Start somewhere. This is probably the best advice I ever have to offer, and it seems like the best place to “get back on the horse” with the blog.
I know I’m not alone as a person who gets overwhelmed by all the things that end up on my to-do list. Sometimes that’s a self-inflicted wound because I take on too much. Sometimes it’s an uphill battle against perfectionism and depression.
When things feel too big to even be possible, I just start somewhere. There’s the old saying that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, or the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Pick your favorite metaphor, and just start small.
The elephant I’m probably struggling with the most right now is decluttering, so I’ve been applying the “start somewhere” motto to it. It’s not fast work for me, but every time I walk into a mess, I just pick a spot and start working from there. If that even feels too big, I set a timer for 15 minutes and give myself permission to take a break if I work through the timer.
Whatever elephant you’re trying to eat, I have no shortcuts for the actual work. But I do know that the only way to tackle it is to start somewhere and just work through each step as it comes. I know that makes it sound very simple, but simple doesn’t always mean easy. Sometimes simple is ridiculously hard, and that’s okay. Most of the time the hardest part of the work is just getting started.
See the mountain once a day; then focus on the trail in front of you.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to overwhelm myself when I get into a big project. I make two equal, yet differing mistakes. First, I think too hard about the end result and plotting the perfect course that I often fail to take the first steps needed to make it to the top of the mountain. Then, once I finally get to work, I plot a timeline/schedule for my perfect course, but it’s a breakneck pace that’s only possible if I can work through the schedule perfectly every day without interruptions. Brilliant, right?
Many moons ago I suckered my best friend into training for a triathlon with me. We worked really hard, and we planned a trail run/walk as a fun training day. We were very smart and packed a fabulous picnic lunch, which we put in a cooler in one of our cars at the top of the mountain trail we were going to tackle. We drove in the other car down to the trailhead to begin. We had even studied the trail maps for the park and picked the one that was closest to our distance goal. Brilliant, right?
The trail was beautiful and shady enough that we didn’t feel like dying in the Alabama heat and humidity, and we were making great time, maybe even running ahead of schedule based on our goal pace. And then we came to the end of the marked trail we had planned to follow. There was no parking lot with our parked lunch cooler car. Instead, there was more mountain to hike and a sign pointing to another trail that would take us to the lunch cooler car. And we had no idea how long the new trail would be because we thought we had already accounted for that distance. Brilliant, right?
We were somewhere between trailheads with no plan because our perfect lunch plan had just been obliterated by this sign and the new colored trail marks it told us to follow. We had to decide if it was better to keep going up, or turn around and go back to where we started. We took a look up the mountain, and we decided to go for it. If we had focused on the fact that the map was weirdly drawn and had delayed our lunch by at least another two miles uphill, that mountain would have taken forever to hike because our attitude would have made things miserable. We focused on the trail markers and where we were headed, and those extra miles weren’t so bad.
Long story, short: It’s easy to get discouraged when you see how much mountain you still have to climb to get to the top, no matter how brilliant your plan was to begin with. By concentrating on the next step that’s directly in front of you, you’ll be able to feel less pressure from the enormity of the overall goal and focus on the task at hand. You still need to see the big picture, but it doesn’t need to hang over you like an oppressive shadow. Let it be motivation to keep moving and a reminder of why you’re taking this particular trail. Don’t let it scare you into never leaving the parking lot.
Additional moral to the story: sometimes you have to change plans mid-trail, or maybe you have to find the next trail when the one you just finished didn’t get you all the way to the endpoint you wanted. That’s not failure. That’s being resilient and adapting to the situation on the ground. That’s a solid marker of mental health, and it’s a good thing.
What mountain are you planning to climb? What does the trail look like that puts you on a path to accomplishing that goal? How can you narrow your focus to just that trail in front of you?
Progress is progress. Keep moving and never give up.
Do you ever feel like you’re stuck on a hamster wheel and
never really getting anywhere with any of the things you want to accomplish in
your life? Me, neither. Ha!
I think we all feel like this at some point whether we admit to it publicly or not. Today’s Mindset Monday comes from my planner on a day when nothing had gone right for at least a week. At least that’s what I thought until I sat down and reviewed my daily evaluations in my planner.
I felt like I had done nothing to speak of because I had
nothing to mark off my goal checklist.
What I saw when I spent some time reviewing what I had accomplished that
wasn’t written on my goal work list was not as insignificant as it felt when I
was feeling mopey about it. I had taken
care of my household, worked, done some writing, and mostly stuck to my food and
exercise plan. That was plenty!
It may have felt like nothing was happening when I looked at
what I had done on my book writing, but I was still making progress there,
too. It just wasn’t the lightening pace
I had set for myself when I planned out my goals.
I’ve been taking a new approach to goal setting and
achievement for this season of my life.
I’m not setting deadline dates as often.
If there’s no outside reason for a deadline, I’m leaving it open ended
rather than pacing it out on a calendar.
Think of goals as a roadmap rather than a timeline.
I’m still going to get to the end destination, but my pace
won’t always be the same or predictable.
Some days I can speed down the highway at 90 miles an hour, while others
I’m on a leisurely stroll. Both are
getting me closer to the goal result, and I need to be happy that I’m moving
towards it, even when it feels like a snail could outrun me.
With parenting and work and volunteering at church, I’m just
not in a space in my life right now to narrowly focus on much else. Whether I like it or not, that means writing more
than my daily journal pages will be the thing that slides down the list of
important things to do. That’s okay,
because it won’t always be like that.
In fact, here’s a story of a woman who published her first
novel at the age of 95.
She never quit. It
took her 63 years to write her novel, and she did it. She is my hero and a brilliant example that
you’re too old or too late until you’re dead.
Whatever it is you’ve been avoiding because you think you don’t have time
or will never be able to finish it, just start.
Start with something small and then just chip away at it little at a
time until you’ve achieved your goal.
You can’t accomplish anything if you never start. It may be slow and feel all kinds of ugly, but slow and ugly progress is still progress. You only fail if you give up.
In my planner every day, I fill in the answer to, “If I were
a life coach, I would tell myself…”
Sometimes these sage bits of advice to myself are as simple as, “Don’t
suck,” and sometimes they are slightly more nuanced. As I was thinking about what I should be
sharing on the blog and in the Mabbat FB group, I decided maybe some of my
“life coach” advice could be helpful to someone else. So, I decided to run with a theme for the
start of the week: Mindset Monday.
This week’s mindset is a statement I wrote as my own life
coach, and I have used it every day since as motivation. I’ve actually written it as encouragement to
answer the “If I get stuck, I will keep going by…” question every single day
for several months.
I am a writer, so I will write.
I don’t have to publish a book to call myself a writer. I write a lot, and I love to write, so I am a
writer. Writers write. It’s what they do. I am a writer, so I will write. When I get stuck, when in doubt, when nothing
feels like it’s working… write. It can
be that simple.
So you’re not a writer, and you think at this moment I’ve lost my mind, and this has nothing to do with mindset. But consider that all of the things we want to do are just about that simple. You want to run a 5k race? You will have to train, but the simplest form of that is to think, “I am a runner, so I will run.” Of course, you may want to work through a training plan, but at the most basic level, to be the thing, you have to do the thing. If you run, you are by definition a runner.
I am a painter. I am a writer. I am a poet. I am a teacher. I am an athlete.
I do none of those things as my day job, but those are all things that I claim to be because of what I do. All except that last one. I have been an athlete, but I am currently out of shape. I need to lose weight and exercise to be healthier and to be the best version of me I can be for my family. I have created some training goals and plans, so I am training myself to say, “I am an athlete, so I will workout and feed my body well.” I can’t really claim to be an athlete as an out of shape blob, so once I say it, I need to follow my motivational statement with action. As soon as I start working through my training plan, I will be an athlete. I will be someone who is working out to complete a goal race.
My “I am” statements are simple visualization exercises. It’s a great way to motivate yourself and see yourself and think of yourself as the thing you want to be. I am an athlete the second I put on my running shoes and hit the street in the morning. I won’t be an elite athlete, nor will I look graceful or fit as I begin the journey. But I’ll be some version of an athlete.
How many dreams do we hold back on working for because we
think we won’t be good enough to lay claim to the title? At what point can you claim a title?
I hesitated for years to call myself a writer and feel
comfortable saying it out loud to other people.
I felt like maybe I should whisper it, or maybe they would ask how many
books I’d published and then I’d be banished and ridiculed for pretending to be
a writer. I wish I could tell myself
then what I know now. I am a
writer. I have always been a
writer. I don’t have to justify that to
anyone except God who gave me the gift of stringing words together into
You don’t have to justify yourself either. There are things in life we can claim because
we have the formal training or certification cards to prove it. For example, I am a scuba diver. I have multiple certifications to prove
it. Soon, I’ll be a certified Hazardous
Materials Technician, and I’ll have a piece of paper to prove it. (It’s related to my day job, and it’s been so
much fun to learn.) Here’s the thing
about the HazMat Tech certification: I may have a paper that says it, but I’m extremely
unlikely to be out in a suit and SCBA working.
I will not be claiming HazMat Tech on my resume, even at work.
I’m not a writer because there is some licensing agency that
official certifies writers; I’m a writer because that’s how God wired my
brain. I’m an athlete because I’m
naturally competitive, and I’m training to run a race. I’m a painter because I paint. None of those things are invalidated by my
skill level. I’m a good writer; I’m an
average painter; I’m a lousy athlete.
I’ll never improve if I don’t practice. I’ll never practice if I think the things I
want to be are unattainable. If my
dreams are never to be reached, what’s the point in trying? That’s how my brain works without, “I am
_____, so I will _____.”
I challenge you to think through the goals and dreams you’ve
let slide. Is there one you want to pick
up and run with? What will it take for
you to make it happen? What’s the main
thing you’ll need to do or to practice?
What’s your “I am” statement? I’d
love to encourage you on your journey if you want to share it. You can comment here, and you can join the
Mabbat FB group for a more private setting and regular encouragement.