When Nike came up with their marketing genius catchcry of ‘Just do it’ back in the late 80’s it was reportedly based on the last words of a convicted death row inmate, who after numerous stays of execution finally said enough stalling already, let’s do this.
It’s slightly ironic that a slogan motivating people to improve their lives was based on the last words of the end of a life, but perhaps that’s the point. Life is short. Unlike the inmate we don’t have a definite end date, our end may be a certainty but all we know for sure is that right at this moment we’re alive.
In this past month I have attended two funerals. Both lived full lives regardless of age, one happy to go at 97 and the other no doubt wanting more moments leaving us at only 51 years of age. Death has a peculiar way of temporarily stopping time for the living, allowing time to reflect, to reassess and to recognise that life is short. We may procrastinate about what to do with life or we can just live it.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? You need to lose weight, get fitter, look hotter, be smarter, earn more money, make more friends, be happier, help people, help yourself – you know the slogan – just do it. Unfortunately more often than not we tend to just find reasons why we can’t just do it. After all, finding reasons not to do it is so much easier than doing it, or so that voice inside your head will have you believe.
Over the years I’ve learned a few techniques for turning down the volume of the annoying little procrastinator that freeloads somewhere in my psyche. It wasn’t easy because she’s a cunning little bugger that chooses her moments carefully. Not only does she choose her moments but also her allies, steering towards people that advise strongly against doing anything outside of just what you’re doing right now – because hey if it isn’t broken then why fix it?
Fixing it isn’t the point, enhancing it is.
It may not be broken; it just may not be the best version that it could be and let’s face it, life is for the living and not to just become inanimate infrastructure for others to walk over. Just not doing it may be the easy option but eventually even the laziest participants in this game of life get tired of being doormats.
So how do I shut Miss Procrastinator up, build a bridge and get over it, swallow a spoonful of cement and harden up, buck up and just do it? Well the first thing I do is lie to myself, well not exactly lie per se, more that I don’t allow myself to delve so far into the ‘what ifs’ that I stall at the starting gate.
In the early days of training it took a lot of self-negotiation to get out of bed in the morning darkness and go riding before school. When the training sessions became harder and winter set in I had to find a better negotiating technique another than the ‘doing this will help you win’ logic, I had to play tricks on my mind. Towards the end of the week when my legs were so sore that I could barely walk I would set my alarm for 30 minutes before I had to get up and when it went off I would put my bike shorts on, reset the alarm and go back to sleep for another half hour. Then when the alarm went off and my first thought was to find a reasonable excuse not to go out training I would realise that my bike shorts were already on and so I had to go. I had a rule that once the shorts were on there was no turning back. I convinced myself that I must have already decided to go training, the bike shorts on being definitive proof, and so there was no need to argue, my only option was to just do it.
Years later when doing intervals my coach would employ this same logic when he would ignore my words of complaint and excuse– it used to go something like this: After the warm up and the first interval of let’s say it was a two minute high revolutions (i.e. fast as you can) effort with a one minute recovery, I would waste precious oxygen telling him it was too hard or my legs were too sore. He would nod and say “30 seconds” and I would say “but I can’t” and he would say “yes you can, 25 seconds”. Usually I would give it one more last ditch effort citing some other lame excuse to which he would say “10 seconds” – at this point I would suck in air as fast as I could because it was obvious he was confident that this was the agreed path and so there was no point in arguing when my time would be better spent breathing.
The trick to just doing it, is not to think too much about that first step, and especially not how far you may have to go or how much it may hurt, always concentrate on the good stuff – the satisfaction that you will have from that new body, or successful venture. I like to call this the ‘absolute pleasure’ principal. If I stopped to think that it was 64km round trip to and from work each day I wouldn’t get out of my neighbourhood. I never think about how far I have to go, I am too busy thinking about how good it feels to fly down a hill or lay my bike down around a corner. I enjoy the doing. The doing gives absolute pleasure.
This is the moment, so come on, let’s just do it.