Getting started is the easy part. You have an idea, you jump in with both feet, and then…. and then… you hit a wall.
This is me at our local mud run last weekend. My husband and I ran it last year and I immediately wanted to build an obstacle course in the backyard. We signed up for this year’s event as soon as it was available and had been looking forward to it all year. A quarter-mile in we approached our first obstacle: the 20-foot* rope wall. My husband murmured advice as we approached: Don’t go too fast, take your time, you’ll get there faster than you think. I made it up without any problems, then had a moment of panic as I flung my leg over the 2×4 supporting the dozen people on there with me. I wasn’t so worried about finishing the obstacle — I was concerned that someone else would knock me over (fortunately this picture was taken a split-second before that panic). I climbed down the other side and as I waited with my father-in-law for my husband, I noticed a woman completely frozen at the top.
“I can’t do it. I can’t. I can’t climb over.” Over and over and over. She clung to the bright orange wood like a lifeline, unable to throw her leg over. (We’ll save my husband’s frustration at being stuck behind her for another time.) Those of us on the ground shouted encouragement, but she decided to return the way she came. Meanwhile countless other competitors scaled the ropes and ran to the next obstacle, oblivious to her struggles.
That got me thinking about how everyone has something that freezes them up and makes it nearly impossible to move forward. I’ve been trying to lose weight for over a year and cannot get the scale to budge. I keep trying different things but nothing seems to work. Deep down I know what I need to do — cut out my lovely, precious wine and exercise more often — but instead I curse at the scale and avoid clingy clothes.
What is Your Obstacle?
Writers often hit a wall in the middle of a novel. The initial spark of a new idea can only carry a story so far; eventually serious work needs to take over and it’s not always fun. As I said above, when trying to lose weight people often hit a point where their previous efforts stop working and they need to change up their routine if they want to continue seeing progress. Even looking for a new job can become tiresome and before long you’ve convinced yourself that maybe the company that’s sucking the life out of you isn’t so bad after all (that would be my previous employer, not the current one). So how do you get over that wall?
Determine Your Goal
You know you want to write a novel, or lose 20 pounds, or find a job that doesn’t require two different medications to get through the day (also true), but how do you make it happen? Sometimes just telling yourself you’re going to do it isn’t enough.
Write it Down
Put it on a bright yellow sticky note and stick it where you’ll see it every day. Inside the medicine cabinet is a good spot because if you’re like me, you’re probably still half asleep and not yet thinking about your goal. I would advise against the fridge or a bulletin board that sees a lot of action because your reminder will get buried and forgotten. Keep that thing visible!
Now DO It
This is the hardest part. You can have the best idea in the world but executing it and sticking with it is really, really difficult. Often times it requires changing habits that fit quite nicely, thank-you-very-much, and changing them is uncomfortable. But if you’re like me and already don’t feel comfortable, maybe that change won’t be so bad.
I suggest setting really LOW goals to start. Want to exercise every day but your butt is permanently glued to the sofa? Walk for ten minutes. Yes, that seems like nothing, but it’s something. Even if you are a gym-junkie, there will be days you can’t squeeze in a workout and walking around the block is better than nothing. Same with writing. Right now my goal is 500 words per day (I’m still working towards 1000) but some days it’s all I can do to eke out a paragraph.
IT’S BETTER THAN NOTHING. It’s too easy to miss a couple days and tell yourself that you may as well give up because you’ve already fallen so far behind your goal, but one of the most important things I’ve learned (and one of the few inspirational quotes that I actually tolerate) is this:
No one else will do it for you.
It’s all up to you. And you’ve got this. You may have days when the wall seems taller than ever, but it won’t stay that way forever. Throw your leg over that obstacle and do it again tomorrow.
I’d love to hear about your wall and what you’re doing to climb over it.
*Jeremy insists the wall was lower than 20 feet but I know my heights. I also know that we WILL have an obstacle course someday…