halfway through, or not do it at all. And even quitting doesn't mean failing -- if you're quitting because you don't enjoy it, or for legitimate reasons. (By the way, "it's hard" is not a legitimate reason.) Fear of failure is common, and even professionals have that fear! But we push through it. Read Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art" for more about fear and pressing on through fear.

3. Be diligent and dedicated. Track your food and activity. Yes, it's a pain but it works!!!!! Set a training goal and stick with it. In 30 days it will become habit. And in 30 days you can look back all smug-like and say, "Why of course I do strength training every day. It's part of my life!" When learning a new skill, practice small amounts every day. (Depending on the skill, you might do better with longer periods of study fewer times a week, but usually daily practice gets you better results.) Don't cheat yourself. MAKE time for what you want to do.

4. Be aware that first efforts are NOT brilliant. Your FIRST efforts are just that -- firsts. Your first draft of your first book ... I hate to break it to you, but it's going to suck. No seriously, it will. Don't expect brilliance on the first of anything. It's your FIRST time! Now that doesn't mean you can't take that first draft and work on it, and revise it, and come up with something brilliant on the 10th revision! Practice, practice, practice. In the meanwhile, go ahead and let the family read your novel. Hang up that picture. Eat that meal! Run that race, even if you don't win a trophy! Enjoy that first effort, but don't expect it to be marketable or perfect. (You are NOT going to write the Great American Novel on your first try, no matter what anecdotes you hear about Melville.)

5. Be aware that you can enjoy an activity as an "amateur" as much as you would enjoy doing it as a "professional." Lots of people draw pictures that never make it to museum walls. But they do end up on living room walls and they do end up being admired. You don't have to be a full-time body builder to appreciate how you feel after a set of push-ups. And you don't have to quit your job to open a bakery to appreciate the joys of taking a Wilton cake decorating class. Once something becomes your "business" it changes the dynamic between you and the activity. REVEL in being an amateur. You have no one to impress but your own self, and allow yourself to be impressed.

6. Be impressed with yourself once you do it. Dang it -- you ran a race/wrote a novel/built a sandcastle -- whatever! YOU DID IT -- while other people sat around and talked about how long it would take, or how much effort it would involve, or whatever. If you have nobody to talk to, blog about it! Buy yourself a goodie. Buy yourself a new outfit. And the scope of the activity doesn't matter. You lost 5 pounds? GREAT!!! That is just as important to you as losing 50 pounds is to someone else. You wrote a poem? GREAT!!!! That should be just as important to you as writing their 10th novel is to someone else. The size of the achievement doesn't matter. It's that YOU achieved it! That's what matters. You said you would do it, and you did it. Go YOU!!! Celebrate, don't denigrate, your successes.

Honestly the first time I cooked a meal completely from scratch (and didn't burn anything or set off the fire alarm) I was ready to rent one of those airplanes with the banners to fly over my neighborhood to announce this fact. (Despite the fact that an entire previous generation of women did this EVERY day of their lives -- it was a major accomplishment to me.) But that brings me to the hard part:

7. Be aware that most people won't care, and worse yet, some people will criticize you for your success. You know how many people care if you learn to play piano at age 60? You know how many people will be impressed if you write your first novel? Or if you can do 10 pushups? You know how many people's lives will be changed if you paint your first landscape? Yep -- ONE. You. But YOU are worth it.

Sure, some of us have great family support, and they will show up at the finish line with roses and power bars and cheer us on, or congratulate us for beating our last 5K time. Or they will read the novel and encourage us to write another. They will eat the meal and tell us how thankful they are for it. And they'll even help with the dishes! We can add them to our list of things to be thankful for!

But a lot of us have "friends" and family who would prefer to see us in the same place they are -- overweight. Not happy. Not healthy. Not doing what they want to do because they are afraid to. Sometimes they sabotage us. Sometimes they ridicule us. Sometimes they don't do anything overtly mean, but just refuse to share in our joys and achievements. That to me is almost as bad. But remember that YOUR LIFE is not about them. It's about ... YOU. Just do it -- do the thing you want to do. Who knows -- you may end up being a role model to them, and you may get some of them off the couch and into the pottery studio.

So what kinds of things are you sitting around dreaming of doing? What's on your bucket list? Why not pick one thing you've always dreamed about doing, and join me in JUST DOING it! I want to hear about it!!!

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