The “What you can, when you can” Approach
I know myself well enough to know setting all-or-nothing rules for myself doesn’t work, especially ones that stretch into infinity. I can do an 8-week workout programme, no problem, but committing to working out five times a week for the rest of my life? Not going to happen. I know I function much better when I limit the amount of sugar in my diet, but deciding I’m going to go sugar-free forever and ever and ever? Nope.These kinds of rules don’t stick because:a) Life changes. As the mother of an ever-changing, ever-growing toddler, I have no idea what my life will be like in 10 weeks’ time, let alone in 10 years time. Routines change, stuff comes up, unexpected things happen.b) I will inevitably find ways to cheat. You know, the “Well… coconut sugar isn’t the same as processed sugar, so it doesn’t really count as eating sugar, right?!” kind of cheating (I know you know what I'm talking about... ;).c) These rules create a resentment-rebellion-guilt cycle. Maybe you also know how this goes: you decide to curb your biscuit addiction by saying “OK, that’s it. No more biscuits!” But after a while, you start to feel resentful and constrained by the rules so sneak a biscuit in, then feel guilty, like you’ve failed, and oh-well-you-might-as-well-eat-the-whole-packet, etc. This cycle isn’t fun and it isn’t healthy. Sometimes it’s nice to have a lazy day, sometimes it’s nice to eat cake. Not all the time, but in moderation these things can be fun!d) The things these rules cover are important to me, but other things are more important (right now, at least). Of course, sometimes we need hard and fast rules. If I were managing a health condition that was dependent on these rules, that would be different. But as things stand, working out five times a week and keeping my sugar intake to a hard 0 are not my number one priorities. Things that are include being as present and engaged as I can be as a parent and making time for creative pursuits that keep my spirits high and my soul happy. Sometimes this looks like also making time to exercise, but sometimes it looks like not working out and relying on all the coffee to keep me going because I got three hours of sleep the night before. Again, this isn’t where I want set up camp and stay for good but, in this particular season of my life, I choose what gets me through the day and choose not to feel bad about that.
The “What you can, when you can” approach
The approach I take instead of setting hard-and-fast rules is the "What you can, when you can” approach. I first heard about this years ago through the eponymous podcast and dabbled in the idea here and there. But since becoming a parent, it’s been one of the pillars of how I do most things in life.The “What you can, when you can” approach involves (surprise!) doing what you can, when you can.In any given moment, this might look like:Taking the stairs instead of the lift.Choosing a salad instead of a burger.Choosing to write instead of surf Facebook.Choosing a water over a soda.Choosing to wait and think about it rather than buy today.Walking instead of driving or taking public transport.Choosing self-kindness over self-criticism.None of these things are going to happen all the time. But the beauty of the WYCWYC approach is it focuses on what is happening right now, the moment-by-moment choices that make up the sum of our lives. Rather than setting unattainably high standards or unrealistically constrictive rules for ourselves, we’re focused on the choice right in front of us. We might make a different choice tomorrow, but what matters is the choice we are facing at this very second.Sometimes this means choosing sugar. Sometimes it means choosing R&R time over exercise time. But often it doesn't, because it’s also choosing to be more upfront with myself about what I’m doing—without any should-ing or heavy emotion attached—and be more mindful of my decisions.
WYCWYC in Life and Work
As well as being more mindful of how I’m living and the decisions I’m making, the WYCWYC approach has helped me do more in a sustainable way. With little spare time these days, doing what I can, when I can and looking for the cracks of time between other things is how I blog most weeks, have written two books in the last year, read well and often, and make slow but steady progress on other creative projects I’m working on. It’s the approach I advocate in my course, Write Every Day (currently 50% off in the summer sale!), because it works.So if you’re feeling stressed or pressured by what you think you should be doing or other expectations you’ve placed on yourself, my invitation to you is to try this approach.If you were to do what you can, when you can, what would be different?
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