Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/
I’ve been thinking a lot about a specific concept with regards to the idea that when it comes to changing aspects of our lives, that we should “just do it.” I usually find myself thinking about this when there’s some news story about someone overcoming struggles through what seems to be raw grit and determination. I think of the man who walked miles to Wal-Mart every time he wanted a meal and lost like 500 lbs; or, the man who walked 3000 miles across the country and lost like 300 lbs. and gained a new perspective on life. I think of people- like Taraji P. Henson- who’ve moved to new places with barely any money so that they could pursue their dreams.
These are inspiring stories, and they usually get me to thinking “Could I really do something like that?” I look at some of my habits- eating habits, spending habits, etc.- and I am well aware that there are things that I would like to change. Ideally I would lose weight, save money for travel, exercise more, explore new hobbies and talents, and so on. When I look at my life, I ask myself “What’s stopping me?”
In a way, it’s fortunate that I turned this criticism inward, because before I did it was very easy to just look at other people and say “Well why don’t they just do x, y, and z and work towards changing their lives?” and then when I look at my own life I see that I could ask myself the same kinds of questions.
The truth is, that I don’t exist in someone else’s reality- I don’t live their Truth. It’s possible to be so beaten down by life, or just by the chemicals being imbalanced in our brains, that forward motion seems like it is almost impossible. Even though it’s true that every big goal- like losing weight can be broken down into a series of smaller goals- daily exercise, dietary changes- it can be incredibly difficult to stay on track.
When it comes to money-related goals, poverty is very consuming and cyclical. You can put away small amounts of money in savings and gradually build it up- but it isn’t uncommon for one small emergency to wipe you out and force you to start from scratch. If you don’t have money to pay your bills, you are punished with yet more bills in the form of late fees and overdraft charges. If you borrow money to cover your costs, you then have to worry about paying back interest.
I think if it was easy for people to “just do it” then they would- but for a lot of us it isn’t that easy. Sometimes it’s mainly fear that is holding us back, and other times it’s circumstances that are outside of our control.
When it comes to change being facilitated in my life, I’ve noticed that there are usually two catalysts- outside circumstances and inward motivation. For a lot of the bigger changes that occurred in my life I have needed an outside push. The first of those came when my dad moved me out of his home into the recovery residence. I needed the change of circumstances, but I wouldn’t have been able to make it out on my own. I was stuck. The second came when I needed to move out of the recovery residence into my own apartment- I had really stayed longer than I needed to and I wasn’t exactly “in recovery” but if I hadn’t been given a deadline I might still be there today.
Looking back, though, there have been times when inward motivation- the kind of “just do it”ness has been influential in moving me forward. I used this when I started going to college. I applied for financial aid right after I turned 24, and starting going to classes with almost no encouragement from anyone else (while waiting for financial aid I had to pay for classes out of pocket). I was in developmental courses for about a year (and I also had to take a summer of computer literacy) and then moved on to my music courses. I slowly stacked more and more on my schedule. I’ll be taking 11-13 credit hrs in the Fall.
In a book I like to read called “Boundaries” (by Dr. Henry Cloud), he reminds us that boundaries are not built in a vacuum. This includes the boundaries that we make with ourselves. The truth is that even though we may be able to get through on grit and determination alone, a lot of the times that isn’t the case. I’ve needed people in my life to challenge me- even people that were only appearing in my life for that very limited space of time. They’ve come in the form of parents, teachers, and even the head of the recovery residence. Different caseworkers and therapists have also been important for me in reaching my goals.
If I’m not able to be the person that I want to be, it may be that I require a little bit of assistance. There’s nothing weak or shameful about needing help. Sometimes it is as simple as just breaking down big goals into smaller ones, listing out what I need to do, gritting my teeth and doing it. I may have to do things by myself if there are only a few- or not any- people rooting for me. Other times I will have the help and support of other people and it will be the missing link for me in attaining success. Either way it will require a lot of hard work and I’ll have to dig deep for the strength I need.
I haven’t reached all my goals yet, but I won’t give up. I’m also aware that once I reach the goals that I have, there will just be new goals to take the place of the old ones. So in that sense, I’ll never ever “arrive” at any place- I’ll just keep moving.