She said: “Well, if I’m only going to do it for 10 minutes, why bother?”
She was referring to exercise, and explaining to me why the hadn’t gotten any exercise in that week, having identified it as a priority the week prior.
This notion that only 10 minutes of exercise makes it not worth the attempt smells like perfectionism as a delay tactic. Perfectionism comes in many shapes and sizes, and sometimes it sounds like this:
“I’ll buy new clothes when I lose some weight.”
“I’ll plan a vacation when I have more time.”
“I’ll take a day off when things aren’t so busy.”
“I’ll change careers when my children are older.”
“I’ll exercise when I have enough time to do it properly.”
“If I don’t have time to make a great meal at home, I might as well carry out.”
“If I can’t look like the women in magazines, I might as well wear sweats.”
“If I can’t do IT the right way, I’d just as soon skip it.”
Are you catching my drift here? Here’s the thing about being this kind of perfectionist, the kind who puts everything off until the right time, until criteria have been met, until feats of wonder have been performed, until there’s MORE TIME… this is a sure fire way to not get to your stuff: no new clothes (because you will never be satisfied enough with your body if you can’t be okay enough to buy yourself a shirt now), no vacation because there’s never enough time (that’s why we have vacations – are you with me?), no satisfying career because there will always be a good reason to stay safe in the job you are in, no exercise because doing it “properly” seems to take a really long time when that’s the measure that will excuse us from doing it at all, no simple homemade chow because carry out is easy and your standards are high, sweatpants all the time because if you start looking those women in the magazines are a pretty small club, no IT because if you’ve already decided you can’t do it right, you surely won’t.
So often these high standards we maintain are a delay tactic. So often these high standards we maintain are a setup, a con job, a trap we laid for ourselves so we can stay safe, small, hidden. See these brains of ours can’t tell the difference between the threat of a saber tooth tiger and the threat of the unknown, change, reaching for what we really want, so they set traps for us to keep us safe, keep us small, keep us hidden. It may not be fun, and it may not be what we want, but we’re safe here, right, in the sameness? This is how we stand still. This is how we get stuck. This is mental quicksand.
The answer? Okay, I don’t know about THE answer, because if I waited until I had THE PERFECT ANSWER, I would probably never write this. Something that helps? 5 minutes. Whatever it is that you’re putting off until the perfect time – that thing – give it 5 minutes. Set a timer and give it 5 minutes. Need new clothes that actually fit you as you are today but don’t want to shop because you’re not happy with your bod? I’ve got a few 5 minute suggestions: 1) go stare at your beautiful naked body in the mirror for 5 minutes and find something you are grateful for, 2) get on Pinterest and look at clothes for 5 minutes, 3) shop online for 5 minutes (you don’t even have to buy, just get some ideas). Need a day off or a vacation but can’t take the time? Spend 5 minutes making a list of things you’d like to do on a vacation or a day off. Write down everything you can think of. Next time you give it 5 minutes, pick the one that’s the easiest to add to your schedule and plan it. Don’t want to exercise unless it’s REALLY worth it? Dance your behind off for 5 minutes, like really hard. Make yourself sweat just dancing by yourself. You get the point. Take the smallest bite you can imagine.
Let me tell you something about change. It rarely comes all at once – that does happen. I acknowledge quantum leaps in my own life at times. But so much change that I’ve experienced, so much of my growth has happened 5 minutes at a time. Small shifts add up to big changes. Small efforts make change feel possible, feeling that change is possible makes change available. If you want things to stay the same, delay change joy/change/rewards/challenge/wisdom until the perfect time. If you want things to be different, try something new for 5 minutes. You’ll be glad you did.
If you need some help sorting out how to choose some smaller steps, figuring out which 5 minutes you’d like to tackle first, changing your desire to have everything be just so, I sure would love to help you with that. Let’s schedule a chat to see if I can give you a hand. Shoot me an e-mail.