“It might take us a lifetime. Luckily, a lifetime is exactly how long we have.” – Glennon Doyle, Untamed
To me, this quote is so powerful that I seriously considered just sending it to you – not writing a single other word.
What would you do if you knew you had no deadline at all?
In fact, I wish this blog had a discussion board feature because I’d really love to know what each of you wish you c/would start but can’t/won’t because you are daunted by how long it c/would take you to do it.
- Lose weight?
- Feel better?
- Get stronger?
- Touch your toes?
- Free yourself (your desk, your closet, your home) of clutter?
- Train to run or walk a 5K?
- Finally, take those last classes for your degree?
- Quit (you fill in the blank – smoking, eating meat, picking at your nails)?
- Start (you fill in the blank – changing your sheets once a week, volunteering at a food bank, meditating)?
A story of my disappeared push-up
After doing roughly 60 a day, six days a week, for almost 20 years my chatarunga (yoga’s version of a push-up) disappeared on me. Personally, though I was pretending to be OK about no longer being able to do a push-up, it really bothered me that something I used to do so much of was now impossible.
I spent a while feeling helpless (“I guess I’ll never do that again.”). I spent a little while longer making excuses about why I really shouldn’t do that again. I talked myself out of even thinking about trying to redevelop the strength “until next semester” – twice.
Finally, I got super annoyed with myself. My “inner narrator,” who can be pretty brutish and nasty, was clever this time. She double-dog-dared me: “If you’re not going to do anything about it, you simply MUST stop thinking about it.”
I paused, thinking, “Good point.” And, at last, acknowledged that I wasn’t able to stop thinking about those lost push-ups. I accepted that, though nothing in me wants to do 60 a day ever again, I did want to know if I could do one or two.
It’s always better to go forward than back
So, thinking it’s always better to move forward than to try to get back to how things used to be, I asked a friend who is a personal trainer how one would go about developing the strength and muscle patterning to do a push-up if they had never done one in their whole life. She showed me the form, suggested I start on a wall, and then, when possible, move to lower surfaces such as the breakfast bar, a counter, a tabletop, and so on.
I went home, searched my morning schedule for something I do every day, and chose to practice my push-ups while I wait for the tea kettle to boil. (This is called habit stacking. You can read more in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits.) If this seems an odd choice to you, I knew a crazy part of me would be thrilled to be making such good use of those little windows of waiting.
The freedom to do with no pressure to finish
Then I did the mightiest thing of all. I stripped my fledgling practice of timelines, deadlines, and the need for advancement. I simply show up and do my two sets of eight push-ups at whatever height until I realize they have become easy. If (notice, IF, not when) that happens, the next day I will do a few on a new, lower surface.
Frankly, I am astonished at the freedom I have given myself. No schedule. No pressure. No striving. Just showing up and doing. And I feel PROUD of myself for that. I feel GOOD that I’m strong enough to do what I’m strong enough to do. Do I feel happy when I have to find a lower surface that can support my body weight? I guess so. Mostly, months later, I’m still feeling HAPPY that I started.
Again, I ask, what would you do if you had a lifetime to do it?
What if you could change your perspective on this thing that you want to do? What if you took a good, hard look at whatever deadline you’ve created in your head for this thing you want to start and gave it a kiss goodbye? What if you decided to shift your focus from “done-ness” to doing? Rather than being focused on the finish line, could you choose to celebrate the fact that you’re doing what you wanted to do?
What if when your inner narrator says (and s/he will), “This will take forever! A lifetime!” you were to choose to reply, as you show up and do the thing, “Luckily a lifetime is exactly how long I have.”?
If the thing you want to start is yoga, check out the Yoga With Spirit monthly membership. It gives you access to a library of recorded classes that you can use to get your home practice started or re-started. And stay tuned for a new class this fall designed to help you create and nourish practices of all types.