“If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”
“Excuses are for people who don’t want it bad enough.”
“It’s not about having time, it’s about making time.”
This time of year, with our New Year’s Resolutions still fresh in our memories, there’s no escaping these kind of motivational quotes or stories of transformation.
Wellness websites, blogs about lifestyle design and fitspiration on Instagram are all telling us there are no excuses to live the life you want or to make a healthy lifestyle a priority. No matter how well intended – and true to a certain point – these are empty words for anyone living with real, severe problems that won’t go away any time soon.
The “stop making excuses” slogans seem to insinuate that we’re unmotivated, lazy people who just need to get off our butts to make our desires happen instead of going through life as zombies. But motivation and a strong will to succeed are not always enough. In spite of what some people may say, there are valid reasons why someone hasn’t been able to achieve their dreams yet.
You see, when you’re taking care of your severely disabled child who needs to be supervised every single minute of every day, there really might be no time to stick to a regular exercise routine, let alone travel the world.
When you’re struggling to make ends meet, buying running shoes or organic meat may not be an option.
When you’re looking after your mom with dementia, who suffers from malnutrition due an understaffed nursing home, you might not have any willpower left to resist those cookies that help you forget your sorrows for a little while.
And how are you supposed to make time to work on your passion when you only have a handful of spoons of energy each day to deal with work, family and chores? That’s the reality for so many of us living with chronic illness.
If you’ve explored every possibility to improve the difficult circumstances you’re in and still there really is no time or energy left for your goals and ambitions, then yes, you may have a legitimate ‘excuse’.
Does this mean you can’t lead a healthier lifestyle or start chasing your dreams while you’re in these situations? Of course not!
Changing your life is never impossible, but let’s be honest about how overwhelmingly hard it can be given the obstacles you’re facing. Let’s be realistic about how slow your progress may be, so you can cut yourself some slack. Sometimes you might take two steps forward only to go one step back. Sometimes just keeping your head above water and not letting your problems get any worse may be the best you can do at this time.
Hope, optimism and determination are powerful drives to realize your dreams. But let’s stop saying there are no ‘excuses’.
So what can you do to build healthy habits or work on your goals despite your challenging circumstances?
- Determine your Daily Non – Negotiables. Which self-care practices do you really need to do each day to be able to function well? For me, that would be a long, warm shower in the morning, winding down with a story (book, magazine, TV series) at night and getting plenty of sleep. For you, it might be moving your body for 30 minutes or more, drinking a cup of coffee in peace or getting some fresh air.
- Use the Seinfeld Strategy. Pick one tiny, doable habit that will have a positive impact on your health, work or passion: swap your soft drinks for (flavoured) water, go for a short stroll after lunch, learn one new Italian word a day or listen to an educational podcast during your commute. Make sure you choose an action that’s totally within your powers but that you’re just not doing yet. Next, put a big X on your calendar for every day that you’ve successfully performed that new behaviour, until you get a chain that you won’t want to break. Too hard given your situation? Then never miss more than one day in a row.
- Ask a family member or friend for practical help or emotional support. Maybe someone can watch your sick child for an hour every week so you can recharge with a yoga class. Maybe your spouse won’t mind prepping a healthy meal when you’re in too much pain to cook. Or perhaps you can find an online support group with people who know exactly what you’re going through to cheer you on when you feel like giving up.
- Get savvy about planning, organisation and life hacks. When you have little time and energy to spare, you have to work smarter instead of harder. For example, if you want to start eating healthier, you could learn how to prep a week worth of healthy meals on Sunday afternoon, cook double batches, bring leftovers to lunch the next day or master a few super quick recipes. Managing your time and energy wisely is crucial during tough times.
- Make getting a good night’s sleep your priority. Stress and worrying may keep you up at night, but you need to get plenty of rest to deal with your problems. Lack of sleep will wreak (further) havoc on your health and make your emotions spin out off control. So please, give yourself a decent bedtime each night and plan moments or relaxation into your week as you would schedule important appointments.
For more achievable advice on cultivating health during times of crisis, check out this great article by Mark’s Daily Apple.
What do you think of the “stop making excuses” quotes and stories? Do they motivate you or do you find them condescending and hurtful? Please share your opinion in the comments!
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