There is a bridge about a kilometre from my house and every time I go for a run, I cross it.
It’s not until I reach the bridge that I find my rhythm. Before then, I’m short of breath, I feel heavy and awkward and much like Jack Donaghy, I never quite know what to do with my arms. I struggle through those first minutes and I really want to turn around and go home.
But then I hit the bridge and things become easier. I feel lighter. I start to remember why I wanted to go for a run in the first place. I find my stride, my breathing eases up and I can relax and pay attention to what’s happening around me.
Turns out I don’t love the discomfort of running. But I absolutely love the feeling and I love the results.
I love the feeling of elation when I make it to the top of the big hill near my house. I love the Rocky fist pump I give myself every time I do it. I love the burst of energy I get after running. I love how my fitness continues to improve. I love that I’m feeling stronger.
And in that nugget of realisation is my reason for writing today.
You don’t have to love the sometimes difficult process of simplifying or slowing down. Spending time decluttering, saying no, working on your rhythms, figuring out what’s important to you – these aren’t particularly fun. Sometimes they’re bearable, sometimes they’re uncomfortable and sometimes they’re completely unpleasant.
But the feeling and the results are what makes it worthwhile.
Having a home free of clutter, not spending all weekend cleaning, fewer stresses, extra space and energy and money, the unmistakable lightness of living with less, the freedom that comes with it – these things are what makes the work worthwhile.
The Why is the key. Not the How. Not the How Much. Not even the How Long.
It’s simply a matter of starting, even when you don’t want to. It’s about tying up your shoes, walking out the front door and putting one foot in front of the other until you find your bridge.
It will get easier. You’ll start to find your stride and before long you’ll be paying attention to other things. Living slowly will just be part of who you are. But until then, you need to do the work.
On those days I really don’t want to run, I make myself a deal. I don’t have to actually go running if I don’t want to. But I do need to put on my running shoes, walk out the front door and close it behind me. After that, I’m free to turn around and go back inside.
But here’s the thing: I’ve never gone back inside.
I make starting so easy that I’d feel ridiculous not doing it.
So instead of trying to force yourself to make enormous sweeping changes, make it so easy you’ll feel ridiculous not doing it.
- You don’t have to declutter your entire wardrobe. Just remove one thing you no longer wear.
- You don’t have to say no to every social invitation that comes your way. Just promise yourself that this Saturday afternoon, from 4:00-6:00pm, will be free.
- You don’t have to eat supremely healthy meals 3 times a day every day, forever. Just add some carrot sticks to your plate.
And almost every single time, that one small act will propel you to doing more. You might pull out 10 items from the wardrobe. You could keep the entire day free. You might make a salad for dinner.
But even if you don’t, even if you put your shoes on, walk out the front door and walk back in again, you’ve still shifted your mindset and you’ve proven to yourself that you can do it. And over time, that’s going to help you a lot more than beating yourself up over what you didn’t do.
So just have faith that there will be a bridge. There will be a time when you realise, “Hey, this is getting easier.” And until then, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how slowly.