Setting myself up to fail?

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A month or so ago, after reading my Creating Daily Rituals post, a friend asked if I feared I might be ‘setting myself up to fail by creating a list of daily goals?’  ‘Was I creating a situation where I would end up berating myself if I didn’t hit those targets?’

These were great questions and really got me thinking.  My initial response was, no, I didn’t think I felt pressurised by it and I had faith I’d just get back on the bike if I did fall. Little did I know this theory was about to be tested!

Two weeks later (and two weeks ago today) our little family of three set off for a much needed break to see friends in Norfolk.  I did yoga that morning (check) and I confidently wedged my yoga mat into the back of our rammed-packed-jammed car as we set off (check) (insert smug halo smiley face emoji here).

On our first morning I joyfully rolled out my mat and began…only to have to stop for two false-alarm loo trips (not mine) and the flow was gone – ha! no pun intended!! – so I called it a day on the yoga front and we headed off for a beautiful but bone-breakingly bitter jaunt to the seaside. By the next morning the Little Chap had become really unwell; horrid throat infection, swollen glands etc.  We knew he was truly suffering as our usually stoic boy just wanted to sleep and stay ‘home’, so he and I pretty much holed up for the remaining half of our break, and my yoga mat remained forlornly rolled up in the corner.

Our first morning back at ‘home-home’ I woke up feeling like I was now coming down with the Little Chap’s virus (par for the course in parent-land) but I managed to limp my way through Adriene’s ‘Yoga for when you are sick video (man, that girl covers all bases). Hooray I was back on the mat (check).  And then I became too sick to do ‘Yoga for when you are sick’ and took to my bed for the next 4 days.  I had excruciating sinusitis and there was no way I was lowering my head below shoulder level for fear of it exploding. Where is that tank of gas ‘n’ air when you really need it?

So between being away, and round the clock comforting of a sick child, and nursing my own poorly self*, I fell off my ‘bike of virtue’ on every level.  I stopped making entries in my Daily Greatness Journal, I stopped doing yoga, I stopped updating YNAB, (I did listen to quite a lot of meditations on Buddhify to ease my suffering so err…check) but essentially my ‘Daily Rituals’ list crumbled big time.  With this lack of action, my friend’s question ‘have I set myself up to fail’ rolled around in my mind.  And yet despite the evidence seemingly being to the contrary, my resounding answer was ‘No!’.

In the past, the answer would have been a self-flagellating ‘YES’!  Followed by a big dose of ‘I’m clearly not cut out to have a regular yoga practice / keep on top of my finances / keep a journal so I’m giving up the lot’.  But this time feels very different and I’ve been curious to understand why.

I think there are several factors, but for me the key element is around making ‘conscious choices’.  Just as I had previously made a conscious choice to implement various positive actions into my daily life, likewise I made a conscious choice to hit pause on all those good things as circumstances changed.  Less a case of falling off the bike, more a decision to park it up for a bit.

I made a conscious choice that the right thing to do was to watch crap on YouTubeKids with my poorly little chap at 7.30am when I would normally do my yoga / write my journal, and another choice was made to not make up for it later with some bedtime yoga / journal update as he needed me to go to bed with him as we were in a strange (but oh so lovely) house and he couldn’t settle without me close by.  And again, when the lurgy hit me full-force I made a conscious choice to cut myself some slack and rest up, choosing instead to binge-listen to the incredible S-Town podcast and watch ALL the new eps of Grace and Frankie because these things took my mind off the pain (these, and some strong pharmaceuticals). My friend G sent me a message asking if my sinusitis was ‘the burning kind like when you accidentally snort pool water up your nose, or the other kind that feels like knives being stabbed into all your face holes’ – for anyone interested it was the latter, and it was awful, even laughing at her text hurt.

So today is Friday; as of Tuesday late afternoon I tentatively started to feel a bit better, but the bike of virtue remained firmly locked up in the bike rack of failure conscious choice, until yesterday when I truly felt a good 90% better and I knew I was ready to clamber back on (I’m labouring this metaphor and the irony is I can’t actually ride a frickin’ bike in real life but let’s gloss over that).  I wrote my morning journal entry, followed by an early Operation Bloom Skype call (which is always recharging) and I committed that I would get back on the yoga mat that evening and ease myself back in with a gentle bedtime routine. Which brings me to today, the journal is back in full, twice-daily, flow, I was on the yoga mat by 7.30am this morning for a 20 minute sesh’ and I’ve made a date with YNAB this evening (oh Friday nights, how you’ve changed).  This would never have been me a year ago.

As I pay close attention to this falling off / getting back on process, I am sensing there is a critical tipping point (again, no pun intended) between the falling off bit and the getting back on bit, and if too much time passes where we remain down but without genuinely good reason it becomes harder to jump back on. Under the circumstances I felt totally at peace with my decision to park the bike, because I very much knew it was a temporary state of affairs, and as soon as I started to feel better my thoughts turned to me jumping back on. Amazingly there was no doubt I’d get going again, but even so, when the time came to resume action I noticed, running alongside my steely resolve (!), there was a low-level resistance, a physical apathy.  Had I chosen to ‘string out’ the effects of being ill and told myself (lied to myself) that I should wait until after the weekend, ya know to get fully, fully, fully better, and then get back to the Daily Rituals list I think it would have been a hundred times harder to get motivated, because the truth for me was I was ready on Thursday.  Really listening to myself and taking action right at that perfect sweet spot in my recovery where resolve was high and illness was bidding a hasty retreat has made getting back to it relatively easy (albeit I’m only on day 2 y’all but I’m celebrating the act of getting back on, always the hardest part for me).

It seems to me that over time there are natural ebbs and flows to our activity and motivation levels, sometimes we simply need to hit pause, to park the bike for a bit, but intuiting how to respond most usefully to this waxing and the waning leads us back to our dear old friend authenticity.  Namely us being authentic with ourselves.  To make a personal commitment to choose not to delude ourselves but to really tune in, notice when we really are too sick to do ‘all the things’ and give ourselves unreserved permission to press pause (and boy does that feel good), but in turn create a counter-balance by being honest about when we feel able to return to those good actions; acknowledging the reticence but refusing to let it have the louder voice.

It’s also fine to start off gently, ease ourselves back in to the saddle.  The crucial thing is to get back on, it needn’t be to do the London to Brighton first time out, it could just be a spin round the block in the sunshine.  As my lovely husband says, ‘it’s not how many times we fall off, it’s how many times we get back on again that counts’.

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*Vince and the Little Chap were very sweet at looking after me and keeping the ship running smoothly, I can’t fault them, they picked me flowers!

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Authenticity, a slippery old fish.

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Tickling Trout – Frans Wesselman

“Authenticity, I think, is simply trying to find the kindest way to speak the whole truth.” Erin Loechner – Chasing Slow

I read this line a couple of nights ago and it leapt right off the page.  I am always on the hunt for just the right language to articulate the wildly wonderful search for authenticity I find myself on.  For the past few months I’ve been working with a treasured friend on ‘Operation Bloom’ and we’ve spent much of our time trying to distill into words our exhilarating, white knuckle ride experiences of tuning in to our authentic selves. Continue reading