Is What’s Holding You Back Helping You?
On July 23, 2010, I wrote a guest post for Arvind Devalia’s Make It Happen blog. Some of you may remember that post because it’s how you first found this site.
This is the post I wrote for Arvind, but it has never appeared here. I know I have many readers who never saw it. This post may seem a bit off topic for my blog, but somehow I think it fits in just fine.
You can overcome just about anything today, especially when you realize that the things that slow you down aren’t necessary challenges you need to overcome.
Here’s a lesson I’m having trouble learning: There’s nothing wrong with slowing down.
My natural instinct is to keep pressing on — to hurry through life. Sometimes, though, I don’t have any choice but to slow down.
Today, my back hurts. In fact, as I’m starting to write this, it really hurts. It happens a few times a year. Something makes the whole thing lock up.
I like to blame it on the incredibly tight muscles at the back of my upper legs that seem to pull relentlessly on my lower back.
Most people call them hamstrings. But because I always think something is medically wrong with mine, I call them porkstrings. Ham, of course, is usually cured.
I’d like to think it’s part of getting old, but I’m not old (only 38) and it’s not new.
I’m becoming convinced, however, that tight porkstrings are my friend. Unless pain slows me down, I don’t slow down at all.
But part of living a simple, deliberate life is slowing down to enjoy the things others are missing. Whatever is slowing you down today may actually be forcing you to do something you could be doing voluntarily — enjoying the slower life for which you are meant.
Here are a few ideas that might make whatever is holding you back a bit more bearable.
You don’t have to be as productive as that blogger who says he writes a dozen posts a day — or whichever guru it is with whom you’re comparing yourself unfavorably.
When you stop comparing yourself and your productivity to others, you can find peace in what you’re getting done.
I felt terrible yesterday and didn’t even finish writing this post (I’m on day two, now), but I didn’t have to finish it. I hadn’t committed to a specific post or date with Arvind, and I probably wouldn’t have. (See “No time constraints” below.)
When you choose your career, your calling and your lifestyle carefully, you have no real limitations.
I write because it’s something I know how to do and also one of relatively few things I truly enjoy at the deepest level of my being.
I replaced three poorly-designed light switches in our house a few months ago. I know how to do that now, but it isn’t something I want to do. I’ll do it again if I must, but I won’t become an electrician because I have no affinity for it or desire to do it.
When you direct your energies toward what your body and brain are compelled to do, you don’t have any limitations. Limit yourself to the things at which you have skill, talent and desire and you won’t feel limited at all.
No time constraints.
If you’re living a simple, deliberate life, you don’t have any time constraints. If you do, something isn’t working well for you.
You have the rest of your life to complete your projects, whether you expect that to be decades or days. There is no due date and no expiration date except those you’ve willingly place on yourself or allowed others to place on you.
I used to be a freelance journalist, so I understand deadlines. And I understand that I no longer accept them — very often. I like writing news and feature stories, so I’ll probably someday volunteer for the pressure of that lifestyle as a short-term challenge. But I won’t return to 8-to-5 days with timeclocks or never-ending days with “due immediately” deadlines.
You can wriggle free of every time constraint that binds you.
Once your life’s projects are free of time restrictions, a sore back may slow you down, but it doesn’t derail your plans.
Of course, it’s easy to use pain, anger, depression, fear and other emotions as excuses to paralyze our progress.
Pressing on has value. Plodding forward is a good idea.
When you stop comparing yourself to others, begin stretching yourself within only the limits of your desires and free yourself from other people’s clocks, you’ll find the motivation to move through the things that are trying to hold you back at a speed that’s safe for your soul.
You’ll accept no excuses from yourself when you realize you have something you really want to do — and you’ll know when the time has come to do it.
Arvind wants you to make it happen. And, as I say so often on my blog, I want you get so much more from a simple, deliberate life.
Get what you want by only being held back enough to see what others are missing.