The Simple Power of Showing Up
Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash
Showing up is quite honestly, the most important thing.
There is a little bit of a juxtaposition here. Although I’m not sure you can have a little bit of a juxtaposition, it either is or it isn’t. In which case I’m going with the fact that there is a total juxtaposition here.
The juxtaposition between working hard to create the life you want and not feeling like it.
Some days when the rain is clinging onto the window and the grey sky reflects your somber mood, you, quite simply just do not feel like it.
You can’t be bothered with the day, you’re ambitions, you have no motivation you just want to curl up into a ball and feel insignificant whilst Netflix drowns out your pain.
I’m kidding, it’s not that bad. Sometimes, you simply just don’t feel like it.
Now, is it okay to have a break, not feel like it and come back to the world the next day or do you take the attitude that the show must go on and you should show up every day, rain or shine.
Well firstly, like most things in life, that’s totally up to you. You can subscribe to the mentality that if you miss today that the world will end or you can simply say to yourself, I need today, I’ll have the day to do nothing. That’s the first step in this not-so big problem.
If you made a promise to yourself 4 months ago that you will never ever miss a day at working on your side hustle / project and today you feel like you might waiver there are some things I think might reassure you.
Big Changes Happen in Little Steps, Try to keep stepping
Life is a series of tiny, itty bitty, steps. It might feel like Tiger Woods got famous over night or TikTok was a success story like no other but they aren’t. Like every other ‘overnight success’, these stories are the culmination of years of hard work. Sure luck and timing has something to do with it but the rule is that anything good takes a lot of hard work.
Writers must write most days
Teachers must teach most days
Golfers must golf most days
Aside from the obvious practicing time, if you want to call yourself something, like a writer for example, you need to write. You are what you do and for most cases the way you do anything is pretty much the way you do everything. That’s paraphrased from a quote I read somewhere, I’m sure.
The point here is that you need to show up (most of) the time if you want to get anywhere. You quite literally have to sit in front of the computer and type if you want to be a writer. To get your butt to the golfing range if you want to be a golfer. There are, and shouldn’t be, two ways about it. If you want to become something you need to practice it.
James Clear wrote for years before he published his book Atomic Habits that now is a cornerstone in the field of habits. James Patterson got rejected from 31 publishers before his first book got accepted. Malcolm Gladwell wrote for years before becoming a best-seller.
The rule is you have to practice. Practicing improves your output. When your output is to a certain standard, you get noticed. The practicing comes from years of hard, sustainable work. You create, you build, you create, you build.
As many little steps as you can take the quicker you get to where you want to go.
What if the Quality Isn’t There – Showing Up Anyway
So you force yourself to go, sit in front of the computer or get to the driving range. Some days that will be enough. You will sit and the words will come pouring out like a fine wine or shot after shot your swing gets smoother and the ball goes further. Sometimes merely being there is enough motivation to do a good job of it.
However, other times, it won’t be. You will sit and the words dip out. Like a leaky tap, slow and annoying. The sentences don’t make sense, the grammar is all over the place, the ideas aren’t executed quite right. It all just becomes a way to put you in a bad mood.
Those are the days I would say, write it anyway, swing anyway. I would guess that 1 in 10 days are going to be like this. Annoyingly the day before you’ll be thinking ‘my god, I’ve got so much to write about, it’s never ending’ and then bang, you’ve slept away all your ideas and your meet with a glaring blank white space to fill. The cursor flashes as if to say “come on then, write something” and you find yourself talking back to it “I have nothing to say”. Somewhere between realising you’re either deliriously tired or just going mad, you write anything to get the job done.
Quality vs. Quantity
And it could be a page full of rubbish. Over the last month I’ve been rereading and rewriting my book. I say book, it’s more like lots of disjoined ideas thrown on a page. I’ve realised whilst proofreading that I need to rewrite the whole thing.
And on the one hand I could think that is a total waste of time. I spent months last year putting this thing together just to rewrite it. But it isn’t a waste is it. The ideas, the themes, the message will remain the same, I’ll just write it a little better. The point is if I hadn’t written the book last year, I’d have nothing to read now and rewrite. I’d have none of the ideas, themes and messages to use as a catalyst for my writing.
My point is, doing nothing is always going to be nothing. There is nothing to gain from doing nothing, it’s all very empty. If you write something, anything. It might be rubbish, you might throw it away. However, there is some material there to play with, to rewrite, redraft into something else.
Show up, even if that’s all you do.
The Discipline of Showing Up
I hear you. What’s the point of showing up if you end up producing nothing of quality. If all you end doing is taking a backwards step.
Saying you are going to do something and doing it builds credibility. It builds credibility between yourself and yourself. It sounds silly and it is really but it’s true. If you tell yourself you are going to do it and then execute on that promise you made yourself, you become the person that delivers on her promises. If you do the opposite, you say you are going to do something and you don’t, you lose credibility. The next time you put your mind to something and you feel it in your gut that this is absolutely what you should be doing, it’ll be all too easy to not do it.
Showing up, even when you don’t want to, is you delivering on your promise. It gives you discipline. It means you understand the mental will power it takes to show up when you don’t want to. It will help you appreciate when you are in the flow and want to go on for hours.
Most importantly, it gives you credibility that you are that person that says they are going to do something and does it.
Missing a Day Isn’t a Big Deal
Now this is going to sound wildly contradictory given the previous paragraphs but bare with me. One day in your whole life, missing one day, isn’t a huge deal. It’s important don’t get me wrong and where possible you should absolutely aim to show up every day, rain or shine. However, there will be some days where you just can’t, or you can but you just don’t want to.
That voice in your head will win and you’ll go back to bed or get in and sit in front of the sofa instead of heading to the office. That day will come.
You’ll be telling yourself you shouldn’t, you’ll be feeling bad and you know you’ll regret it tomorrow but you do it nonetheless because you just want to do nothing.
And that’s fine.
One pizza a month won’t make you overweight, one night off won’t mean you fail on your dreams, one missed practice won’t make you a failure.
It’s just one.
You can afford to have a day off here and there. You can not show up once in a blue moon and it won’t make much of a difference. It’s just one day.
The problem is when one day turns into two then three. The benefit of creating good habits that you practice every day is that the interest compounds. You work at it frequently enough to build day after day.
When you don’t show up most days, you have a problem. Try not to create a habit out of not showing up.
The Art of Knowing Yourself – Showing Up
This morning I woke at 5:30am ready (well sort of) to tackle my morning routine. I woke up pretty groggy and didn’t really feel like doing much at all. I decided to try and see if the words came to me. They didn’t. 40 minutes and two YouTube videos later I’d written absolutely zero. I sat in front of my computer and thought:
“Do I go back to bed or try and write something?”
After a few seconds pondering, I realised that I was in no fit state to write. My eyes were barely open. So I went back to bed. 4 hours later (yes 4) I woke up. I missed my morning routine but I told myself I’d figure out some time today to write so I could make sure that I showed up today.
The result is that I’ve written 3 articles so far.
That’s the funny thing about knowing ourselves. Once we figure out how we work and what we need, we accidentally start to optimise ourselves. If I hadn’t have gone back to sleep this morning no doubt I would have spent all day fighting off my tiredness. Which would have ultimately ended up in less of a productive day.
When you know yourself you know what you need. If you need to sleep in, sleep in. If you need a day off, take the day. There are no rules.
The aim of course is to show up as much as possible. There is no secret formula to success. You practice, you learn, you improve. If you can create daily habits then you are on to a winner. Let the habits do the work and in 4 years time you will be reaping the rewards. It would be good if not a little boring if life were that simple though. Some days you won’t feel like showing up and that’s fine. Try and show up anyway. And if you really can’t then get Netflix on, give yourself a break and enjoy some free time.