Monday, August 18, 2014

It’s not all or nothing

Sunlight through oak leaves on an early morning in August.

As you know, I’ve recently taken up knitting. At first, I didn’t think I’d ever get beyond a few awkward stitches. It was a struggle for me to become comfortable with the movements of the needles and yarn.
But gradually, things changed. I kept pulling out my knitting bag and doing a little more. I recognized that I was moving my needles more quickly. I was feeling more comfortable.
And I could look at the results and see with my own eyes that I was getting better.

Another example of practice making us better at whatever we’re trying to do.
I know that practice helps. I’ve experienced it. We usually have to practice, have to keep trying, before we reach our goals, before we get to the place we want to be.
So why can’t I keep that idea—that wisdom—in mind with all my efforts?

I think an obstacle for me is the “all or nothing” thinking that goes along with my OCD and depression. With that kind of cognitive distortion, I believe that if I don’t get it right the first time, if I’m not perfect, then I’ve failed. Then it’s not good enough. Then there’s no need to keep trying.

I’ve been trying to make some changes in my daily routine. One change I’ve been attempting is to get up at the same time every day, preferably at an early hour.
All or nothing thinking has been getting in the way.
I’ve tried motivating myself with thoughts of what I’d accomplish by getting up earlier. I’ve set a regular alarm clock on the dresser in the bedroom so I’ve had to get out of bed to turn it off. I’ve charged my cell phone in the bedroom so I’d awaken to a more pleasant alarm (the phone has so many choices that sound better than a blaring alarm or even the radio).
I’ve had mixed results. I’ve gotten up, turned off the alarm, and gone right back to bed. I’ve gotten up, fed Chase Bird, and gone back to bed. I’ve gotten up and stayed up. But I don’t yet have a firm routine in place.

I’ve felt defeated. I’ve felt like a failure, a personal failure. Other people get up at the same early hour every day. Why can’t I? I’ve done it in the past. What’s wrong with me now?

But then I decided to apply the “practicing” way of thinking. Maybe I haven’t defeated my propensity to sleep “just a little more,” but that doesn’t mean I won’t get better at it. Why not just keep practicing? Why not learn from my experiences?
Why not believe that down the road, I’ll look back and see that I’ve improved? Just like I’ve improved in my knitting.
And in so many other things, if I’m honest with myself.
So I’ll keep working at this.

Name something that you have practiced to get better at.


  1. Good for you Tina for resolving to keep working at it. We do tend toward the "all or nothing" mindset a lot. I have done that as well when I don't learn something as fast as I want to. Us humans put a lot of pressure on ourselves :)

  2. good for you. keep trying if it something you want to return to. every day it works is a few hours you didn't have before. :)

    i had to practice at exercise. i had gotten away from routine exercise for a long time and starting back up again, i had to convince myself it was a gift to ME. a gift of health.

  3. Keep at it. I think it is bound to get easier, and eventually become a routine.

  4. Good for you for keeping at it, Tina. Almost everything I have ever done has gotten better with practice!

  5. I think this is why knitting and other craft skills are so valuable. They teach us about the journey, about allowing imperfections and fixing mistakes. They help us fall in love with the process of discovery that happens when we make those mistakes. Ah ha! We say. Now I know what to do. My knitting has improved considerably over the past few years since I picked up the needles again, and I have several finished projects to show for my efforts. I try to apply "practice" to gardening and writing as well.

  6. Crochet. And horseback riding. And it's been hard for me, too, because I'm also an "all or nothing" type person.


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