One of the most frustrating phrases I could ever hear somebody say is “I wish I could do that”. Whether it’s playing an instrument, riding a bike, or learning to do a triple spiral somersault followed by double backflip through a flaming ring. It doesn’t really matter what the task or skill is, the point is (as most of us were so dutifully told when we were younger) we can do (almost) anything we put our mind to. Most things gained in life are just a product of repetition. Even the most basic things. Walking. Talking. Trying to carry all the shopping to your front door in a single trip and inevitably dropping everything in a defeated mess on the floor. All of these fundamental daily actions that you don’t even think twice about were things you had to learn by trying, failing and repeating over and over and over again. Yes, you were most likely an infant when you learned these things, but the principal is the same.
Now, I’d like to give a disclaimer here and confess that this ‘life hack’ basically boils down to “put a bunch of time and effort into something and you’ll eventually be half decent at it.” Which sounds like the most obvious statement in the world, and I’m sure most of you reading this will scoff in disgust and toss your phone down because I’ve wasted 47 seconds of your life by telling you something you already know. The thing is though, we all seem to ignore this basic fact when it comes to actually putting it into practice. How many times have you seen someone doing something and wished you had the talent to do it too? Well, guess what, so did they.
The difference is they put in all the time and effort to get to a point where whatever amazing thing they’re doing looks like no big deal. You just don’t see the 30 minutes every day of practice. The flat notes every musician plays before mastering a song. The countless awful meals before a chef became a pro. The awkward leapfrogging parkour athletes had to endure before going from Michael Scott leaping over sofas to YouTube videos climbing buildings. All it takes is time. Time can be very, very daunting. Nobody wants to think about the hours and hours of effort you’ll have to put in for that six pack, you just want it now. The thing is though, once you shift your outlook that’s not how you’ll see it.
Let’s make it simple – You’re sat on the sofa, deep into a netflix binge. The latest episode finishes. You’re thirsty, maybe you fancy a cuppa. The dreaded “Are you still watching?” message pops up on the screen prompting you to do two things. 1) Question your life choices. 2) Decide whether you quench your thirst with a lovely cup of tea, or whether you stay glued to the sofa and just press play. Either way, the time it takes to make that cup of tea is going to be spent, but at the end of that time you’ll either have a cup of tea, or you’ll be 3 minutes into a new episode still thinking about how you want one.
This is exactly the same in the long term! You can spend the next year not learning how to do a cartwheel, or you can practice 10 minutes a night and in a years time be spinning around the shop like Catherine wheel on bonfire night. Either way, and I really can’t stress this enough the time is going to be spent whether or not you make use of it. You don’t get that time back, so why oh why would you stop yourself just because you’re looking at the grand sum of the effort it will take to get to the end goal? Nobody ever started out as a master, but sucking at something is the first step to being kinda good at something.
To highlight this way of thinking, here’s a story to motivate you. There was a little girl who told her mother she wanted to be an astronaut when she grew up. Her mum told her that it’s really difficult to be an astronaut, it takes a lot of work and very very few people ever make it through everything it takes to become one.
So she asked what it takes?
Well, she was told ‘You have to study hard in school so you can get good grades and go to a good college. Then you have to do really, really well in college. Then you have to learn a lot about science, and you have to take a physical fitness test and be in a really good shape.
She replied “That’s just four things.”
Isn’t that just such a beautiful way of looking at the world? Yes, there’s so much effort that goes into those four things but ultimately that’s all it is. If you start off with that kind of mindset VS thinking of how much time is needed to achieve those four things, then you’re already halfway to your goal. The biggest hurdle is the motivation to get going, but motivation is a fickle beast that only rears its head in rare moments.
Replace motivation with repetition and action, be the cause of your own motivation. As one of my friends once told me “Action is the cause of motivation” and in the case of more creative fields, motivation isn’t what creates masterpieces. Was Bohemian Rhapsody the result of a spark of inspiration straight out of the void? Sure. Could Freddie Mercury have written it without first putting in countless hours honing his craft so that when that inspiration struck, he could capitalise on it? No. If you rely solely on that spark of motivation to kick things off for you, then you’re already working against yourself.
Now, you don’t have to do anything drastic overnight, and I think that’s what’s so beautiful about this entire concept. All you need is 10 minutes a day. Start with that. You’d be absolutely shocked at the effect this has once it adds up after a month, and honestly that’s probably 10 minutes you wouldn’t be making use of anyway. Bring purpose into the little moments of time you have and grow this time into a way to work toward your goals. You can do it!