The magic of giving yourself 5 minutes

I don’t know about you, but me, I want everything to happen now. Not in 10 years or 5 or even a year. Now.

  • I want to be a best selling author today.
  • I want my perfect body today.
  • I want the house to be organised and look magazine – worthy, right after the day I move in.
  • And I want my life to change, you guessed it, today.

Have you ever had that hopeless feeling wash over you when you realize nothing’s going to change now or even in the near future?

What do you do then?

Give up? Keep pushing forward? Get tired and frustrated? Show your anger on the poor innocent pillow? Do a complete 180 degrees (if I can’t be good, I’ll be really bad. If I can’t follow the diet, I’ll binge eat instead)? Tried to motivate yourself with a pair of new running shoes?

I’ve done every one of the above and more.

Where did that get me? Nowhere.

Every year, I got a year older. But..

My book didn’t get written. I didn’t get any healthier. My mind didn’t feel calmer. My life didn’t change the way I envisioned.

Why do good intentions find a grim grave?

We are all motivated to lead a better life. But what we struggle with is consistency.

Let’s take Sarah for example. Sarah wants to lead a healthier lifestyle. She reads up on running, buys the best running shoes, a fitness tracker and is all set to get that lifestyle she so dreamed of.

She wakes up extra early, gears up and runs 3 miles. She feels great and is super satisfied with herself. This goes on for the next few days. But it gets more and more difficult to get out of bed. 3 miles or even 1 feels like a gargantuan task. She decides to sleep in for a day. And makes the same decision a few more days in a row. After a month, she hadn’t made any progress despite all her good intentions.

Sarah is still motivated to lead a healthy lifestyle, but struggles with consistency. Why do you think that is?

Because of our expectations. We expect to be good the moment we start things. We expect to run when we have barely learnt to stand. We are way too tough on ourselves.

A shift in mindset

When we want to make a lifestyle change, think long term. The goal is not to run but to become a runner. The goal is not to write but to become a writer.

Our mind is astonishing in many ways. When our expectations change, our mind accommodates the change wonderfully. “Life is short” no longer plagues us. There is no emergency in our actions, just a relaxed acceptance that we are in it for the long haul.

How giving myself 5 minutes worked wonders for me

I wanted to start writing again, something I’ve abandoned for decades now. To become a writer, the first step is to start writing. Duh.

That advice is not as simple as it sounds.

Everyone has advice on what would make a good writer. 2000 words a day one would say. Anything less is useless. Two pages – not so hard, another said.

For some one who has to find the strength to put down two words strung together, it was a daunting task.

When learning a skill, you will have to fall on your face, repeatedly, constantly. Your ego gets the biggest hit. And when it gets hit, the ego tries to convince our brain to stop working on it.

“It’s not worth it” it would whisper. “You don’t have the talent” it would taunt. “You are not strong enough, young enough, old enough, talented enough. Just not enough”. Our ego is persistent and our mind succumbs eventually.

The trick is to get the job done, before our ego perks up and rears its ugly head. That’s where the 5 minute comes up.

All I had to do was endure it for 5 minutes.

Write for 5 minutes and no more. It doesn’t have to be good. It just had to be written.

This worked. I would show up. Write whatever popped up in my head for 5 minutes and not think about it again, till the next day.

Slowly, something amazing happened. It wasn’t hard to pick up my pen anymore. My ego didn’t come out as often- because it wasn’t insulted on a daily basis to begin with. My mind would work on different ideas through the day. My confidence grew day by day.

I’m still not the writer I want to be. Far from it. But I write and that is progress.

The only goal is to come back tomorrow

When the only goal is to show up for 5 minutes, it’s so easy that you will run out of excuses to not do it. You don’t have to walk for miles. Just 5 minutes. You don’t have to read for hours. Just 5 minutes.

Just 5 minutes is a mantra that makes sure you show up. You might end up staying for more. Or maybe, find the 5 minutes hard to endure. But telling yourself “just 5 minutes”, will get you to show up. And that is all you need for progress. To show up.

What will you spend “just 5 minutes” on?

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I’m a bookworm, mom and have a daytime job that involves computers and tons of data. I believe we have the power to make our lives better and the right time to start is now.

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