Another Mistake – Another Brilliant Opportunity

I got it wrong. I woke in the night and remembered. That’s not exactly what happened. That wasn’t what he said on that occasion.

I’m referring to the story I told last week about my lovely Tai Chi Master. After I’d put both the blog and myself to bed and slept for a few hours, I suddenly found myself awake and thinking clearly. Strange how writing something down can do that to you.

Not that it matters. (Please take note – this is a big step forward for me. At one time, I would’ve suffered the effects of humiliation, devastation and personal annihilation for days, even weeks, after the event.)The essence of the story was spot on, and ‘Sustainable Lifestyle’ was definitely a concept I learned from the man – just not on this particular occasion.

What he actually said, at the time, was ‘Soft Limit’. Which is, of course, even more enigmatic and subtly meaningful.

And like I said, not that it matters. That is – it doesn’t matter if I make a mistake, because the beauty of making a mistake is that it opens up a whole new opportunity. (This is something I have learned from spinning. My wheel seems to be particularly good at helping me access these magical moments!)

The opportunity presented here? A timely reminder of the concept of ‘Soft Limit’, a concept which goes strongly against the grain of our current culture (I’m talking about the UK here; I now have international readers. Welcome!) and which is utterly essential to living a ‘Sustainable Lifestyle’. Hence, I suspect my memory conflation …

Both ‘limit’ and ‘soft’ are not well-respected words in the present climate of harsh ideals, harsh treatment of others and harsh expectations of ourselves. Too many of us have grown up believing we have to work ourselves into the ground to be of value, and end up compensating ourselves with over-indulgence in other parts of our lives, such as eating, drinking, spending, acquiring, acting out, …

The principle of treating oneself gently – with honour and respect – is quite alien to many of us, despite the popular phrase ‘because you’re worth it’ (which has nothing to do with any kind of worth besides financial). The belief that one can only achieve if one is willing to overwork (hence the ridiculous idea of 110% effort!) is now deeply entrenched in our lives, and the fact that this actually results in less production and a poorer quality of life for everyone involved, somehow seems to pass most people by.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have been challenged by the concept of ‘Soft Limit’ at an early stage of my life, and then later to have stumbled across the simple technique of using 15 minutes at a time. I found this on a website called FlyLady – ostensibly about doing housework! (Read the testimonials – the stories of life-changing habits are inspirational and very moving.)

When I first met this notion, I was extremely resistant. The thought of attempting to complete any task in short, disconnected steps was absolute anathema to me. In my head, you had to start something and keep going until you finished it. Hence, I rarely finished anything. In fact, I often didn’t start because the whole of the task would feel overwhelming.

Guess what – procrastination turns out to be the other side of addiction. Once I’d realised this, I decided to give it a go, and gradually watched my life open up in front of me. By applying this ‘soft limit’, there was nothing I could not achieve if I chose. Even writing a novel!

Some days, I don’t get to write much. There are, maybe, other priorities I have to attend to. But as long as I write some, then I stay connected and the project gets completed. And that ‘some’ can be as little as fifteen minutes – and it still works.

Because it’s sustainable, because it’s respectful, because it’s real.


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