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No More Excuses: A Reminder to Put In The Work

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“Do as I say, not as I do.”

I had an epiphany last night.

My 9 year old daughter and I had a serious talk about her grades, and the amount of effort she’s been putting into her schoolwork. She’s creative and intelligent, but also not necessarily motivated by “good grades”.

Rather than ask for help when she doesn’t understand something, she skips questions. When she doesn’t feel like doing something, she just doesn’t do it. If enough pressure is exerted, she might do more, and she doesn’t flat-out refuse. She just doesn’t put in much effort. There’s a bit more to this, but it gets more personal than necessary.

I told her that I don’t expect perfect grades, but I do expect her to make an effort and communicate better. I know what it looks like when she actually puts in the work, and she hasn’t been doing that.

Suddenly I realized: I was talking to myself.

See, for the past few weeks, I haven’t been myself. I’ve felt deflated. Slept too much. Stopped exercising. Started eating sugar and junk food again. Basically said, “SCREW IT” to all of my goals and stopped putting in the work.

I can’t expect more from my 9 year old than I’m willing to do myself.

I could make excuses, just like she probably could. Depression, boredom, family drama, financial stress, and so forth are all valid issues, but not an excuse to give up for this long. Just like I expect my 4th grader to make an effort even when it’s boring and tough, I have to make an effort.

I’m pretty vocal about how sometimes, just making it through each day with the basics done is a lot of work. Sometimes, I can only reasonably do the bare minimum. Those times are rare, but they are real. That hasn’t been the case the last few weeks. When I drill it down, I’ve been holding back out of insecurity and fear. I’ve let negativity and “what’s the point” crowd out my goals and dreams.

No more. I’m not beating myself up over it, either. This is just another part of the journey.

I’m going to start looking at everything through a lens of, “What would I teach my children about this?”

no more excuses: a reminder to put in the work

I believe that we have to muddle through boring, tedious work sometimes. It teaches us a different kind of lesson. There are fun, amazing lessons out there, and we can seek those out as well. But there will always be boring, difficult things in life. We’ll struggle to understand concepts, or want to give up on a dream when reality sets in and the work gets tough.

When we’re kids, we don’t really get to pick the struggles as much as we do as adults, but it’s still an important lesson.

“What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.”

~ Mark Manson, “The Most Important Question of Your Life”

It’s time to get off my  butt and get back to work.

This applies to a lot of areas, but I’m going to list out a few that I’ve consistently struggled with, and what I plan to do about it. They aren’t in any particular order. Maybe you will see yourself in one of these, or add your own in the comments.

1 – Working my recovery program for continued sobriety and serenity.

Ask anybody in long-term recovery, and they will tell you that there were hard times. We go through ups and downs, and the difference is in the tools we reach for in both situations. When I first got sober, I put in a lot of work. I went to the meetings, read the books, met with my sponsor, wrote out my personal inventory, you name it. I treated recovery like a life or death situation, and it felt like it was (and still is) for me.

It’s a process, and over the last year and a half, I’ve been a lot more lax on my program. Lots of ups and downs. A new sponsor. Reworking the steps, more thoroughly this time, but I’m also more hesitant this time for some reason.

When I had this epiphany last night, I texted my sponsor to schedule a meetup. I’ve been hanging out on a certain part of my program for months. It’s time to put in the work and move on.

2 – Getting my body into better physical shape for more energy, self-confidence, and better quality of life.

Basically, it’s time to stop diving head-first into chocolate chip cookies every time I hit a bump in the road.

My relationship with food is nothing unique, but it annoys me to no end. When I’m working a good recovery program, this part of my life also tends to go better. When I’m taking care of the emotional turmoil and turning to my Higher Power, I don’t feel the need to stuff down my emotions with sugar.

On a practical level, I’m focused on getting to sleep earlier, and get better quality sleep again. Last month, I was exercising regularly, and feeling great. Right after Christmas, I let that all go. I have to put in the work to get the results I want, and I don’t just want to look good. I want to feel good and energetic. I know what gets me there, but it’s time to work.

3 – Writing a book, to share my story and inspire others.

This is my childhood dream. Perfectionism is my number one obstacle in this process, and I’m determined to persevere. My goal is to write at least 1000 words a day (last year was 500 words a day, and they mostly went to this blog), both for the book and for the blog. The difficult part comes with writing when my brain isn’t “inspired”, finding the time to write, and pushing past perfectionism.

I just have to put in the work.

4 – Increase my income to continue climbing out of debt, give more, and travel more with my family.

Rather than always chasing work to pay bills, I am going to put in the work to improve our financial state on a larger scale. I’m a website developer/consultant, and balancing promoting myself with actually doing the work can be difficult at times. But, it must be done.

My dream is to be free to travel, give to others, and spend time with my family other than just in the evening and on the weekends. I have a passion for business owners, so I take that into what I do.

There are so many obstacles to this, and so much feels out of my control that I struggle with this one the most. But: I have to put in the work. I have to stay consistent and hone my skills every day. This one is like a puzzle I’m still trying to put together, and there are pieces that keep going missing. I take it a day at a time though, and I’ll keep putting in the work.

I feel a renewed sense of energy. If I won’t expect it from myself, I shouldn’t expect it from my child. Since I do expect my children to put their best efforts forward as much as possible, I’m going to model that for them as well.

For the record, we set up some motivations and goals for her schoolwork as well. She’s looking forward to improvement, I’m just not comfortable going too in-depth on it for the sake of her privacy. We’re working on this issue together, though.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some broccoli to cook.

Related reading:

Win at Parenting: Tell Shame to Suck It

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect. Be Present.

3 Ways I Focus on Solutions, Not Problems

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  1. Nicole Clarke on January 17, 2018 at 1:33 am

    Excellent resolutions! Funny how when we try to teach our children, we end up learning too.

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Sitting on top of Pike's Peak in Colorado, a little over 2 years sober.

Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around.  Read my story...

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