Freestyle: Stay the Course

February 23, 2016

“80% of success is just showing up.”

That’s a Woody Allen quote that’s stayed with me ever since I first read it a few years back. Impactful because, moving through life, I see just how much it appears to be true.

The dispute over its accreditation doesn’t interest me (although if Woody Allen did say it, it makes sense – being someone who has produced a type-written screenplay every year for the last 30-plus years). What interests me more is the notion of “showing up” and how I can consistently show up in life when it counts most.

I recognise that everyone has different priorities. Showing up at your work most likely will lead to you not being homeless. Showing up with your family will likely lead to more formidable personal relationships. It’s all relative.

What’s important is that we all strive to stay the course.

Too often in my own life I’ve seen this pattern repeated:

Choose something to work or study at. Go intense at it for a couple of weeks. Get burned out. Get interested in something else. Start feeling anxious about whether the thing you’ve chosen is right for you. Think of several reasons why the other thing might be beneficial. Gradually stop working at or studying that one thing as you think and analyse. Eventually reduce the time spent studying or working at that thing down to zero. Repeat process.

This is the antithesis of “staying the course”. This is the opposite of “showing up”.

This is fear repeating itself. This is your mentality being hijacked by concerns of instability, insecurity, poverty, withdrawn love, low living conditions and abject misery.

And all those fears, ironically, by falling into that trap, are coming true. Slowly. And as a result of not being able to ‘show up’ to any one thing.

The question to myself is: what am I going to do about it? How can I better ensure that I stay the course and see something through so I can say I at least gave it my all?

Part of the answer lies in practical and philosophical approaches. First and foremost I need to not beat myself up over relapses, over not being motivated, over not giving one hundred percent every single day. Doing so allows myself to approach the task in hand, fresh, unburdened and unbridled, the next day.

This was never something I could do when I was younger. The immaturity of being just meant that if I missed one day of progress or skipped out on some kind of habit that I was trying to form then I would abandon commitment completely and denounce myself an outright failure.

I now know that one day missed or even a couple of days missed is no big deal. That if I show up sometime soon afterward then I’m unlikely to have really lost much if anything at all (except a little longer time commitment in reaching some kind of perceived outcome).

In terms of a practical approach then, staying the course really does involve a lot of reconfiguring if you’re someone who has fallen into a lot of bad habits and destructive behaviours.

Some things, I’ve found, have certainly helped me readjust my mindset and become more practically able as a result.

Meditation is one of those things. Regular exercise is another.

Combining these two together, along with regular journaling where I check in with my thoughts and feelings, is a great way to make sure I make a little progress each day even if I don’t work on anything else in particular.

The reason being; that what you aim for in life is completely dependent upon where you find yourself in the moment. For me, right now, I have particular goals like completing a half marathon, learning to code and improving Spanish. And even though know I’m taking on too many things, approaching each of these things, given some of the healthy habits I’ve formed, is definitely working out.

I just have to absolutely make sure I keep those habits – the exercise, the meditation, the journaling – as the cornerstone and fundamental practice of everything else I aim to build on top of it. Without them my mind is likely to wander. The negative thoughts are likely to engulf me. Self-sabotage is the inevitable result.

Another thing to keep in mind however is that the goal is really the least important thing. It reminds me of the stand-out part of the Bhagavad Gita, the notion that you’re entitled to your labour but not the fruits of your labour. If I don’t reach the goal? No big deal. I can at least take pride in the fact that I gave it what I could. And that, as a consequence, I learned and formed some beneficial habits and lessons along the way.

As each day rolls into the next then I’ll keep in mind the necessity of staying the course, showing up and the importance of being kind to myself beneath it all.

I’ll ride the bad times. I’ll tell myself the lows never last. I’ll steer my attention back to the fundamental practices that are my daily and morning routines.

I’ll recognise that all the fear, all the negativity, comes from a desperate need to be loved. And then I’ll give myself that love by giving myself to the process of a one of these actions designed to loop into routine and habit.

I’ll show up for myself because I’m all there is.

Until I breathe my last breath the only person I have to please in this life, the only person I have to keep happy, is myself.