Try your best. Invest yourself in everything you do. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. But do you wanna know a secret? Some of my greatest successes in life have started with half-hearted attempts. True story.
My college degree began with dipping my toes in the water of film school. I’d just minor in film. Probably. I thought. Aaannd I ended up with a double major and a whole lot of amazing experiences.
My first real job came when I was bored doing data entry so I knocked on the door of one of the VPs and asked her to tell me about what she did all day. I wasn’t making an upwardly mobile reach for the stars, just a little curious inquiry. If I’d felt the pressure of going in there with an all-out effort to ask for a raise, a new office, and a chance to travel around the country on the company’s dime, I never would have had the nerve to knock. As it was, my half-hearted attempt to broaden my horizons at work paid off in ways that still ripple through my life.
I became a writer because my postpartum journey to Crazy Town left me with a medical mandate to pick a hobby and I started a blog on a whim. Half an hour after deciding to try it, I had chosen a name, a host, and thrown my first post into cyberspace. A year later, people were paying me to write.
Luck? Definitely. Single-minded focus on building a career? Not even close. There is something about letting yourself dabble that frees you up to really succeed. Sometimes it’s the act of not committing, of telling myself that I’m just experimenting with a given action, that allows me to come to a place where I can’t imagine not being fully committed.
That’s how I ended up running a triathlon and blowing all of my practice times out of the water. I said, “I can train for this triathlon a bit. It can only make me healthier. I can do a couple of bike rides and swim a couple of times a week. Maybe I’ll actually do the event.” But after a while, after a certain amount of effort, I wanted to buy those stretchy pants and pay the entrance fee online. My half-hearted dithering at being an athlete brought me to a place where I was willing to go all in.
That’s also how I cleaned my house today.
Post daylight savings, I found myself exhausted and devoid of motivation. I needed sleep. But my to-do list was so long. I knew I should scrape myself off the couch and burn through the list. But I needed sleep. I was so very… dream-induced drool wipe. But I had so much to do. I decided to get up and do just one thing, just one and then I could lie back down. So I got up. And I did one thing. But then, I figured since I was up, I could do one thing more.
Before I knew it, I’d worked out, my house was clean, dinner was made, I’d gotten some good writing in, and I’d blasted through a bunch of bills, paperwork and email.
If I’d told myself I couldn’t get up and start until I was ready to give my best effort, I’d still be on the couch right now. Well, I am on the couch right now. But I got a whole lot done between couch episodes. They are a frequent occurrence in my life.
I often hear people talk about doing a job halfway as being a negative thing. What gives? Every job is done halfway. Then the other half is done. And if you stop after the first half, that’s one half more than you would have completed if you’d never tried at all.
Think about how much you can accomplish if you stop saying, “I don’t have the time or the willpower to do that,” and started saying, “I may not have the time or the willpower to do that, but I have the time and the willpower to do part of that, to do something.”
Fold your laundry one piece at a time. Commit to fold one piece.
Pick a hobby you’ve been neglecting and do it… just a tiny bit. For Valentine’s Day Dan and I pulled out the art stuff and sketched portraits of each other. The expectations were low and the finished products were… fun? But we had a great time trying and I felt my inner artist start to perk up. Maybe next I’ll pull out some paints and put them on canvas in the shape of something colorful.
Eat one meal that isn’t pasta. Oh. Wait. Does that one only apply to me? Never mind.
As you make these little, no strings attached, half-hearted efforts, the feelings of success will lead to the desire for more success and the will to keep trying.
Sometimes the big hairy things on our to-do lists can paralyze us. When I have a daunting writing deadline coming up, I often tell myself to simply open the document and write one sentence or look at what I’ve written so far. Hm. I could change this comma. Ooo. That paragraph reminds me of something else I wanted to say.
Half-hearted attempts are simply that. Attempts. If you don’t make them, you won’t get very far.