October 27, 2014

Excruciatingly Obvious, Incredibly Helpful Self-Improvement Tip You Keep Forgetting

By Crabby McSlacker

Regular readers may have noticed that I am quite fond of passing on principles for living a happy, healthy, balanced, life--while admitting that I totally suck at applying them to my own problems.

But hey, reminding myself of things that would make life easier if I would just f--cking do them? Not a bad thing! Because sometimes I actually pay attention to my own reminders if I go to the trouble of putting them in a blog post and boring the crap out of other people with them.

Anyway, I'm going out on a limb here and guessing that about 95-98% of you also occasionally forget this one blatantly obvious tip, which is applicable to almost any problematic area of life.

So which Thing You Already Know am I reminding you to Actually Go Out and Do?




Break it Down!


If you find yourself stuck, scared, stymied, rebellious, avoidant, overwhelmed, demotivated, or even delusionally in denial about a problem, there's a good chance that you are trying to tackle too much of it at once.

So, duh: you have to carve out a tiny piece and do just that, and don't worry about doing it perfectly. And then maybe come back later for another tiny piece but don't even worry about that part until you've got the first piece done.

And yes, I've written about this a few hundred times before, but you guys are used to me repeating myself and this is sadly the sort of thing we need relentless reminders about or we forget.

I offer my own, seemingly trivial example:

I can't seem to put a blog post up lately.

Partly it's lack of time, and stress-frazzled brain cells, but partly it's because the idea of putting together a coherent blog post has somehow gotten Too Big in my head.  There are lots of things I want to write about.  (Meditation! Mountain Biking! High School Memories! Mental Illness and the Unfair Stigma Attached Thereto! Healthy Airport Eats! The Awesomeness of Rick Hanson in Yet a New Incarnation! Anger Management! The Overcoming of Life-long Driving and Flying Phobias! Shinzen Young! Dancing in the Moonlight!)

(And yeah, Be Very Afraid. That was only a tiny fraction of imaginary blog posts that have been spinning through my head).

Yet each observation I want to share seems to relate to thousands of other things that would also then need saying. But when I sit down to write, none of these things seem the least bit original or funny or wise or helpful. Plus, every blog post should have pictures to break up the text and I should reply to comments and visit other blogs and not be rude and weird, right?

And so rather than Just Fucking Write Something, I've been pretending I don't have a blog. Which would be fine if I were someone who is happy when not blogging.

But alas, I'm not.  Not blogging feels wrong and creepy.  I would rather be a shitty and occasional blogger than someone who does not blog at all.  Go figure.

Break it Down Even More

Sometimes, if you are working on an enormous project like a dissertation, deciding to open up a research source to the right page without even reading a word yet could be a start.

Or, if you're hoping to run a 10K, there may be days when putting on a pair of running shoes for a walk around the block could be a great accomplishment.

Or if your house is a disaster and you are a disorganized mess, choosing a single place where you will always put your keys when you walk through the door could lead gradually to a more peaceful, less chaotic home life.

Or, if you are a blogger, putting up a crappy post that at least says "I'm still here!" might lead to other posts. Who knows?

Do you ever avoid things because you let them get too big in your head?

48 comments:

  1. Always.

    Walking was a good example for me. I've been letting that slide lately and the distance I used to cover has begun to feel overwhelming. I've been getting back to it, a bit at a time and have finally done my usual walk, today. Silly thing to feel buried by, but I was.

    I hope things are settling down some in your life and that you'll be able to blog as you wish.

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  2. OK! Step one write on Crabby's blog. Step two write something on my blog ... tomorrow or maybe next week!

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  3. "Dancing in the moonlight" sounds wonderful, please write about that sometime soon if you can. I would read anything you decided to post. You have no idea how many times your blog has been exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time. I probably should have told you that sooner but I'm telling you now. Please don't ever stop writing and don't worry about what you write, you will always have at least one very interested reader in me. Thanks for being you!

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    1. Anonymous, can I just tell you your comment totally made my day? Knowing there is one interested reader who took the time to stop by and offer encouragement makes me incredibly grateful. People like you (and especially the other wonderful folks who write or comment here) really do make this weird blogging thing so worthwhile!

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  4. Haha, YES. And it works, for a while.

    I can't figure out blogging - sometimes I have no good idea to write about, so I'll post a silly random something and people come out of the woodwork to comment. Other posts, that I plan and really work on? Crickets. I guess it's a good thing I'm really writing for myself first and foremost, right?

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has this issue - so funny the posts that seem to generate the most interest aren't usually the ones that I think might.

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  5. Yeah, always. I used to think I was just a generic slob. Didn't figure out how to keep the house reasonably clean until we had kids & it was pretty much essential. Over time, I figured out that what really got in the way was that I couldn't stand to do anything half way, or even 99%. One wrinkle in a sheet? Might as well not even make the bed. One bit of baked on stuff on a pan? Scrub until my arms give out, then set it aside so I can do more tomorrow...or throw the pan out & eat out a lot more.

    It's gotten a lot better over the years. We can now eat at home almost every day, and I put away clothes without perfect folding. But there is still always something. Personal accounting, learning enough about the ballot to be sure I know what I am voting even on for local and minor issues, cleaning windows, writing letters...Good just doesn't always seem good enough.

    And then, when I finally sit down and do one of these tasks, I wonder why I worried so much. Then I start avoiding the exact same thing again.

    That's actually one pretty good thing about exercise: I can head out intending to be stronger, faster, tougher, and my body just tells me exactly how far I can go. Somehow, the fact that I do eventually get stronger and faster is enough to quell the perfectionist in me for physical efforts. Endorphins?

    It's always great seeing your blog posts. I am so glad you managed to get yourself to the keyboard!

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    1. Thanks so much DRG!

      And too funny about the housework perfectionism, I'm glad you let that go! I find that even doing a half-assed job seems to take so long, that the "perfect" part is impossible. Yet when I go to other's houses somehow they seem so shiny and spotless. A mystery!

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  6. Yes! Partly demand resistance, and partly i let it become too big. So i have to use a timer to measure and show myself that it really doesn't take that long. It breaks the log jam.

    Oh, and i can't wait to read your blogs on some of those topics you mentioned!

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  7. Oh, yeah. When I feel, say, bored doing X no. of Tibetan Rites it's easier to not do them. Then I remember even if I just do a few a day it counts. It helps. Breaking a thing down to its components and doing even one component is a win.
    I hope everything happening in your life gets sorted soon.
    And not just for you, we need our Crabby.

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  8. Wow, I didn't realize how much I NEEDED to touch base, especially when I'm struggling a little and you guys chime in with common sense and compassion. I am the luckiest blogger ever!!

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  9. No matter what you write or how often/seldom it happens, we will be here ready to read and comment!!! Your posts are always good for making me think, giving me a laugh, sometimes a mix of the 2!!
    Hope you are doing OK!!

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  10. Having become a follower because of Hilary, I always read what you write, and I'm always a little bit amazed that I didn't know you for so long. So go ahead and repeat yourself, so I can hear what you have to say. This is a really perfect post for me today, since I am one of those people who tends to get discouraged by the sheer SIZE of some things and never get started. Exercise isn't a problem for me, since I'm rather addicted.

    I am also very encouraged by some of the blogs I follow, when I see they just put up a picture with a few salient words, and I like to look and read. It gives me permission to do the same. I am an inveterate picture taker, so there's almost always something I can find that's interesting. Plus you've got a lot of very interesting commenters, so I am finding new people to follow through you. :-)

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    1. Thanks so much DJan, I'm so glad you found us here! I find your adventures and attitude very inspiring, so it's interesting to discover you sometimes struggle with the Too Big thing too!

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  11. Its a marathon not a sprint :) we are in it for the long haul. :) love the post and keep chipping away your a star!!

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  12. You are reading my mind. Major problem with procrastination these past few days. Just need to chip away at that which seems so daunting that it paralyzes me.

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  13. Perfection is the enemy! Beat it back with a stick whenever you can! Because when you do this, you not only are doing something healthy for yourself, you are also giving out a giant permission slip to the rest of us to be less than perfect :) :)

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  14. (Did my comment just disappear? The comment box looked odd.)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  15. (Yes, my comment disappeared.)
    Repeat yourself as much as you like. People go to hear Beethoven symphonies over and over, and they play the same notes in the same order every time.

    Chipping away at things: alas, you can either make a phone call, or not. Since I HIGHLY prefer "not" I am stymied by this. Otherwise I'm pretty good at doing tiny bits of things (especially when I only have tiny bits of time.) And eventually, tiny bits of things build a mosaic.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    1. So sorry about the comment eating thing, I have NO idea how to fix it. I think maybe it tends to happen with Apple people?

      As to phone calls, I tend to dread them too. Not many wayw to "break it down" but sometimes I find a pre-call pep talk outlining what I want to say helpful, or if I can get away with an email I find that a lot easier!

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    2. I'm an Apple people, but this is the first time ever for me.

      If email is possible, I won't be trying to make a phone call!

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  16. Ok Mary Anne, you are not the only one! I had SUCH a witty comment to make. Dammit the nether-realms ate mine too!

    The long and short of it was something like loving Crabster's posts no matter how repetitive or sporadic or frequent. I do get concerned when I see nothing from her for a while. I know I often go quiet on my blog when things are not going so well.

    I feel guilty when I don't comment on all the postings because Crabby is so much better about that sort of thing than I am. I have NO excuse.

    And Crabster, repeating is a good thing! Sometimes people are not ready to hear what you say the first time or the second time or the hundredth time. Perhaps though, they 'hear' the message on the 101st message. People are funny like that. :D

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    1. Aw, thanks Sherri and sorry too about the comment thing. And while my blog goes a little quieter when things are funky, I'm doing fine, just a little stressed and worried for my sister, but its also a hell of a Personal Growth Opportunity. :)

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    2. Good point, Sherri, about not being ready to hear the first time.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    3. BTW, I wrote this on my Mac too. So perhaps there is something to it!

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  17. Perfectionism can certainly keep people from moving from point A to B! I once assisted a very good, but slow surgeon and he did his usual operation twice as fast by just moving to the next step faster with my direction. Good post, Crabby!

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  18. I am a very regimented person. If I do not post on Tuesday, I am in the hospital. Ha. But alas, sometimes I have to post on Mondays or Wednesdays due to campaigns and it totally throws me off my game. I especially hate Wednesday posts because UH, WTF AM I DOING ON TUESDAY THEN?!?! I am such a weirdo. But whatever... I used to freak out SOOOO MUCH when I was younger about breaking my routine and regime, however now... I know NO ONE IS DYING if I break it, so who gives a hoot?! RIGHT?! Life is tooooooo short to flip out over little things.

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  19. Oof, I know this feel. At any given time there are 4011 things flying around my brain and it wants to blog about all of them. At the same time. Focus can be an issue. If you do want to join the Shitty and Occasional Blogger club, just let me know. I'm the secretary, and yes we do have jackets. :-D

    I'm very happy to see your posts when they pop up, and I check most every day. You just keep doing your thing and we'll be here to cheer for you!

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  20. Thanks for this, Crabby. I needed this one right now! I am procrastinating on some work stuff that really must be dealt with. Maybe if I remember to break it down, I can get some progress and some stress relief as a side benefit.
    Repetition is good! It's like lifting weights :) More reps; more benefit!
    Hang in there. We'll be here.
    And dancing in the moonlight sounds like a fine idea to me!

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  21. "I would rather be a shitty and occasional blogger than someone who does not blog at all. Go figure." That sounds like something I would say although I don't usually use "those" words in my blog because my mom (70 years old) reads them sometimes and - oh never mind...Anyway, you are exactly right - break it down! Keep it simple! Just do something - the rest will follow. I always remind myself - if I never quit, I can't fn fail. Rock on...

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  22. I'm glad you posted this comment so I could read this. I feel like it's how my whole year has been going! I need to stay more motivated! HIYAH! Just do a little thing here and there to get small things done so the big thing can be taken in stride.

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  23. It is SO good to hear from you. And it doesn't even matter what you are saying or if it is a repeat of something you already said. It is just good to know you are there and are okay. And your comments about procrastination, boy, I am the worst. I get so bogged down until I panic thinking I must do something, anything! Pity my husband.

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  24. Where is the online application form for the Slack Ass Blogger Club (because I am too lazy to be bothered with printing and mailing and all of that jazz)?

    I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one composing lovely, clever posts in my head that will never see the light of day - misery loves company!

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  25. Your blogs have the strange knack of very often telling me precisely what I need to hear (currently around just do it when it comes to shoulder stretches, and exercise of all sorts). So please do keep on blogging at whatever frequency it ends up being - seeing your blog and the associated comments is always a fun, interesting and encouraging thing for me !

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  26. I finally emptied two boxes that have been packed for five years. Yay me! Not sure if I was reluctant or just plain lazy…I am going with lazy.

    Nice to see a post from you. Hope you are doing well!

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  27. Sorry I'm a little late to the party, but I just wanted to say thanks for this post. It feels kind of weirdly serendipitous that I read it today. I've been slacking on my blog, too (it's about Jell-O, so you can kind of see why, apart from the standard-issue perfectionism, that might happen) and this post was the kick in the pants I needed to go ahead and put up a "hey, I'm still alive and will be making a 'real' post soon" post. As you say, it's still better than no post.

    So thanks, and Happy Halloween!

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  28. Seriously Crabby - you could write about paint drying and I think I'd be interested in reading - you've got a way!!

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  29. I'm a champion avoider. It is my preferred method of dealing with things I don't want to deal with. Alas, it is not very effective. "Break it down" is very good advice; it works! You know, when you think of doing it.

    Glad to see that you are still here. Keep hanging in there!

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  30. Thank you guys so much for your awesome and supportive comments, they really cheered me up! I want to thank each of you individually, but I'm so late it seems unlikely most of you would even see them.

    But in case anyone is still here and wondering what's up...

    I still seem to be struggling to write much of anything, dang it. And I'm not sure when the next post will be up. It may be soon, or it may be that this continued feeling of Stuckness is a sign I need to take yet another break--even though I've pretty much been on one sort of break or another for months.

    I'm pretty sure I don't want to quit for good, but something weird is definitely up with my sudden inability to write anything for Cranky Fitness. Partly it's because I put a lot of energy into the blog early in the year, yet couldn't quite leverage those efforts into making it a Thing again, and got a bit discouraged. So I'm a little unsure of my direction with all this.

    Plus I think the family stuff has me a little shaken? (And sorry I've been so vague. Perhaps since we're way down here in the comments I can mention that it involves a close family member who is having a late-onset psychiatric crisis and faces serious criminal charges, and she has made several suicide attempts and is still feeling fragile. She is a warm and capable professional who has a career she has put a lot of effort into and could lose, and she is still struggling with powerful medications that make it hard for her to function, and the whole thing has just been so wrenching it's thrown me for a loop. I was there for a month (without my wife, alas) and just recently came home for a break, but "real life" doesn't seem to be resuming as I'd planned. Fortunately my coaching clients have been very understanding of ever-changing time zones and phone numbers, so that part is good, but the whole writing thing seems seriously hosed.

    Since the family member in question occasionally reads the blog, I'm hoping if she ever reads this she forgives my mentioning her situation in more detail. But the comment section is pretty obscure, and the chances of any of the handful of people who may show up down here knowing who she is in real life (and yet not knowing her situation) is pretty darn small.

    Anyway, since I don't want the blog to be post after post about whether or not I feel like blogging, and yet I can't quite get my head around writing about cabbage chips or foam rollers or whether fish oil capsules are good or bad for you this week, things may continue to be quiet for a bit. Or maybe not! I really have no fucking clue.

    But I love y'all and hope to be back "for real" before too long! And I'll continue to read any comments that come in because Cranky Fitness commenters are the most awesome humans in the universe!

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    1. Just do whatever needs doing, and let the blog posts fall where they may. Supportive vibes coming from over here.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    2. I love you too, Jan! And of course, you need to do what is best for you…sounds like things are still a bit difficult. Thinking of you!

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  31. I am so sorry for the family memeber & all that you are going thru Jan!!!!! Life can be so tough at times!!! I hope the physical stuff is better!!!!! I think you should follow your heart. I am trying to do that these days - easier said than done at times but trying!

    As for letting things pile up - A HUGE YES for me - I am the queen of procrastination in regards to handling probs in my life! UGH! :)

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  32. no. And I do lots of things. The more you do....the more you DO!

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  33. Death Ride GrandmaNovember 3, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    Wouldn't you tell one of your coaching clients to give herself a break? Sometimes, life events take priority over...well, just about anything except eating and sleeping. This sure looks like one of those times. Take care of yourself; take care of your family. We'll all be out here sending invisible but real support.

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  35. Do as you need, we'll wait. Meanwhile, cabbage chips? Never heard of them and now I totally want them.

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  36. Have you considered reaching out to your readership for guest bloggers by any chance? For those times when you are waiting for inspiration to come out and smack you like a meteor? I know it happens to me too, and I'm sure all of us at any given point.

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