The 2023 Mantra
I’ve been embracing 2023 with a deep sense of renewal. I get the feeling that a lot of things I’ve been building are starting to fall into place and I’m actually starting to take a lot of my own advice!
I talk a lot about building routines and having structure to your life (you can read more about that here). And I cannot deny that it takes a long time to build new habits. Science isn’t able to pin down how long (there are too many variables really) but between 50 and 250 repetitions are the figures I’ve found. And even that seems conservative.
So as we get to the end of January and your attitude to new habits (or resolutions if you were brave enough to call them that) starts to become more tired than inspired, here’s a little mantra for you:
Something is better than Nothing
I’m reminding myself of this every time I think, “I should be doing some yoga / playing guitar / meditation / writing.” It often feels either like we don’t have time, or the idea of a ‘session’ of something feels like a challenge, even when it’s something we enjoy. So I am no longer saying I need to do x amount of time on anything. Yes, 30 minutes of yoga is better than 10 minutes of yoga, but 10 minutes of yoga is better than zero minutes of yoga. And so often, I find that starting with the intention of doing 5-10 minutes will mean I enjoy the activity so much, that I continue for longer.
I’m someone who has always found it difficult to start. I’m a natural perfectionist and this holds me back, rather than propelling me forward. More often than not, I don’t want to start because I don’t want to get it wrong, or leave it incomplete. And this is another aspect to the “something is better than nothing” philosophy.
The bottom line is that if you want to succeed, you have to be prepared to fail. No-one – NO-ONE – who creates anything meaningful, progressive, ground-breaking or even interesting gets it right first time. Two people in my business sphere in the last week have spoken about how you have to embrace hearing a hundred ‘nos’ when you are selling, before you’ll hear a ‘yes’. And even the most successful people dispose a lot of what they create. A podcast I listened to this week featuring record producer Youth talked about how many ideas go unused when working with top artists like Sir Paul McCartney and Pink Floyd.
And of course when you are doing something new, something that you are not yet proficient at, you’re not going to be very good. That’s the whole point of practice. The reason why I cannot play electric guitar is because, since I got my Ibanez Roadstar II at the age of 16, I pick it up, realise I’m not Hendrix or Gilmour or Page, and put it down again for 6 months (or probably 6 years now). But Hendrix and Gilmour and Page didn’t pick up guitars and play like you hear on the record. They had to learn and practice and overcome making mistakes. They played for hours and hours, honing their craft. And they didn’t necessarily do it to be good at it. They did it because they loved it.
It’s such a useful skill to learn, to be happy to be rubbish at something and just do it for the joy of it. To re-assess what being good at something is. So many people say to me, “I’d be rubbish at yoga, I can’t even touch my toes.” To which my response is, “well in that case, I’m rubbish at yoga too because I can’t always touch my toes either.” For some reason, even though I have never become more stretchy through doing yoga, I’ve stuck with it for over twenty years. And eventually, I realised that being good at yoga has nothing to do with being stretchy and everything to do with consistency.
And maybe you’ll never be brilliant or the best at the thing. And that’s ok. You will still have benefitted from the process and learnt something from it. They say you can’t polish a turd, but it’s a damn sight easier to polish a turd than polishing thin air!
Goals are great when they motivate you. But sometimes focusing on an endpoint is the most discouraging thing you can do. So if you’re feeling this, how about focusing just on the start. don’t set yourself any goal apart from starting. When you’re building a new habit, sometimes that’s all you need to do for the first few days or weeks. Just put your trainers on. Just write one sentence. Don’t even think of spending a specific amount of time on it. Don’t think about when you might stop or where you might end up. Just start.
Every journey starts with one step. It’s a cliché because it’s true. And the more often you take that first step, the more often you’ll be curious enough to take a second and a third.
Something is better than nothing. When it comes to your self care, there are almost no circumstances when that mantra is not true.