Friday, August 26, 2011
nike were on to something
It's one of the most thrown about catchphrases in life, isn't it? And one of the most common instructions to yourself when you feel yourself floundering or making excuses. Just do it.
So why don't we just do it?
Well, there are many reasons, but mostly I think it's because letting go of all our excuses is hard. Putting aside things that have built up a lot of importance in our minds (other people's needs and expectations, for example) can't always be done at the drop of a hat. If you're used to living life a certain way, almost on autopilot, where you do the same things, feel like you're in a vicious circle, give yourself the same guilt trips and go along with every decision made, even if there's some niggling doubts there, because it's the easy thing to do....then it can be a huge shock to the system to put yourself first, be a bit more decisive and in tune with your own needs, and take some action. It's a huge shock because once you start doing those things you start to realise where the gaps in your life are; where the gaps in your happiness are. And once you know about those gaps, it's harder to ignore them.
They say knowledge is power but ignorance is bliss....I agree with that to some extent. But I wouldn't say ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is just easier. For the time being, anyway. But let's say another ten years go by. You get to the end of those ten years and wonder about all the things you could have been and all the things you could have done if only you'd been a bit more aware, had a bit more self respect and been a bit more conscious of how you were spending your time and what sort of life you were living......when you think about it that way, it's not the easier choice, is it? And it's certainly not bliss. The pain of lost years and wasted opportunities is hard to live with.
I think a lot of us are afraid too. Afraid of change, afraid of failure, afraid of success, afraid of what other people will think. Fear is a very crippling emotion. It keeps people glued to lives that aren't really working for them.
But remember, a life lived in fear is a life half lived. That is a line from one of my favourite movies, a wonderful Australian film called Strictly Ballroom. When I saw it for the first time at 11 years old I saw how unhappy some of the characters in the film were because they didn't give their dreams a shot - they gave in to fear and did what they thought they "should" do instead. As I grew older, I met real people who did the same thing. I was one of them.
One thing I've taken away from my experience is that when you live your life in fear, you aren't really living at all. And when you realise that that's what you're doing, then you must make a choice. Do you continue to live your life dictated by your fears, or do you step up and start facing them? When do you reach the point where you just do it?
The answers are never going to be obvious (well, not to us anyway!) and you do have to dig deep. And it's probably not what you think it is. I thought the reason I was unhappy in my old life was because I was overweight. As I slowly did something about that problem, it became obvious that the excess weight was only a symptom.
There is no magic cure for unhappiness. There is only one solution. Find out where it is coming from, and do something about it.
Sounds too easy, doesn't it? Looking back over my journey, it feels a lot easier than it actually was. Knowing what I know now I look back at the years I spent in that horrible corporate job in my early twenties where I would come home in tears every day and think why didn't I just leave?! It took me years to leave!! So I do sympathise with people who feel crippled by their situations, by their unhelpful thought patterns and habits. They are hard to break.
But you know what? There's always a way out. Start small, if you're that afraid. Just start.
For example, let's say you have a bad habit of sneaking junk food when you're alone in the house. Every time your partner is out and you're home alone, you see it as a chance to let loose. A whole pack of digestives? Gimme gimme gimme. Tub of icecream? Just hand me a spoon. A whole box of chocolates? Bring it on.
Now, here's what Aunty Latte thinks.
First of all, don't buy or make the stuff. Make your home environment a place where you cannot fail.
But let's say you ignore that, and the stuff's still there. Your palms are practically tingling with anticipation.
Say to yourself "I know I will feel bad if I eat all this stuff. I don't want to feel bad. I want to feel good."
Keep repeating it. You can of course have these things if you really want them and feel like them, but do you really want them? Are you lonely or bored instead? Are you actually inwardly seething with rage about something that happened...today, last week, last month....maybe even years ago?
Try and take 10 minutes just to think about it. That is the key. It's becoming conscious of these patterns. Let the calm voice overtake the noisy angry ones in your head that tell you to eat all that stuff because it's there, it's yummy and you deserve it.
I remember once very clearly, about three months into my weight loss, reaching for some chocolate and hearing a voice very loudly and clearly. You don't really want to eat it. You just want to eat it because you're upset. That had never happened before. It was then that I knew things had really changed.
Once you have offset the bad habit with an act of resistance and more positive behaviour, build on it. Just as one kiss inevitably leads to another (!), one act of building discipline and self awareness will lead to another. All you need is practice.
Don't deprive yourself, it's not about that. It's about bringing more into your life. You bring more into your life by valuing yourself, your needs and your happiness. Nurture yourself with love and understanding. Living your life consciously is one of the highest acts of self love there is.
I think a lot of it comes down to that. Learning to love yourself. Over the years I've encountered a lot of unhappy people, in various guises, and I've sometimes found myself unable to understand why they wouldn't take charge of their lives, their health and their happiness, because to me the solutions to their problems were very obvious. But when you don't love and value yourself, the solutions are never obvious. I'd forgotten that. And also that maybe people in my life too saw the plain-as-day solutions to my problems way back when I was bursting out of size 18 clothes, in that miserable job, and staying in every weekend with junk food and the blinds shut. But they couldn't tell me. And even if they had, I wouldn't have listened. I had to get there myself. I had to arrive at that moment, myself. Over the years I threw money at gyms, personal trainers and countless other stuff, but I had to stop relying on other people to bring about change for me. They couldn't do it for me. Only I could. It was the only way things would change.
So why did I just do it? What was it that finally woke me up?
The simple truth is that I really did just reach a point where I was fed up and wanted to be fit, healthy, attractive, confident and able to wear nice clothes! It wasn't a great big moment of enlightenment, just a lot of little things that added up over a period of time. I was tired of my life. It really was So. Boring. I wasn't doing anything I really wanted to do and I was sick of it - and I had a feeling that nothing was going to change unless I did something about it! That's what it boiled down to.
And as I lost weight, I got more confident and fit and healthy, and realised that I liked doing things other than sitting on the couch watching TV with a block of chocolate every night, and it was like a light being turned on in my soul. I was really trying to find out who I really was and what I wanted to do with my life. The weight loss was just a tool to get me there, a doorway into what else was possible for me. As the weight fell away (or stubbornly stayed put as was the case for a few months!), so did all my excuses. I had to face them. In the end there was no other choice. Just do it became my only option.
Was I scared? Of course I was! But I truly had reached a point where I would rather say "oh well" about something that hadn't worked out, than have a life filled to the brim with "what ifs". And of course, your life might not need as major an overhaul as mine did. There might just be one or two things you want to change. But deal with those one or two things, in a loving and conscious way, before they turn into something bigger and more complicated that eats away at you. If there is something in your life, anything, no matter how small, that is making you unhappy, you are entitled to do something about it.
And in case anyone thinks I'm getting a bit preachy here, I want to assure you that ,despite being so much happier than I was six years ago, my life is not perfect, it never has been, and I don't have all the answers. I have my moments like everyone else. My close friends often get blathering and angst-filled emails filled with superficial worries that, compared to what else I've been through in my life, you'd think I'd be able to handle with a bit more perspective. I also do not always exercise a will of iron and have dessert I don't want or need just because I've got the option. I sometimes press snooze on the alarm and don't go for a run. When I'm at home alone, I sometimes go sniffing for treats. Old faithful readers might remember me referring to an alter ego called Needy Phil, who was discovered and dealt with by my counsellor in Melbourne; well, she still makes an appearance every now and then and when she does it's bloody annoying! But I become aware when life is sliding into that pattern again, and I do something about it. It's not always easy. But I've been on both sides of the fence and I know what I'd rather have. The life you want doesn't just happen. You've got to work for it.
It's also taken me many years to realise that we aren't all the same. What works for me might not work for you. We need to find the answers within ourselves. It will take time, it will take a lot of soul searching. Some people can't get their heads around that and hence shy away from it all. But don't. It's not the easy option, but if it were easy there'd be no need for posts such as this one. The pressure that comes with taking some risks and reaching for something more than what you have is enormous, I know that. But it doesn't need to be scary. Don't make it something to be frightened of. Look at how positive your life will be by making these changes. Get excited! And know deep down that you deserve it!!
I know it's very easy for me to say, but the truth is if you want your life to change you can't keep making excuses and you can't keep letting the fear win. You've got to be brave. You've got to challenge the behaviours and thoughts that hold you back when they appear. Give yourself permission to just do it and start living the life you've dreamed of.
I guarantee you it is worth it. If you keep at it, and don't give up, then one day you'll realise that instead of looking around enviously at others who supposedly have it better together than you do, you actually feel pretty ok with yourself and where you're at. You won't want someone else's life, you'll want yours because yours is pretty damn great. Not perfect, but pretty damn great. You won't depend on other people to deliver the goods to make your life what you want it to be. You know that it's up to you.
And so you just do it.