advice · fitness · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! If all else fails, please, please, please be kind to yourself.

Well, Team, like the title implies, the single most important thing I want you to have gotten out of these posts is the idea that being kind to yourself is the only way forward.

When you are building a habit you are trying to teach yourself something new. Perhaps you’re learning something entirely new or you are practicing a new way of behaving in a familiar situation. Either way, you are exploring new personal territory and that has a lot of inherent challenges build right in.

The only way to meet those challenges is to be kind to yourself about the process.

Think back to teachers you have had in the past.

Which ones really helped you learn?

Was it the cruel ones with the sharp tongue and the impossible standards?

Or was it the kind ones who showed you how to proceed, supported you as you went along, helped you to correct mistakes, and encouraged you to keep going?

Sure, the cruel one may have spurred you into working hard out of spite but your learning and growth was your own doing in that case. You developed discipline and worked hard *despite* them, not because of them.

The kind teacher may not have been your favourite at the time – their standards were probably high too. They were probably the one who kept after you when you slacked off, the one who knew what you were capable of even when you didn’t.

Kindness isn’t necessarily being ‘nice.’ It’s not about making things unnecessarily easy. It’s not about having no standards or no expectations.

The kind teacher knew when to push you and when to give you a break. The kind teacher had realistic expectations based on who you were and how you moved through the world. The kind teacher tried to be fair.

And that’s the sort of thing I am talking about when I remind you to be kind to yourself.

Today, being kind to yourself might involve resting from physical or emotional exertion.

Tomorrow, being kind to yourself might involve pushing yourself a little harder in your workout just to see if you can.

Being kinder to yourself isn’t based on what you ‘should’ want or what you ‘should’ be able to do.

It’s about meeting yourself where you are today and making the choice that will serve you best now and in the long run.

Being kind to yourself is about being self-compassionate, about recognizing that your needs are important – even when they change from day to day- and about supporting yourself as you expand your comfort zone to encompass new things and improve your sense of well-being.

Being kind to yourself is a key element in making those types of lasting change.

After all, like those memes say – if being mean to ourselves worked, we all would be perfect by now.

So, Team, even if self-kindness is still a work-in-progress for you, please keep working at it.

You are worth that effort.

And speaking of effort, here is your final gold star for this January series.

Congratulations on your efforts this month, please be kind to yourself as we roll into February.

Have fun out there!


A drawing of a 4-pointed gold star (made of three similarly-sized points and a long point at the bottom) surrounded by smaller stars in the same shape made from thin gold lines.
A drawing of a 4-pointed gold star (made of three similarly-sized points and a long point at the bottom) surrounded by smaller stars in the same shape made from thin gold lines. The large star is essentially 8 gold triangles with black outlines arranged into a long-tailed star shape, the smaller ones are like asterisks with a longer line on the vertical axis. The background is blue and the entire image is framed with a darker blue line.
blog · blogging · fitness · top ten

Top Ten January 2023 Posts, #ICYMI

This is list is striking for two things. So many of the posts are from years past! I also love how many are written by guests. If you’d like to join our community of occasional guest bloggers read this post.

The most popular post of January was Cate on still menstruating 

Catherine’s Yoga poses I simply can’t do, and what I do instead was 2nd.

The 3rd most read post was Tracy’s on the many shapes athletic bodies can take.

Pain and the Human Playground by Sam was 4th.

Keeping Fit While Healing from a Hysterectomy was our 5th most read post, from Marjorie.

I walk 20K steps a day… and I’m getting rid of my Fitbit by Michelle was 6th.

The 7th most read post was Catherine’s post about the need to ditch the word ‘obese.’

In the spirit of changing the way we talk, our 8th most read post was Sam saying we should stop talking about women athletes’ slut strands,

The 9th most read post was Sam on the different messages told by articles in women’s magazines and by their advertisers.

And timely for New Year’s was Kate’s guest post on resolutions, This Time I Mean It: New Year’s Resolutions, Self-Forgiveness, and Fitness.

White yellow and pink flowers by Emilie Dagg on Scopio

ADHD · fitness · habits · planning · self care

February is real but March might be fictional: Christine’s experiments with fitness planning continue

I confess. 

Despite my best intentions, I never quite got a grip on Planuary. 

At the end of December, I really thought that I would be able to take my time throughout January and slowly build a plan for my year.  Alas, life got in the way and I ended up taking January pretty much day by day.

That was ok, especially since it was the only possible way for me to proceed at that point. 

Basically, I spent January puttering along in all areas of my life.

A black and white GIF of two penguins moving slowly along.​
A black and white GIF of two penguins moving slowly along.

On the well-being side of things, I did yoga when it felt right, meditated when it felt right, took walks, did some stretches, and, last week, I did some rowing.  Those things were all pretty good and I am happy about trusting myself to do what I needed to do on any given day but it did feel a bit aimless. 

I’m not judging myself there, aimless worked for me this month but, of course, being aimless didn’t give me the cumulative-work-toward-a-goal feeling that I was looking for.

I really wanted January to feel like I was solving a puzzle, like I was figuring out what I wanted to do and creating a plan for doing it.  Instead, metaphorically, I gathered a bunch of jigsaw puzzle pieces, sorted a few of them and then went on to a logic puzzle before dropping that in favour of a riddle. All of those are good things, all of them are useful and enjoyable, but they didn’t come to any sort of satisfactory conclusion.

So, here I am at the end of January without a plan for the rest of my year. 

And I know that I still can’t wrap my brain around ‘things I want to do in 2023.’

I also know that I don’t want to just keep wandering aimlessly.

So, I’m picking a middle ground and looking at February as a self-contained unit in which I can work on things that will add up throughout that month but that may not extend into March and may not even be part of a bigger project.

Sidenote: In my current approach, March doesn’t even exist yet so I can’t possibly plan fitness things to do in a possibly fictional month.

A month is really tangible for my ADHD brain, I can see how things might play out in that period of time and, barring a catastrophe, I usually have a good sense of what is coming up for me in the next month. A year, on the other hand, feels like forever and like no time, all at once and my brain gets lost in the simultaneous limits and possibilities.

A GIF of Garfield, an orange cartoon cat with black triangular markings, pulls pages off a day by day calendar that is in a stack attached to the wall. Every day is a Monday, despite the changing dates.
A GIF of Garfield, an orange cartoon cat with black triangular markings, pulls pages off a day by day calendar that is in a stack attached to the wall. Every day is a Monday, despite the changing dates.

So, while I usually have a good sense of things I want to have in my life in ‘the future’, I struggle to scale things and plan them out over a year. I end up either creating a plan that is too rigid or too flexible and I end up spending waaaaaaay too much time recalibrating.

(In retrospect, I guess I have always thought that this issue was one of imprecise planning (hence the Planuary plan) but now I’m wondering how much time-perception factors in.)

So, instead of thinking of something I want from this year and then breaking that down into monthly pieces, I am approaching this year from the opposite direction.

I’m going to choose some appealing activities to work on during February and I’ll keep track of how much I do and how I feel about them.

Once March feels a little less fictional (I mean, assuming it ever does 😉 ), I’ll see if I want to keep going with those activities or if I want to move on to something else.

Right now, my thinking is going a bit like this,  “I want to meditate regularly so, for February, I’m going to follow the program in the journal I got for Christmas.”  “I want to go on longer walks so, for February, I am going to take a slightly longer route.” “I want more hip flexibility so, for February, I am going to do a hip exercise before bed.”

I’m not trying to work up to a certain level. I’m not trying to accumulate a certain number of steps, a certain number of meditation minutes or days, I’m not trying to be able to measure up to a certain level of hip-flexibility. I am not considering this the groundwork for doing the next stage of anything. 

I am taking February as a self-contained, measurable, tangible period of time in which to try some specific things. I don’t have to wonder about the next steps. I don’t have to think about how those things fit into the greater context of my year.  I just have to focus on February and trust that what I need in March will become apparent as time goes on. 

Again, assuming that March actually becomes real at some point. 😉

advice · goals · habits · self care

Go Team 2023! Focus on your efforts

This is my second-last post for this January series so I am continuing with my plan to reiterate the messages I hope I stressed throughout the month. Yesterday, I reminded you to check your systems. Today, I’m reminding you to focus on your efforts instead of your results.

Yes, I know it is really fun to notice and celebrate results. I’m definitely not arguing otherwise. However, results take time, they are not always within your control, and results happen after a series of efforts. If you only focus on results, you can end up frustrated and annoyed -especially if you realize that the result you originally sought isn’t the same as the one you want to seek now.

Soooooo, if you focus on your efforts instead, you can enjoy more regular feelings of competence and accomplishment. You can check something important off your list every single time you are working towards your goal or moving forward with your habit.

This doesn’t mean that you need to put in a Herculean effort every time.

It means that all of your efforts count.

The day that you do a single squat or a minute of meditation? That counts!

The day that you do an hour long dance workout or sit in meditation for hours? That counts too!

Focusing on your efforts makes everything part of the big picture (your habit/goal/practice) and of the biggest picture (your well-being.)

I’m not saying that you’ll never be frustrated or disappointed – those things are just part of life (and of habit-building)- but focusing on your efforts can help you have a realistic perspective on things.

And when you notice the efforts that you regularly have time and energy for, you’ll have more reasonable expectations for your eventual results.*

So, Team, as you move forward with your habit-building practice, please consider keeping the focus on your efforts instead of just on your results.

Caveat: If you are the type of person who is completely fueled and energized by the idea of your future results and you can easily shake off disappointment and frustration about day-to-day activities, please just carry on doing what you are doing. Different brains enjoy different approaches and I just want everyone to have the freedom to work in a way that makes sense to them.

Here’s your gold star for today’s efforts, whether you focus is just on the work of today or if you also have one eye on that distant prize. Please be kind to yourself, either way.

A drawing of a shiny gold star surrounded by small dots.
A drawing of a shiny gold star surrounded by small dots. The dots are green, blue, red, and pink.

*To use a non-fitness example, if I want to write a novel I can focus on that end result – a finished first draft. Compared to my imagined future manuscript, 5 minutes of daily writing will seem paltry and it will feel like a very long time before I can celebrate an accomplishment. However, if I focus on my efforts – building a regular writing habit that will eventually lead to a manuscript- I can enjoy the process more, I can celebrate more often, and I can see every writing session as part of the bigger project. AND, because my focus on my efforts will show me just how much I can get done in a day, a week, a month, I won’t be creating the unreasonable (and definitely disappointing) idea of finishing my novel in a very short period of time.


Falling off the no shopping wagon while travelling

The first six months of not shopping were pretty easy in lots of ways. There was nothing I needed. I was conscious that I wanted to end online shopping, especially when I was doing it to relieve stress and boredom.

It felt good to break that particular pattern which probably began before the pandemic but certainly got much worse during the time of working from home and general shut downs. There wasn’t much else to do but the internet could still bring me clothes!

I was all in on the no shopping thing for the summer and fall but the Christmas holidays were hard and I did end up buying some things for myself while shopping for other people. I bought new winter boots, for example, with serious grippy souls in aid of not slipping and falling. I bought full length tights that I needed to work with my new knee brace. At the end of holiday shopping season, I reupped my no shopping commitment.

And yet I forgot about travel and shopping that’s related to travel. Here I am in Arizona doing philosophy but also hiking and biking. And also, it seems, shopping. Yikes.

First, there was the needed cold weather clothing–a new hoodie, mitts, and a toque. I’ve been to Arizona in the winter before but in February which turns out to be much warmer than January. We’ve had overnight lows as low as -7 and I even saw white stuff falling from the sky. So Sarah and I both gave in and bought some things to keep us warm. Doing so allowed us to hike in the morning when it was too cold to bike.

Sam wearing her new toque and hoodie

Then while I was in Marshalls anyway, I bought new underwear to avoid laundry while on holiday. There’s room for it in the bike box, I reasoned and who wants to spend time on holiday at the laundromat.

But from there it got worse, I bought new earrings and a necklace in Bisbee! They are made by a local artist of an environmentally friendly material, compressed tumbleweeds! Still though.

Here’s me falling off the wagon.

Falling off the wagon

And now I’m getting back on the no shopping horse. See you in July!

Wish me luck!

cycling · fitness · hiking · holiday fitness · holidays

Themes from riding in the Arizona sunshine

As this blog post is published my flight home from Arizona will be touching down at Pearson airport in Toronto. (Update: Fight delayed and so this blog post will be published first. Fine.)

It’s been a wonderful week of philosophy, riding bikes, hiking, and generally hanging about in the Arizona sunshine.

Arizona Workshop in Normative Ethics

I’ve been trying think about how to organize my reflections on this trip which has been very different from past Arizona bike trips but successful and important in other ways.

I mean the biggest difference was that it wasn’t an organized bike tour with tour leaders, a schedule, other riders, and big distances. I’m very much still recovering from knee replacement surgery and I can’t commit to riding a certain number of kilometers each day. I wanted to go riding for a week in Cuba but with my right knee now getting worse, I knew that was too much.

What’s the same? Disassembling bikes, loading them and all of our cycling clothes and gear for a week into bike boxes and then reassembling, moving clothes into bags packed in the bike boxes. It’s like going from a plane trip where everything is carefully organized into checked bag and carry on to a car road trip with stuff strewn across the back seat including random roadside snack purchases, and then back again.

Bikes in their boxes on a luggage cart with suitcases

What’s different about the do it yourself trip with bikes is making individual decisions about where to go and where to stay and where to eat. I kind of like that bike tours take that out of your hands. We stayed in the full range of places from the conference resort hotel for a couple of days after the conference, to a bed and breakfast in Ramsey Canyon, to a KOA cabin near Picacho Peak to a Best Western on the outskirts of Phoenix, and finally a cute boutique hotel in Sedona.

This trip was more like ‘rent a car and drive around and bring the bikes along’. It’s not my usual style of riding from place to place. We were heavily car dependent and not even riding everyday. But we did ride most days and it felt so good and so important to get back on the bike.

Often Sarah and I would hike in the morning (when it was colder) and drive to the new place and bike there. That’s the other difference between past Arizona trips. Not surprisingly January is colder than February. It was below freezing most nights and we even had some snow. But by lunch hour it had warmed up to 13-15 degrees Celsius most days.

My longest day of riding was 25 km. We also did more riding on bike paths than I usually do. I needed the safety of the path and the ability to concentrate on pedalling and the mechanics of riding without worrying about cars and drivers.

The really good news is that it felt better each day. It’s remarkable. On the first day, when I struggled just getting on and off the bike and clipping in I began to understand why some people just give up. I began to understand why someone might just decide that the road bike riding stage of their life is done. It was hard. But it helped that the road bike is the bike I had in Arizona and it helped that Sarah was super patient. And so we continued to ride and things got better.

I have a friend who had knee replacement surgery and who gave up riding with clipless pedals. She said it hurt too much clipping and unclipping. I thought it wouldn’t bother me because I’ve been clipping and unclipping on the trainer, but it was different out in the world. It took effort and concentration to do it in a way that didn’t bother my knee. After a few days, I think I’ll be fine with my pedals and shoes.

On the one hand, it’s an incredible luxury to have my bike here and just ride a bit each day in the sun. On the other hand, road cycling is a thing that really matters to me and I’m so happy to be back on the bike. I’m looking forward to longer bike trips again, like Arizona and Cuba and maybe even Newfoundland. But for now I’m enjoying my little 20 km rides on sunny Arizona bike paths and quiet roads. It was confidence building and a reminder of how much I enjoy riding my bike.

I’ve really loved my US winter riding trips and I’m hoping to add Cuba to the rotation soon. I’ve also been wondering about bike tours in New Mexico. Anywhere you’d recommend for a week of warm weather riding?

Here’s my accounts of past winter bike trips:

March 2022 Alton Illinois. See here and here and here.

January 2020 Mount Dora, Florida

January 2019 Clermont, Florida

2015 Arizona in February and South Carolina in March

February 2010 Arizona, see here

Here’s some photos from this trip.

Finally let me just say there’s nothing like holidays to make fitness feel fun and easy. Even while recovering from knee surgery, I met my step goal everyday and even logged enough intense activity heart points.

Here’s hoping for some dry pavement and warmer weather at home so I can start commuting to work by bike again soon!


Canada’s Ultimate Challenge: Go Lori!

“Lori Campbell is an associate vice president of Indigenous engagement at the University of Regina. Born at Montreal Lake First Nations, she is a survivor of the sixties scoop and has successfully reunited with her birth mother and six of her living siblings who were also adopted out across several provinces. “As an Indigenous TwoSpirit woman I don’t see myself represented in many public spaces and roles. I often have young TwoSpirit people reach out to me because they are struggling and I know how lonely it can feel without role models. Sometimes you just have to step up and be what you can’t see – so that others will hopefully struggle just a little bit less.”

As a 50-year-old woman who works in an office job, Lori stays fit to maintain good mental health. She brings stamina and maturity to the competition, “I just dug deep and thought about all the pain and violence my ancestors went through and thought I can do anything,” she says, ” I didn’t want any Indigenous person to feel like they weren’t good enough!”‘

Meet the Red Team

Read about the other Red team members in Canada’s Ultimate Challenge here.

We’re interviewing Lori for the blog and we’d love to pass your questions along. What would you like to know about Lori. Team Red, or Canada’s Ultimate Challenge?

advice · fitness · goals · habits · self care

Go Team 2023! Systems Check

I only have three more posts in this January series so I wanted to reiterate three important things for you to carry with you as you forge ahead with your habit-building.

First up: a systems check!

Whether you are cruising happily along with your habit building, you are finding each day a struggle, or you are somewhere in between, it’s a good idea to check your systems from time to time.

Note: Doing a systems check is especially important if you are struggling. In my experience, people who are struggling with habit-building are awfully quick to attribute their struggles to some ‘flaw’ they perceive in themselves.

I don’t want that to happen to anyone but I especially don’t want that for you, dear Team members. Instead of defaulting to self-blame, please get curious about your systems instead.

Do you have systems in place to support the plans that you have made and the tasks you need to do to bring those plans to fruition?

If you haven’t consciously chosen a system for adding this habit to your life, you are probably unconsciously defaulting to a system you have used for something else. And a system designed (consciously or unconsciously) for a different project is unlikely to support you in building your current habit and will probably cause you a lot of frustration as you go along.

Your system doesn’t have to be complex or elaborate, it can be a straightforward as selecting a time and a place when you can be reasonably certain that you can do your habit-building tasks on a regular basis.

For example: If you are trying to build a habit of daily meditation, your system could involve choosing to meditate first thing in the morning because you get up before everyone else and you are rarely interrupted. It could also involve things like l putting a blanket in your meditation location every night, setting your coffee pot timer a little later so your coffee is ready when your meditation is done instead of when you first get up, or requesting support from your partner or roommates to take care of anything that arises during your meditation session.

Are your systems doing what you need them to do?

Maybe you have systems in place but they are designed for an ideal day rather than your regular life.

Perhaps the system elements you thought you needed at the beginning don’t actually meet your needs.

Or maybe you the system you created was perfect at the beginning but you quickly outgrew it.

It’s possible that the system you created is more complex than you realized and it’s too hard to follow. (This happens to me a fair bit. I often don’t realize how many steps I have put in place until I try to follow them on a regular basis. Then I end up trying to meet the requirements of the system instead of the system serving me.)

It’s ok to adjust a system that isn’t working.

Taking time, even mid-project, to assess how your systems are working is probably time well-spent.

Identifying the friction in your system now will help you reduce frustration overall and help you refine your habit-building process more quickly. Reducing that friction will let you spend more time on your habit-related tasks and less time fighting with yourself and your own system.

What do you need to add or remove to get your system working for you?

This is not the time to be hard on yourself about what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ need.

If you think of something to add to or remove from your system that will help you move forward with your habit building, please do what you need to do.

If you find it easier to exercise with a ribbon tied around your left wrist, tie a ribbon around your left wrist. And have a system for keeping track of the ribbon and one for cleaning it when it gets grubby.

You don’t have to get precious about the ribbon – you know you *can* exercise without it, it’s just feels better when you do – but you also don’t have to atop using it just to prove a point.

Go ahead and adjust your system until it meets your needs.

After all, supporting you is the whole point of the system – it might as well do a thorough job.

All Systems Go

So, Team, as you move forward with your habit-building practices and tasks, please do the occasional systems check.

You will always be doing the best you can do with resources you have in a given moment.

There’s no need to let a mismatched system cause you any stress or, worse, to cause you to doubt yourself.

With the right system, and the right match between your expectations and your efforts, you can build the habit you want to build.

And, speaking of efforts, here’s a gold star for your efforts today – whatever those efforts might entail.

Be kind to yourself out there.

Pretty please.

A large gold star outlined in green against a shaded green background decorated with closed yellow spirals and green dots.
A drawing of a large gold star outlined in green against a shaded green background decorated with closed yellow spirals and green dots.
challenge · fitness

The Dalai Lama sticks his tongue out often, and other lessons from his Happiness Challenge

January is almost over, and with it comes a slowdown of the New Year’s challenges that show up in our inboxes and social media feeds. I’ve got mixed emotions about challenges. The novelty of them can be interesting, and maybe sometimes the intensity and repetition has lasting effects on habits we might want to alter or develop. However, I find that the novelty can soon wear off, and along with it my commitment to the challenge, especially if I’m just doing it just because it’s the season.

However, in this case the other person doing the challenge is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who’s sharing how to achieve and maintain happiness in the course of ten days. Well, not really. It’s another of the Ten Percent Happier meditation app challenges. They went to a lot of trouble to fly out to Dharamshala, India, where the Dalai Lama lives in exile, and actually interview him about happiness, compassion, dealing with jerks in our lives, etc. And yes, there were ten days of meditations too, with Zen priest Roshi Joan Halifax.

tldr: I did all the meditations, but the best part was what I learned about and from the Dalai Lama about happiness. Here are some of those lessons.

Lesson one: the Dalai Lama sticks his tongue out after he says something funny. He did this throughout the interviews, so I think it’s his thing. Each time he did it I enjoyed it even more. I think we should all start doing this; the world would definitely be a happier and more humorous place for it.

Lesson two: Even the Dalai Lama experiences anger. When Dan Harris, the Ten Percent Happier founder, asked him if he ever felt anger, he admitted that being woken up by a mosquito in his room was irksome.

Whew, that’s a relief! The goal of any happiness challenge just can’t be the elimination of either angry or sad or negative thoughts and feelings. Neither can it be the fashioning of a wholly positive and happy environment. If the Dalai Lama can’t achieve this, certainly I can’t either. So I don’t have to berate myself when I feel negative; it’s a part of the human experience.

Lesson three: as in all challenges that I’ve tried, some parts are much harder than others. Compassion is a very big thing with the Dalai Lama (obvs). He explains that compassion to others (and I mean ALL others, including even those most difficult people in our lives) gives us a benefit– the benefit of greater happiness. He calls this strategy “wise selfishness”.

His Holiness again, tongue out, punctuation for his wise selfishness lesson. I can't get enough of this...
His Holiness again, tongue out, punctuation for his wise selfishness lesson. I can’t get enough of this…

I tried the meditation on compassion for jerks (that’s what they called it), and it was pretty hard. You’re supposed to think of a difficult person in your life, and wish them health, happiness, safety and ease. I’ve done this sort of meditation before– it’s a variation on Metta or Loving Kindness meditation. It just so happened that, at the time I was sitting for this meditation, I couldn’t do it. It was too hard focusing on a very difficult person. I was resisting and losing focus and struggling.

During that meditation, though, Roshi Joan Halifax said that we could focus on ourselves instead if the going got too tough. Maybe that day we needed more help, more compassion. So I did, and that helped.

I am remembering this and trying to apply it to other challenges in my life– physical, emotional, logistical, etc. Not every day is all-go-no-stop. In fact most days aren’t. And some days our flow, our grit, our focus, our strength– they are at a low ebb. Wise selfishness includes compassion for ourselves as well as others. Okay, got it.

Lesson four: when someone is sad, offering them cake is always a help. Okay, there’s more to this one (but honestly, not a whole lot more). The Dalai Lama gave a talk with folks about how we are social animals, and that happiness comes from seeing that we are not alone. A woman in the group shared that she was grieving a loved one, and asked him how he maintained hope amidst grief.

His Holiness called her to him, and then fed her some cake.

The Dalai Lama, feeding cake to a woman. They are both so happy, as am I just seeing them.
The Dalai Lama, feeding cake to a woman. They are both so happy, as am I just seeing them.

An act of kindness, as simple as offering food, reminds us of our connections to others. This is another example of the wise selfishness that His Holiness was talking about. Do for others and you spread happiness. Wondering how you can pull this off? Easy– bake a cake. Or brownies. Your choice. And then share it.

At the end of the Ten Day Challenge, I feel like I’ve acquired a few new moves to take me in the direction of increased happiness. Thank you, Dalai Lama! Now, off to try my hand at a lemon pound cake to bring to friends.

Fellow readers, did you take away any new skills from January challenges? I’d love to hear from you.

advice · fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! When you just don’t wanna

Team, let’s be clear about something…

When you are undertaking a long term project, especially one where it may take a while to see your progress, you are going to have days when you just don’t wanna do the thing.

You probably have time and capacity to do it but you just feel so meh about it that you can’t be bothered.

For starters, this is a normal part of the process of making change and trying to complete a long project, so please don’t automatically take this feeling as a sign that the project isn’t for you. Also, please don’t take it as a sign that you aren’t up for the challenge.

And, while you’re at it, don’t assume that your temporary lack of enthusiasm is permanent. You don’t have to feel excited about your tasks or projects every day. Most of us have a mix of enthusiasm, boredom, determination, apathy, and focus over the course of any project.

So, now that you have cleared the worry that today’s lack of enthusiasm is an omen, what can you do about the fact that you just don’t wanna do the thing?

1) You can decide not to do the thing today

It’s true! There’s probably no one forcing you to do the thing and, in the big picture, this one day probably will not make or break your plans.

Maybe you need a rest. Maybe you need to feel like you are ‘breaking’ the rules today, like you are getting away with something.

Maybe you just need to assert your authority over your schedule to remind yourself that this stuff is your choice and that these tasks are supposed to serve you, not the other way around.

No matter what your reason or your need, you do indeed have the power to say ‘Nah!’ today.

2) You can do the thing anyway

It’s a bizarre truth that you don’t actually need to be enthusiastic in order to get something done. In fact, you can be completely apathetic and do something in the most rote and routine way and it can still get done.

It might be a little harder to get started but you can decide to just forge ahead with the damn thing and get it over with.

It might not be the best iteration of the task, it might not be fun, but it will be done.

Like saying goes ‘Done beats perfect every time.’

3) You can change the thing you have to do

Maybe you don’t actually feel meh about your project overall, maybe just feel meh about today’s task.

Maybe the walk that seemed like a good plan when you made your list now feels like the worst idea ever.

Maybe when your hopeful Monday scheduled a 10 minute meditation today, they imagined a much more relaxed week. However, the you of today, the one who has been through the tasks of the week, can’t face the idea of sitting for 10 minutes right now.

The you of today can override the you of the past.

Past you was planning based on ideas, present you is working with information.

Present you can use that information to make a different plan.

Present you can decide to dance or bike or swim instead of going for a walk.

The you of today can choose to do some meditative movement or to colour or draw or fold laundry or sort legos – anything that gives *you* that same sort of focused calm.

(Laundry or sorting doesn’t do that for me, personally, but lots of my clients have reported that tasks like that feel mindful and helpful. You do what works for you.)

Like I said in the section above, enthusiasm isn’t required to complete a task. However, if you lack enthusiasm about your planned task but a different task that serves the same purpose *is* appealing, then go ahead and do the other task.

You don’t have to stick with the original plan that past you made. Present you knows more about your situation than past you did.

Keep aiming for self-kindness

Obviously, your ideal situation is to keep working steadily toward developing the habit you want to develop.

However, working steadily does not have to mean working constantly on a rigid plan.

Instead, using a self-kindness lens, you can interpret ‘working steadily’ to mean giving yourself what you need each day to move toward your habit.

On any given day, the kindest choice might be to take a break, it might be to change the task, or it might be to forge ahead anyway, despite a lack of enthusiasm.

Only you can decide which is the kindest one for your present self.

I wish you ease and I offer you this gold star for your efforts – your efforts toward your habit, your efforts to change your plans, your efforts to rest, and, as always, for your efforts to be kind to yourself either way.

Your efforts matter. 💚

A drawing of a gold star against a patterned background.​
A drawing of a gold star against a patterned background that slants upward from left to right. The background is composed of three sections. The top one is made of intersecting tile-shapes that contain slanted rectangles that alternate between black and white. The intersecting point of each set of four tiles is overlaid with a circle. The middle section of the background is a series of small squares, some of which have a smaller square in the centre while others contain dots at the top and slanted lines at the bottom. The bottom section has light black lines overlaid with three objects drawn on top. The objects are long sticks with smaller sticks laid across them. The smaller sticks have small back squares on the ends of each one. In the centre of each long stick is a square or rectangle framing a smaller object of the same shape.