If Not Now, Then When?

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I’ve been thinking about writing this article for almost 3 months… Not this one specifically, but an article in general. The truth is that as the days roll on, so the shame of missed deadlines, unfulfilled promises (to myself and others) and incomplete projects whither away at my soul and so my ability to stand tall in the wind diminishes.

I don’t know if you’re like me but generally the longer I leave something undone, the harder it becomes to do it and the harder it becomes to do, the greater resistance I feel towards it. The more resistance I feel towards it, the less I want to do it and the less I want to do it, the more terrible I feel about myself. The more terrible I feel about myself, the less energy I have to do anything and so on and so forth; you know the story. I talk to myself consistently –

‘Why am I like this?’

‘I’m so stupid.’

‘I’m not good enough.’

Forever and ever amen.

Actually, no, not amen. Amen means ‘so be it’ and when we willingly subjugate ourselves to these perpetual cycles of…

discomfort, procrastination, self-abuse, more self-abuse, lack of results and lack of self-love which inevitably leads to lack of acknowledgement of value in ourselves and therefore lack of value recognition of ourselves by others and financial troubles and so on…

we are not harnessing our true power. Now tell me: is there a bigger slap in the face to the universe than that? I don’t think so. And here’s the thing:

Self-loving words lead to action. Action leads to progress. Progress leads to confidence. Confidence leads to competence.

If you want to change the game, change the story you tell yourself about yourself and get up and DO something. Anything.

Here’s the story: yesterday I felt like a complete misallocation of life. I was down in the dumps. I went out on Saturday night (it’s Monday today) –  I had a whale of a time – and felt guilty (very guilty) for spending Sunday afternoon (okay the whole of Sunday) lazing about.

*If I’m not going to get up and do something,  I may as well beat myself up as I lay here motionless instead?*

Of course that sounds absolutely ridiculous upon reflection but that’s what I was doing for hours and then I recalled Robin Sharma’s words, ‘mind over mattress’ and I slothfully got up. But I still didn’t feel like doing anything… After all, I was a cellular mass of little purpose other than injecting carbon dioxide into the already CO2 burdened world… Then it hit me: I would never talk to a friend like this, so why do I talk to myself like this?

In a moment, I  started consciously changing my vocabulary, using other words to describe the current situation. Maybe I wasn’t lazy, maybe I was relaxed. Maybe I wasn’t inadequate, maybe I was taking in the simple joys of life which I usually only do when I am sick. Maybe I wasn’t a terrible person but just waiting for the right moment, this moment, to recognize how far I’ve actually come in my life. I proceeded to list the ways in which I was proud of myself. Sure, I haven’t finished my master’s (which looms heavily over my head on some days – more on this soon), but I have had great successes in other ways. This year I received a job promotion, I presented at conferences, I increased my attention span, I was more consistent with my music practice and I strove daily to be a better person. That sounds like a shade of success to me! With a slight upturn of my lips, I felt a wave of self-love fill my body and I finally sat in front of my piano and started reciting the chords I’m learning as part of my jazz practice. Almost instantly, I felt a rush of blood through my brain;  a natural high – a hint of exhilaration. So this is what it feels like to push past pangs of laziness, to do something despite not wanting to do it at all, to fight discomfort and yet to walk head first into the resistance.

I felt alive.

My life has been laden with moments like this in the past few months. It’s almost as if the universe is trying to slap me across the face so that I may finally wake up and start living – truly living. Not coasting painlessly through the waves of cozy comfort where one is never thrust to the point of the palpitating nervousness that comes from trying something new or pushing through one’s fears. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts. It hurts to change one’s ways; especially to rewire the brain when our ancestors have betrothed us to a mindset of staying safe.

Times have changed and our ecology demands something different. Our psychology demands something different. There is a certain peace that comes from failure. A peace that comes from knowing that no matter what, you tried. You put yourself out there. So why not decide from today to experiment with your comfort zone, have fun with failure and smile all the while?

If you’re feeling stuck I have a few gentle (or not so gentle) concluding words of advice for you – because after 28 years of enduring the pain of regret, I can genuinely tell you that the pain of failure is much more bearable. I’m now only starting to get it. And I mean starting. So,

  1. If you want to change your life, you have to change the story you tell yourself about yourself. Speak to yourself like you’re your own best friend.
  2. If you feel like the cat dragged you in, get up, stand up straight, put a smile on your face, do jumping jacks, do whatever it takes to alter your emotions through motion. This is the best application of faking it until you make it. Your mood can alter your posture and your posture can alter your mood – remember that.
  3. ‘Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.’ Arthur Ashe. Become a master of effective practice –  that is, doing the best you can with what time and resources you have available. Whatever your craft may be, do this and you will excel in life.

I hope that helps you today. Remember I am here with you, suffering, surrendering, failing, smiling, crying, laughing, trying and getting up to do it all over again.

Just keep swimming. The gift of life is you.