A classic bloggers trick is to offer a checklist of solutions. There are blogged lists out there which answer questions you would never think to ask and solve problems you didn’t know existed. People are drawn to these posts becuase they use your 2 seconds of attention to tell you, the reader, quickly whether the content is going to help you.
I don’t have an issue with this. Lists are my favourite way to get myself out of a funk.
But sometimes we can forget that the point of a to-do list is…well… to do!
So my reservation about lists which promise to change your life is that they have a tendency to make you think that there’s an easy way to fix everything. That you can find quick wins, short cuts, ways to simplify and muddle through every problem life throws at you. But its are blunt tools. Life can be complicated and trying to solve it with a list is akin to trying to recreate the Mona Lisa with an Etch-a-sketch.
In reality there is often a very simple way to fix things. But simple is not the same as easy.
Let’s have a look at some issues that have straightforward solutions and you’ll see what I mean:
- Losing weight: Eat less, move more
- Managing anxiety: Meditation, exercise, eating healthily, getting enough sleep
- Personal conflict: Stay calm, listen, communicate, empathise, be honest, don’t judge
- Hate your job: Get a new one
See what I mean?
So here is my list 5 reasons not to rely on lists to change your life…
1. You have to follow the instructions
Your list might have the prefect solution but knowing the answer alone won’t help. You have to actually follow the advice. Change happens in the mind first (to out attitude and beliefs) but behaviour needs to follow. We might know that mindfulness will help with anxiety, but unless we practice it regularly and consistently the change will only be temporary.
You have to commit, not just stick to something for a week or 30 days before returning to old habits. If you want to make a permanent change you have to keep doing the stuff that works. It’s a boring concept I know but I am not here to tell you what you want to hear (sorry!).
2. The may advice may be simple but the execution is HARD
Most of the time there is no shortcut or replacement for blood sweat and tears and good old hard work!
Losing weight might be a simple concept but executing it is HARD. Resisting that ice cream in the hot weather, that burger after the pub, that chocolate bar… whatever your weakness may be. It’s hard to stay motivated and stick to it but, as the saying goes, nothing worth having is easy! Try and focus on that sense of achievement you’ll feel when you make it!
When I’m struggling through something which feels like walking through glue I remind myself that the only way out is through!
3. There may not be an answer. Learn to be okay with that
Not all problems have obvious solutions, certainly not ones that a single checklist can solve. Sometimes things are just shit, or broken or beyond our control and forcing them to get better does more harm than good.
Accepting that there is no answer and that the only thing you can do is nothing can be the best route forward. Admiting you have no control over something can be as utterly liberating as it is scary. I’m not talking about absolving yourself of responsibility, but about picking your battles wisely.
So if you’re banging your head against a wall over something. Stop. Step back. Do nothing. Wait and see.
4. Are you asking the right question?
Do you even know what advice you’re looking for? Sometimes it helps to take a moment to think about whether you are asking the right questions. You might spend hours looking for advice on how to get that date to call you back or how to deal with a difficult boss, but is that really the question you need to be asking? Would it help to ask why you pursue people who aren’t interested in you or whether you want to be in that job?
Be aware that the problem we’re trying to solve may not be the one which helps matters.
5. Don’t get bogged down with information overload
Sometimes you can become paralysed with too much advice or information. You can read hundreds of opinions and suggestions and tips which leave you more confused that when you started. Has it got to the stage where you are using information gathering as an excuse for inaction? Creating an epic pinterest board of healthy recipes alone is not going to improve you health!
Are you just procrastinating ? Sometimes you just need to act. Now.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to demonstrate my point with a bit of Monty Python… I know I’ve been in situations like this (though without the crucifixion part)
So there we have it… and, in case you were unsure, the irony of a lists about the shortcomings of lists is intentional… I throw a bit of tongue-in-cheek into my writing wherever possible… Not as witty as the Pythons clearly but you have to start somewhere right?
Before I leave you, I want to offer you a positive alternative tool to lists as a way to change your life.
Your hard work.
Your continued commitment to the change you want to make.