The Thing You Want to Do But Think You Can’t? You Can. Here’s How.
We all have within us certain ideas about ourselves, this idea of the life we want to be living. We have goals and aspirations that we actively work toward. We also have the ones we don’t. Sure, we want to do them, but we don’t believe we really can. Maybe we tell ourselves it’s because we don’t have the money. Perhaps the issue is that we can’t afford to do it. The problem might even simply be a matter of timing. Not now, but someday.
We can spend an eternity putting off the things we want for ourselves, and sometimes we have very, very good reasons for not doing today the things that we would really love to do. Life comes with many responsibilities, and we’re all doing the best we can to manage them all, right? But at a certain point, I began to ask myself if I was really doing the best that I can. I actually got tired of myself telling friends and family members about some of the things I wanted to do without actually, you know, ever doing them.
I’d roll out the inevitable excuses. You know the drill. Not enough time. Not enough money. This childcare issue. That scheduling issue. The list of reasons for why we can’t do the things in life that we want to can get long. But at a certain point, we have to ask ourselves if the truth is that we don’t have the time or if it’s simply not a priority for us. Then we can ask ourselves if we really don’t have the money or if we’re just not willing to make the necessary sacrifices to save the money. And scheduling or childcare? Even if it’s a challenge (and that can seem insurmountable at times), couldn’t we figure that one out, too?
When we take a look at our long list of excuses, sometimes what we’re really saying is that we don’t make time for ourselves. We don’t want to sacrifice a few small pleasures in the short term for something greater in the long term. We want to do the thing, but we don’t want to expend the effort to do the thing. Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s easy to make the excuses. It requires no effort at all. But to meet a goal? That requires dedication, sacrifice, and determination. It often requires hard work and trying something that might not be a success for us. Or we could try it and find out it’s not a good fit. Or… and this is the big OR… we could try it and really succeed.
For me, it was running. I think I spent most of the past decade saying that I wanted to start running again. I really wanted to run longer distances. On and off in that decade, I would run for a few weeks or even months at a time before going back to my sedentary routine. Insert excuse, excuse, excuse here. At a certain point, I had to ask myself if I really wanted to run a race or if I just liked hearing myself say it. I was starting to wonder. So I tried out the Couch to 5K. While I think it’s an excellent program, it didn’t really work for me. But it did get me started. I found that I could, in fact, run further than I ever had before.
My next step was to actually sign up for a 5K. I signed up for the next one available, three weeks from that date. I began running at least 3 times a week until the big day, and I was able to complete that goal. I’ve done a few since then and even tried a mud run, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Then I began to talk about a 10K or half marathon. I talked and talked and talked. I asked my runner friends tons of questions. I talked some more. Finally, a friend who is a total inspiration to me said that I just needed to bite the bullet and sign up for one. And so I did. Within a couple of weeks, I went from running 3 miles to being able to run 10. All because I challenged myself to try. Was my run time the best anyone has ever seen? No, far from it! But I was doing more than I’d ever done before, far more than I thought possible.
I’m still a few months off from my half marathon, but I can completely see doing a full marathon one day. I’m taking it in steps, and the step I’m on right now is that I run several times a week. I’ve also done a little research on good running shoes and other running accessories to help me to be as successful as possible. I’ve even researched how to recover and what foods I should eat while training. I’m taking the small steps while I’m waiting for the big one I signed up for. But I did the thing that I thought I couldn’t do because I stopped letting myself make excuses.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a runner or not. No matter what interests we have, we need to determine if they’re really a priority for us or not and go from there. If what we say we want to do is still something that’s important, it’s time to take the steps that will make it a reality. I get that it’s scary. Of course it is. But it’s also entirely possible to achieve our goals if we try.
I have a list as long as my arm of the things that capture my interest. It’s a random list, too. I’d love to speak Italian, at least the basics for travel, so I’ve started using a language learning app to begin. I’d love to take ballroom dancing classes and learn to scuba dive and learn to fly a plane. I think it would be neat to learn calligraphy, and I truly would enjoy a few culinary classes. Of course, I can’t do all of these right now. But I can choose which ones I want to do the most and start from there. Maybe the step is saving extra money for these pursuits, or maybe I figure out how to do some of these things affordably- like learning a new dish from a chef on YouTube rather than signing up for an expensive course. I also want to travel. Travel tops my bucket list, and this year’s step was getting a passport and checking one destination off my list. Maybe next year, I figure out where I want to go next.
Our lives are filled with obligations and responsibilities, and I’m not advocating that we shirk them. Instead, I’d like to posit that our lives are also filled with joy and the potential for joy. There are so many opportunities that we could be taking advantage of and personal goals that we could be meeting. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the business of living that we actually forget how to enjoy our lives. It’s easy to forget how very precious our time is and to spend it on another load of laundry or endless errands or striving to climb the next rung of a ladder that has no end. It’s not that those things are unimportant, but in the grand scheme of things, don’t we want to focus on the quality of our lives, too? Isn’t it important that we enrich the lives that we’re leading?
I’m not saying that it’s easy or that the path forward will be without challenges. If it was without challenges, it wouldn’t be a real achievement, would it? Perhaps the first step is to define our priorities. We can figure out what we want versus what we say we want. If we keep talking about getting in shape but never do it, do we need to start exercising or do we need to stop talking about it? When we figure out what we do want, we can then figure out what steps we can take right now that are achievable. If we’re 100% sedentary, we’re probably not going to start an exercise plan by running 10 miles and spending 2 hours at the gym. Maybe we start with a walk around the block. We can take it in manageable steps.
In the words of Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”