Sometimes You’ll Have Off Days…That’s Okay.

It’s a new year, and everyone’s making (or possibly already breaking) resolutions to improve their lives, become better people, really make a lasting change this time. The full-speed-ahead attitude that comes with a new year’s resolution is great, but we all know that feeling wears off and you are soon left to face the music: Making a change, especially a lasting change, is really hard.

I never bothered with New Year’s resolutions, even as a kid (I think even then they felt sort of phony), but I have made several attempts at sweeping life change. Sometimes they take, sometimes they don’t. But here are a couple of things to keep in mind while you work through your goals, no matter what they may be; to lose weight, to quit smoking, to travel more, to get a new job, anything.

1) Change takes time.
Real, lasting change does not happen over night. You’re breaking through years of bad habits and ingrained thought patterns, so creating new ones will take persistence. Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect rock solid abs by January 7th. Allow yourself the time to let the change happen.

2) Off days happen. It’s okay.
Some days you’ll get up and start in on your exercise routine or sit down at your keyboard to write your daily word goal and you just won’t feel it. You’ll plod through your routine thinking things like, “This will never work,” “I’m a hack,” “I don’t know why I decided to do this in the first place,” “I want to go back to bed,” etc. Give yourself permission to have days like this. Not every day is going to be fantastic, but bumping up against this sort of thing is what causes a lot of people to fail. They convince themselves during those off days that they really ARE a hack, or this really WILL never work.

It’s not true. When you’re working toward a positive change, the brain will try all sorts of tricky tactics to keep control over the sameness and comfort it is used to. Work through it. Get up tomorrow and try again. Whatever you do, don’t dwell on your off day. Accept it for what it was (a natural part of the process), and move on. Besides, the off days are what make the really GOOD days seem even sweeter!

Happy 2011!

Finding the Time

I’ve been paying a lot of attention lately to other people. I think it’s because the further and further I get from the “norm”, the more simultaneously fascinating and depressing it is for me to watch “regular” people stay stuck. They will talk about things they want to do, or listen to me talk about things I have done, and immediately follow that longing up with, “…but I don’t have the time/money/some other thing that’s theoretically in short supply but, in reality, isn’t.”

Saying you don’t have enough time is the easiest excuse to make for staying in one spot. It’s certainly easy to feel like there’s not enough time. Especially if you have a full time job. You go in to work, put in eight hours for someone else, and then come home exhausted. “If only I didn’t have to work…” you might think. “Then I’d have all the time in the world to follow my dream.”

This is a lie we tell ourselves to keep us trapped. I’m telling you as someone who’s had the full time job, the part time job, and no job at all: If you don’t make the time for it when you have four hundred other things to do, you aren’t suddenly going to make the time for it when you have nothing to do.

Because that’s what this ultimately comes down to: Making the time. If something is important enough to you, you WILL make the time for it. Example: You don’t ever hear anyone say, “Well, I would love to eat every day, but I just don’t have the time.” (You might hear people use the time excuse for not eating well, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.) Everybody has to eat. Eating is important to everyone. Therefore, everyone makes the time for it. Even if it’s sitting in the drive-thru for ten minutes on the way home from work. Even the busiest, most pressed-for-time person on the face of the earth makes time to eat.

You probably see where I’m going with this. If the thing you “wish” you could do is important enough to you, you can find the time to work on it. Think about what you do after work. Do you come home, sit on the couch and stare into space for an hour before doing anything? Take ten minutes of that time to do something else. Something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Something you’ve “always wanted to do” but “never had the time for”.

Think of the things you wish you could do, but use time as an excuse to avoid. Pick one you really want to try, one that niggles at the back of your mind, the one at the top of the “someday” pile. What steps do you need to take to make it a reality? What’s the first step? How can you break that first step down into the smallest piece possible? Break down your dream into tiny, individual steps. Now, your goal is to only complete that first tiny step. Give yourself ten minutes, somewhere in your day, to make the time and do it. It can be on your lunch break at work. It can be during the commercial breaks of your favorite show. It can be right before you go to bed. It can be right when you wake up. During the time you would usually spend on Facebook. Give yourself ten minutes before you load up your video games and get one small task done.

I used to listen to a writing podcast (I Should Be Writing, a wonderful podcast for anyone interested in writing anything), and the host would every so often interview published authors so her listeners would have professional advice. When host Mur Lafferty asked one published author how she found the time to write, the author answered, “Authors do not find the time to write. They carve it out of solid rock.”

If you care enough about something, if it’s important enough to you, if you really, truly, wish you could do it, you will carve yourself some time for it. I’m not going to give you exercises to “find the time” or anything like that, because those are everywhere and a simple google search can help you out. But I challenge you to think about how you spend your time, and what activities you devote your free time to. Whether or not you want to admit it to yourself, these are the things you are giving priority, so these are the things you are deeming important. If you’d like to change that, start small, and start tiptoeing in the right direction. Once you discover you really do have the time, you’ll start “finding” it everywhere.