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A Note To Self: If You Don’t Feel Like Writing, Write Anyway.

post-it-i

I almost didn’t share anything on this space today. Almost being the operative word. I wish I could blame that on the traditional existential angst that often accompanies Mondays. No, this wasn’t a case of the Monday blues. I had a pretty chilled weekend and both Manchester United and Lewis Hamilton won over the weekend so unlike most Monday’s before I was in a good mood. The day itself started off positively and I set about to attack the day with much fanfare and vigour. But through all that positivity I hadn’t made a plan as to what I was going to write about today and when, as I have previously done. I thought I would just wing it. I was wrong, because halfway through the day I and managed to talk myself out of writing. Or so I thought.

Earlier when I had resigned myself to not writing for this blog it was mainly because I didn’t feel I had anything meaningful, informative or even insightful to share today. So I told myself I would put it off until tomorrow when hopefully I would have something more tangible to work with. But here I am writing. Why? Because the internal guilt of not writing today proved to be too much of a burden to bear than say writing about nothing in particular. And so here I am succumbing to my own guilt. If I had gone through with the decision to give myself an unscheduled ‘off day’ it would have been the first time in three weeks that I wouldn’t have shared anything on this blog on week day. Three weeks ago I set about on a journey to write as consistently as possible. The aim is to write every week day for six weeks. Only after six weeks would I reevaluate and set new goals for my writing. But here I was halfway through that journey patting myself on the back and haggling with myself. Prior to today I was doing OK. I was focused. I was motivated and I was following through almost effortlessly on my personal goals. I was comfortable in my routine and I never plan for days like today when that carefully crafted routine would be challenged. Even though I knew there would be days like this I never planned for that eventuality and I almost broke that routine.

When I was making the case to myself for taking the day off my reasoning was that I deserved it for the consistency that I have shown over the last three weeks, even though it was not part of the plan. Today being a Monday it would not have just been a day of though. It would have been my third consecutive day off taking into account my scheduled weekend off. It was the worst possible day to even consider taking off. It was a slippery slope that I was about to let myself go down. The more I thought about this the more I didn’t trust myself not to end up on some unintended sabbatical from this space. It’s not too long that ago that I remember struggling a great deal to get back into writing after I had let my pen fall asleep on the page for too long. It’s so easy to break the routine, but so much harder to start all over again. And it usually starts with rationalising that it’s just one day and before you know it a day turns into a week, and a week into months.

Whilst I am proud of and acknowledge the work and the progress I’ve made to get to three weeks I am not going to rest on my laurels just yet. I set a goal for myself to write consistently for at least six weeks and that is what I intend to do, even if on days like today its means writing about nothing. It is also a realisation that not all days are going to be the same and that days like this are the ones I allow myself to grow. It also means I am slowly mustering the willpower to do things I know I have to even though I might not always feel like it. And even though at times today it felt easier not, it always feels so much better to have written.

On the days you don’t feel like writing those are the days that it’s even more important to write. A luta continua. The struggle continues.

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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Dream Team

I have got a story to share. It is about a sexagenarian who finally achieved her dream. A dream that had elude her for 35 years. Diana Nyad is a 64 year old American grandmother who earlier this week became the first person to swim across the Florida Strait without a shark cage. Her swimathon lasted for a total of 53 hours taking her from Florida to Cuba, a distance of 177km. What struck me about her story is that this was her fifth attempt in a period spanning 35 years. Her first attempt coming in 1977. During this first attempt she swam with a shark cage but only managed to cover a distance of 122km before the elements got the better of her. Her fourth attempt was in 2011. She had to abandon this after being stung twice by jellyfish as well as suffering an asthma attack.

Upon completing her swim and before collapsing in the arms of a friend with exhaustion she said “All my life, I don’t know where it came from, I believed in dreaming big. It doesn’t satisfy me to have small dreams and I can’t tell you what a big, big dream this is out here. It’s tough stuff.” She also had these simple nuggets of wisdom to share “I have three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.” That’s a perfect triad of advice for so much of what we aspire to do in life.

Her friend had this to say  about her achievement “ If you know Diana you would know that if the weather was classy, and there were no beasts she would be the person to do it. “ I found this interesting because it is an approach most of us take when it comes to our dreams. We believe that if everything is ‘perfect’ then our dreams are attainable. But life is hardly ever like that. On our way to achieving our dreams we will most likely face challenges and setbacks. We might even fail several times. And as in the case of Diana Nyad it might take us 35 very long years before we ever realise them. And sometimes

Therein lays the lesson. Anyone can have a dream. It is only the ones who never give up, the believers who will end up seeing out their dreams. Despite the naysayers who thought she was too old to complete the swim (and not just because of venomous jellyfish and the potential for fearsome sharks), Diana Nyad proved that persistence, willpower and fierce dedication to your dreams can trump age.

This story served as a timely reminder just coming after a period when I have suffered a few setbacks with my writing. I sent out a few pieces I had written in the hope that I would get some of them published. Unfortunately I wasn’t successful. I was discouraged and disheartened. Coincidentally, during Nyad’s swim, she mentally sang to herself the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer,” which includes these apt lyrics about persistence: Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look? Anyway the voice of doubt in my head became louder and for a while I stopped writing altogether. I gave up. I shared this experience with one of my close friends recently. This friend is brother to my dreams, as I am to his. He said to me” Stay at it man, you have just got to keep knocking on those doors. Truth be told, you might even get more no’s, just remember the NO is not an absolute, think of it more like not right now”

As Diana Nyad pointed out  it “takes a team.” It’s critical to have encouraging mentors, networking contacts, colleagues, family members and friends who can encourage you and suggest ideas to help you succeed. For example, after each try, Nyad consulted with experts on how best to finish the swim the next time. After her attempt two years ago was foiled by an asthma attack, she invited a pulmonologist to join her 35-member support team.

Diana Nyad’s words suggest that although swimming is a deeply solitary pursuit, even athletes like her rarely accomplish their goals alone. And that’s another important lesson that we can all pick up from Diana Nyad’s swim. Most of are ill prepared to deal with and recover from failures and setbacks when we are still trying to achieve our dreams. We don’t have a Plan B, when Plan A fails. We are even afraid to share our dreams or ask for help. So while your dream might seem like a solitary pursuit, you will most likely need a “dream team” to achieve it.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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