On the importance of taking yourself more seriously.
It’s shocking how little weight I give the commitments I make to myself. I took a cold, hard look at it a while ago and I noticed the following things (this is a small sampling):
For months I’ve said I’d do yoga three times a week, and I had never done it. Not even once. (This is hard to admit. I am a yoga teacher.)
Every day a reminder told me to drink two liters of water.
It meant nothing to me.I’d scheduled time at my laptop to keep my writing on track. I ignored it without even knowing I’d ignored it.
What is that all about?
Bottom line, I think there was this crazy fantasy going on in my head that when the notification popped up on my screen (“Yoga”) and I clicked on the word “Complete,” in some alternate universe I actually did that thing. And the person I wished I were was made real. I think my online calendar was a virtual reality version of me, the one I hoped everyone thought I was.
Our culture encourages broadcasting better versions of ourselves for mass consumption, so there’s no real incentive for pushing back on that. But this is the first time I realized that I’d internalized that fake better version, and began broadcasting it to myself. Using my very own scheduling apps.
Unable to escape that painful truth anymore, I said to my coffee one morning, “Today, this ends. Today, I turn this ship around.” I had finally felt the appropriate degree of awful about the disparity between “Me” and the “Calendar Me,” and did something about it.
First, I stopped asking whether I ‘felt’ like doing it. “Yoga” showed up, and I skipped the merry-go-round of “But that’ll take so much time, and I should do this other thing instead,” which was right behind the horsie going up and down of “I didn’t sleep well last night, and maybe it’s more wiser to rest…” You get the picture. I skipped that part. I just rolled out my mat and did yoga. Not for an hour. Not even for twenty minutes. But I did spend five thoughtful, body-centered minutes. From my bones out. It counts. It mattered.
Second, I quit trying to be so perfect. If the item on my schedule said, “Go through papers on your desk,” I didn’t paralyze myself with “But look at that pile! It’s nine inches deep. I could be there all day, all week and still not get through it!”
No. Instead, I sat down and took it one piece of paper at a time. Side note: You can do this one of two ways. Either set a timer for thirty minutes and do whatever’s possible within that time frame. Or give yourself an arbitrary number (3? 5? 10?), and that’s how many pieces of paper you deal with.
In some cases, it worked out that the top five papers were all junk to recycle and it was over in half a minute. In others, each paper represented a lot of work — composing an answer, or research, or contacting someone else to confer about it. Whatever. I set the number, and I didn’t quit until that number was reached. And I didn’t leave my desk until that paper had been either thrown away, recycled, or filed.
The kicker is that once I got going, I almost always got way more work done than I’d originally planned. Which felt great.
Third, I reclaimed my inner hardass. I brooked no excuses. I’ve done a ton of therapy around not being so hard on myself. It’s one of the qualities most people notice about me once they know me well. Plus, again, our culture bombards us with, “Take that long, hot, bubble bath. Relax, let go…”
But sometimes the most compassionate thing you can do for yourself is to get in touch with your inner hardass and get to work! Oh my God. Just get over yourself, and do what you said you’d do. Simple as that. Quit making excuses. Quit looking at all the reasons why you can’t…and then, (hi, Nike!) Just Do It.
It’s that simple. I know because I’ve been using these parameters for a whole week! (See, now that’s where I could let go of the inner hardass making fun of me because it hasn’t been longer.)
But seriously. These principles are valuable pieces of my current state of well being. I feel substantial. Worthy. I don’t feel like a fraud anymore.
I’ve become more visible to my own life. And to everyone else in it.
Are you in a ship that needs turning around? Do it.
Go where you’re actually going, for real.
One day, one task, one piece of paper at a time.