Doubting Thomas(ina)

Why do we doubt ourselves and our abilities, when experience has taught us time and again that we are more capable than we first thought?

As a Libra, decisions have always challenged me. I never know if the path I’m treading is the ‘right’ one, and often find myself hesitating at a crossroads for so long I am paralysed by indecision – sometimes to the point where I retrace my steps to the safe, well-trodden path of before, for fear of the new one leading me somewhere I don’t want to go.

But here’s the thing: The path I least want to be walking is the well trodden one. Why? Because I’ve walked that path a thousand times before. I know each twist and turn, each pothole and each puddle. There are no surprises on that path. It’s boring. Predictable. And the more I get to know myself, the more I know deep in my heart that boring and predictable are two things I never want to be.

And here’s the other thing: How can you know if a path is taking you somewhere you don’t want to go, when you won’t know if you really want to be there until you actually get there? It’s the ultimate Catch 22.

So. The way I see it is like this. In life there are only ever really two options:

  1. The Known (Safe) Option
  2. The Unknown (Unsafe) Option

If you take Option One, you have to accept that you may never feel that thrill of the extraordinary; the adrenaline rush you get when you take a risk and it pays off. Equally you may never feel the crushing disappointment of a failed risk, so there is at least some solace in that.

If you take Option Two, you must accept that risks are part of life. They may not always pay off, but at least you will never look back when you’re grey and old and wonder ‘what if?’ And that, exactly that, is my motivation for choosing Option Two, always.




Blocking Time

Do you ever feel there isn’t enough time to do the things you want to do outside of your day job? Are you often just so tired at the end of the working day that all you want to do is lie on the sofa and watch crap TV just to relax your mind? But then the guilt sets in, because such activity feels like it actively diminishes your intelligence rather than bolstering it, and if you don’t use your time wisely how will you ever finish that novel/Open University course/improving tome etc.?

If you do feel that way, you’re not alone. I for one experience this cycle of worry and guilt on a daily basis. Even though I know that being a published writer is my goal, somehow it seems that writing at the end of a full day’s work (and, when I can be bothered, a post-work gym session) is always the last thing I want to do.

But then, yesterday, I struck on the most blindingly obvious and simple concept: Instead of telling myself that I had to spend the whole evening writing, with no time to do anything else (the usual mantra due to guilt at not having written enough in the preceding days/weeks), I told myself to spend just one hour working on my screenplay, at the end of which I could spend an hour watching any TV programme I liked. And at the end of that, I would go to bed and spend an hour reading my book (because, in my experience – and somewhat ironically given the benefits – when you’re feeling overtired and too busy the first thing to go is the luxury of reading before bed).

And you know what? It worked. I didn’t do a huge amount of my screenplay, but I did more than I had done in the past few days. And, more than anything, it felt like I had removed a big obstacle that had been standing in my way. I no longer felt scared of the enormity of the task I was facing, because I had broken it down into a manageable task. Moreover, I didn’t feel (as I so often do) that writing meant having to sacrifice all other enjoyment, or that I had to choose between writing and reading (a horrendous choice for a writer because without reading how can you improve your writing? Catch 22).

So often we tell ourselves that we are useless, that it’s impossible to realise our dreams. But what if we’re just framing things incorrectly? What if the problem is not our lack of talent, or even commitment, but rather the very simple and easily corrected issue of time management?

We all know that if we want to do something we must make time for it. But what makes so many people stumble at the first hurdle is the misguided view they must devote every spare moment to the pursuit of that goal. Wrong. Start small, with ten, twenty, thirty minutes a day – whatever feels achievable to you. And make sure that you stick to doing it – simple. It takes time to form a habit, and it isn’t always easy. But if you don’t start, the only person you’ll have to blame for not achieving your potential is yourself.