The more you just ‘do’, the more you will continue to do
I observe people quite a lot in my life.
My work is very varied, and involves public speaking, training people, working in groups, coaching people, leading people in outdoor activities, meeting friends and colleagues, mentoring people, working on collaborative projects and so on. Throughout this varied work, over the last two decades, I have observed that it’s only really quite a small percentage of people who ‘just do’ things, compared to a majority who live somewhere on the periphery of action – usually either right ‘on the cusp’ observing, wanting to take part, vicariously living on the edge, but never quite stepping up, or others tend to be further back, watching the action from something of a distance, or even way back, along with the ‘wall flowers’ of our world.
It takes all sorts, as they say.
Allow me to explain what I am talking about.
I find that few people ‘just do it’ as the expression goes. By it, I mean all kinds of things. Most people move into adulthood and fairly quickly settle into a set of circumstances that are familiar and comfortable. When the suggestion comes up to do something different, to push into unfamiliar territory, they default to a bunch of ‘reasons’ (ummm, excuses I call it) to hold back.
It might be trying a new sport, going on a trip, or changing a familiar routine, but people resist new, they resist change, and this can go on for months, for years, for decades. If you are one of those people, maybe you realise, it can go on for an entire life time.
All the excuses
I’ll write using the terms “I” and “you” but these are not about me, and you, they are just generalisations, about many people.
Last weekend I led a couple of friends to climb their first ever mountain, so that seems like a good place to start.
You’ve never climbed a mountain but you have always thought you might like to one day. I suggest we go, and you default to all the reasons why you should not. Time, money, inconvenience, training, you don’t have the right footwear, clothing, experience.
A trip comes up, a chance to go abroad for a few days to visit someone or somewhere. You hold off, it’s the cost, you feel guilty leaving your partner to deal with the kids, it’s too much to ask the boss for more time off work, there’s a big project you are working on, you don’t have time.
Eating right and losing weight means making some changes. You need to join that gym, join that new class (yoga, martial arts, CrossFit, Pilates, boxing…), buy appropriate clothing or home workout equipment, move things around in your kitchen, throw out the toaster and buy a juicer instead. These changes take time, and money, and effort. Throwing out the toaster might upset your spouse, so you had better not do that. (Really, what sort of spouse would rather you remain overweight, unhappy, unhealthy, suffering bowel distention and low self-esteem?)
I invite you to a yoga and meditation retreat, it’s in the sun, there’s a pool, you’ll lose weight and feel great, you’ll love it, but you’re afraid of asking your partner if the funds are there, you’re afraid of ‘taking for yourself’, you’re not sure about room sharing with a same-sex stranger.
You want to change your job, because you are bored of your current position, you are unthrilled and unfulfilled, but you’re afraid of a drop in pay, afraid of struggling to make the payment on that German-made car, afraid next year’s foreign holiday may have to be on a slightly smaller budget, afraid of committing to the extra costs.
I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea. There may be lots of changes, situations, opportunities, scenarios and possibilities that come your way over the years, which I’ll bet you say “oh that would be great” and “I’d love to try that” and “I would but…” and “That looks great, I wish I could” and “Yeah I have always wanted to have a go at that” but you turn all these things down because they are a stretch for you, they stretch your finances, or your abilities, or your comfort zones.
Stretching your comfort zones
Well, the whole reason your comfort zones stay small, is because you always turn these things down. Your small comfort zones, is keeping you small, it’s holding you back, preserving itself – small, tight, comfortable.
By contrast, there are a few people who say ‘yes’. And they grow, year after year, they grow.
I meet people who always have the same excuses – it’s always money. Yet they drive an expensive car, replaced with a new one every few years, and they have savings in the bank, a huge pension building up, mortgage paid down or paid off, and lots of security behind them. They are secure, well looked after for the future, and simultaneously bored off their heads.
I meet people who always say it’s about their spouse or partner. “My husband won’t look after the kids and work so I am never free to go anywhere on my own.” Or “My wife works full time too but I work from home, so I am there for the kids/dogs/cat/mother-in-law and I can’t go away and leave them home alone during the day.” Or “We don’t do anything alone, I won’t try that without my partner and he/she isn’t interested.” and so on.
I meet people who always say it’s about work, the job. “I can’t get more time off.” Or “I’ve not got enough holiday allowance for that.” Yet they have five weeks per year and use half of it to sit at home and watch the cricket/golf/football/tennis or to paint the living room or to “catch up on some DIY and a few odd jobs.”
None of these ‘reasons’ or excuses are bad or wrong or invalid, and I am not saying that the people who say these things are liars, too weak to speak their mind or in any way telling untruths. In fact, more often than not, these people truly believe their own story, they really do think these are wholly valid ‘stopping points’ that stand in their way, and without them, they would do these things, take these opportunities, embrace these changes.
But they don’t. And the years pass, and years become decades, and then the kids grow up and leave home and you turn 50, and then your body is weary, out of shape, you are tired, and you’ve not got your nerve or confidence like you had when you were younger, and…and…and…
Just do it
That’s how it goes. Then we put it down to ageing, it’s part of life, you are older now so you are slowing down.
Personally, I think that’s bullshit, but maybe that’s just me.
I say resist the slow decline into routine, resist the stability, resist the comfortable. Say yes. Do the things. Push yourself. Grow. Recognise that your ‘reasons’ really are just excuses, no matter how valid they may seem. Truly, you think these things are real, but that is your comfort zone putting that language into your head, it’s doing its job, holding you back, keeping you safe, and keeping you bored.
In my experience of life, the people with the most stability in their work, homes, finances, families, hobbies, relationships, friends, habits and routines, are also the most bored and frustrated. No one wants to reach their twilight years and look back on their life full of regrets for all the things they didn’t do.
- Climb the mountain
- Change your job to one you enjoy
- Go on the yoga retreat
- Tell your spouse you want to go somewhere alone
- Join the new martial arts class
- Join the singing, drama, dance group in the next town
- Book a week off and go camping and hiking
- Re-arrange the kitchen
- Start the new healthy eating regime
- Move the furniture
- Start the new home workout routine
- Learn a new language
- Join a gym
- Turn the damned TV off and learn a new skill
Jeez, too many people watch everyone else doing things on TV these days and they don’t actually do anything themselves!
- It seems that people like to watch ‘fat farm’ on the TV, yet they are not so keen to get their shit together and lose their own excess weight
- People like to watch someone train their dog on the TV, but they are not so keep to put some effort in and train their own dog
- People like to watch someone make over their house on TV but they are far less keen to turn the ‘electronic income reducer’ off and actually fix up their own home
- Folks like to watch some Apprentice show and see others trying to get a new job, yet they are not prepared to make the effort to go out and improve their own career
We seem to live in a world of watchers. 90% or more of folks seem to stand on the sidelines of life, out there on the edge looking in, enjoying the thrill of vicariously watching others, but doing little in the way of action and personal growth for themselves.
My advice, for your health, for your wellbeing, and for your life, is to be one of the few, one of the 5% or 10% who just do it, who say yes to opportunities and challenges alike, who grabs at life with both hands and actively works every year to grow your comfort zones, to become a bigger person, to do, see and be more.
Just do it. It’s a self-fulfilling virtuous circle. The more you do, the more you will continue to do. Growth becomes a habit. You just have to start. Do it today. Do it now.