The Bridge

The Bridge

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.

21 Responses to The Bridge

  1. Thank you such a lovely, encouraging post. I have recently downsized dramatically and didn’t have time to sort all my ‘stuff’ before I moved. Now I’m here, it’s all taking longer than I’d like (mostly because I’m a working single parent and time is at a premium). I need to remind myself sometimes, that a daily small step will pay off eventually.

  2. Absolutely bang on the money Brooke, in every aspect of life. I ran away from any uncomfortable things, stuff, feelings for years. Now I sit with it all, and get to see just how much good lies at the other side.

  3. So true, you just have to start. When I’m on my spin bike at home, I feel awful for about 5km, then I start to get a rhythm and all is good with the world.

    Yesterday I started another declutter (I tend to declutter every 3-4 months) and I started slow, feeling overwhelmed then I got in a nice rhythm. I tackled Miss 7’s room, the huge cupboard in the laundry, my office and my wardrobe. It only took a couple of hours (thanks to my serial decluttering) and now I feel so much lighter.

  4. Exactly, my rhythms are good at the moment but my decluttering is not, here in my study there is a dreadful build up. Small steps and accepting it’s not always fun will get me there, thanks for the reminder.

  5. I love your approach to running. I’ve been putting up signing up for an exercise programme because I think I won’t do it. The thought of the commitment is overwhelming me. But using your approach I’d only need to commit to getting into my exercise gear and loading the youtube clip – doesn’t seem nearly so scary.

    I always find starting the hardest bit of anything (well, maybe except eating chocolate). I think it’s because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. My decluttering really took off when I started resolving to just do a quick 15 minutes. I soon started to see results and it has spurred me along.

  6. I love your approach to running. I’ve been putting off signing up to an exercise programme because I think I won’t follow the whole thing through. The thought of the commitment is overwhelming me. But using your approach I’d only need to commit to getting into my exercise gear and loading the youtube clip – doesn’t seem nearly so scary.

    I always find starting the hardest bit of anything (well, maybe except eating chocolate). I think it’s because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. My decluttering really took off when I started resolving to just do a quick 15 minutes. I soon started to see results and it has spurred me along.

  7. I love this post- you’ve summed up the way I like to approach decluttering and simplifying. As a yoga practitioner I understand the power of small daily changes and prefer these to big purges. I keep my end goal in mind, and then let go of one or two things at a time, rather than trying to empty a whole room. It gives me more time to reflect on my motivations and my values and to go through the emtional letting go process that is needed for some of my more sentimental clutter. I’ve never been materialistic and don’t have clutter due to excess consumerism, but I do have clutter due to sentimental attachment and the desire to be frugal and sustainable. Letting go of my clutter requires small daily changes that detangle these attachments in a mindful way. I’ve let go of more than 1000 items in 6 months, so it is still powerful to do it this way, and it is what works for me.

  8. I love this! I often do something similar. I’ll tell myself that I’m going to set the timer and work on something for two minutes. Two minutes doesn’t feel difficult, whereas a large task when viewed as a whole can feel overwhelming. And if nothing else, I have at least two minutes worth of work completed. :-)

  9. 30 Rock reference – solid! I love this post. I am runner as well, though I am injured right now and unable to run. Your post made me miss it, but remember why I love it as well. And your right, some days it’s just about getting out the door. Getting started with anything is always the hardest part!

  10. I blogged about running and decluttering as well – how both are uncomfortable to start but rewarding when done. I’m still figuring out my whys but the clear whys for now are less time cleaning and doing laundry!

  11. Hi, thank you, a great post. As a chronic migrainer I had got really unfit so I joined a gym with personal training and even if I only turn up and do neck and shoulder exercises I always turn up and over three months I’ve seen an improvement in my fitness and strength. On good days I do more. And I enjoy it even when it’s tough, which is half the battle.

  12. Great post Brooke!!
    this has really inspired me to begin working on the things I want to do… I’m in the beginning of working toward a simpler life, and the de-cluttering has only just begun. Sometimes I look at the big pile of “Stuff” we call our things, and think “I’ll never get through all that, whats the point.. I wont even make a dent in the 15minutes I have at the moment”… but funilly enough, when you start, you want more and more…. so much so, our mess of a lounge dining now looks like a showroom!!

    I too want to start running again, but the cold mornings and the lack of fitness, and the painful beginnning and the tiredness and the… and the… and the… all stop me from getting started. The massive pile of excuses I have built up seems too large an obstacle.

    thanks to this post, tomorrow… I think I’ll lace on the shoes, walk onto the street… and THEN decide wether its all too hard.

  13. Thanks for that – an awesome email and an analogy that I ‘get’. This is all new to me and I just want to ‘start’ living simpler and slowing down. But with an almost 3 year old and a 6-month old, I’m lucky to eat lunch and do a load of washing, let alone start to declutter! It’s been getting me a bit down so this is what I needed to hear – this whole simpler thing is really a philosophy and way of life that’s always going to be there once I embrace it. Much like my fitness has always been important for me. Baby steps are fine for this time of my life and stage of living simply. Thanks Brooke!

  14. I love this post.

    I thought of your story as I stepped out the front door and took myself to yoga. I didn’t look back and I had a beautiful day because of it.

  15. Amazing post – totally lifted me as I was reading. I’m at the beginning of a journey towards ‘slow’ and this post has resonated so completely :)

  16. I love this post and your slowly, slowly approach to making changes. I took the first step and put my trainers on and then found myself out the door! I had the most wonderful walk up in the hills. I am going to work up to running but I feel great. So much so I’m off to tackle the clutter in the ‘junk’ room – yes I have a junk room! The shame….