Start where you are! Why waiting for perfect conditions or timing can keep you stuck

This is the third part of a short series on how to go about pushing your comfort zone and trying new stuff. Week 1 was about why it’s a good idea to leave your comfort zone. Last week we explored how our fear of getting it wrong can hold us back, and how to move past it. This week is all about starting from where you are instead of waiting for perfect conditions.

Jen's kitchen timer

This is my kitchen timer. It has a magnet on the back, and lives on my fridge. It’s the timer I use when I make cakes or muffins so that I don’t walk away and burn the house down. It makes very loud beepy noises.

It’s also an essential part of my running training kit.

When I downloaded my training plan from the runbristol website, I very quickly noticed that it didn’t really expect me to do just  long runs. The designers of the plan had cleverly included interval training, too. This, most weeks I was expected to do 10 minutes or so easy running, then 5 or more repetitions of, for example, 4 minutes fast running and 90 seconds recovery.*

There was no way I was going to be able to keep track of that with my wristwatch. But because I believed for so long that I was No Good at Sport, I didn’t own a stopwatch, and I didn’t have the spare cash to buy one. So how was I going to manage it?

The plan expected ownership of a stopwatch, but I didn’t live in that world. I did not have the perfect conditions. What was I going to do? What would you do?

I could have given up altogether: “This is just too hard. I was wrong to think I could run.”

I could have ignored the plan and not done the interval training. “I’ll be fine with just the long runs. I hope.”

But both these options are a kind of defeat. It would be allowing a lack of the perfect conditions to determine my actions. But conditions are so rarely perfect. Timing is so rarely perfect. Sometimes we just have to begin with what we have.

Hence the kitchen timer.

I would go out for my interval training with my little kitchen timer in my hand. It made very loud beepy noises. People did occasionally stare. But it worked for me, and I was content with that.

So often we hear ourselves or others using a lack of perfect timing or perfect conditions as a reason for not trying something new, or as an excuse to not follow through on a dream we have. We find ourselves stymied by the ‘received wisdom’ on the ‘right’ path to take to achieve a goal – if we don’t fit neatly on that one true path, we feel tempted to give up.** But with a little imagination we can so often find a way to overcome such obstacles.

There is no perfect time.

There are no perfect conditions.

There is only now.

So find your equivalent of my kitchen timer, and start inventing your route to your goals.


* This is seriously good for your fitness levels, by the way.
** FM Alexander believed that we are taught from childhood to believe in rigid rules and ‘correct’ mental outlooks, and that it was a major cause of later mental and physical difficulties. See Man’s Supreme Inheritance, IRDEAT complete edition, p.74.