Category Archives: charity

Back to the future part 2

Continued from part 1, in which I write about the origins of this blog in 2011.

After blogging every day in 2011 and then limping through 2012, I tried to reignite the blog in 2013 because I did enjoy blogging and interacting with the people who read it and took the time to leave comments. So I was keen to get back into blogging more regularly. I realised that daily blogging wasn’t for me so I set myself a goal to blog at least three times a week in 2013. I intended to set some regular things to blog about to make it a bit easier. For example, Monday was going to be the day I was going to write about my journey to quitting sugar, and as the year went on, to improving my diet in general. Sunday was going to be scrapbooking/memory keeping post day.

And I had this list of 100 things to do in 2013 that I was going to review at the end of each month.

I also thought it would be fun to participate in weekly blog linkups like “Wordless Wednesday”, “Thankful Thursday” and “FFS Friday” that I’d seen on various blogs around the place. I don’t recall that lasting very long either.

Later in 2013, I started a 12 of 12 project, which was to take 12 photos of your life on the 12th day of every month.

A random 12 of 12 photo from 12 August 2013

I blogged about trips away, unusual things and challenges I was doing, more scrapbook layouts and random issues like dealing with imperfection (that was a good one). I ran a semi-regular feature for a while called Find Me Friday, where I would post a photo of part of a building in Hobart that I would challenge my readers to identify. I also did a 30 days of lists challenge, which foreshadowed a much bigger project I’d take on a few years later. The blog was still alive, but it wasn’t a regular part of my life any more. And I never did those 100 things in 2013. Or in 2014. Or in 2015 . . .

You can read about where my thinking was around this time, my initial idea for the blog and then the revamped one, here, which is on Blogger, the original platform I used. I moved over to WordPress in September 2013, which is why the formatting of the early posts on here is all over the shop.

In 2016, after having read the book Do Share Inspire: The year I changed my life through TED talks by Kylie Dunn (my post here), in which she pent a year applying the ideas from some of the TED talks she had listened to over recent years through a series of 30-day activities, I decided to start my own series of 30-day challenges that I’d blog about. These included going alcohol-free for 30 days, drawing every day, doing something that scared me every day, and doing cryptic crosswords every day for 30 days.

This was around the time I renamed the blog to stepping on the cracks. As I explained in this post.

“The 30-days project” doesn’t have much of a ring to it. So thinking about some activities I did and some a-ha moments I had at a retreat a couple of weeks ago, I came up with the title “stepping on the cracks”. I realised that whenever I try to draw something, it tends to be straight lines, and that I colour within within the lines and that this art could be seen as a reflection of my personality. I once, when asked to do a doodle drawing, observed the following:

The idea was to draw a shape and split it into sections and doodle or make our mark. I noticed everyone else did round shapes – spirals, circles, ovals, abstracts. I did a triangle. Perhaps that says a lot about me – straight lines and angles. Left brain rules. It also included the words “Don’t step on the cracks” and “Stay within the lines”.

I think I was very dryly reflecting on myself with those two phrases rather than seriously instructing myself to comply with those rules. Anyway, very long story short, being straightlinesgirl is all perfectly OK and isn’t something I need to “fix” BUT there’s nothing stopping me drawing curves or swirls or colouring outside the lines or making a mess. So I think what the project is all about is being who I am, but not letting that prevent me from doing anything else – and seeing what happens when I step on the cracks and colour outside the lines.

This project kind of worked and kind of didn’t.

Some of the challenges were ideally suited to a 30-day format: 30 days of no alcohol, for example. This was because I had a clear idea in my head of what I’d be doing (or not doing in this case) over the 30 days, and my progress was easy to track. I either had 30 days free of alcohol or I didn’t.

Some of the other challenges were more vague and I didn’t have much of an idea what I needed to do over the 30 days. 30 days of clarity, for example. WTF?! I didn’t have a plan or anything to measure my progress by in those ones. And I think I took way too much on for the time I actually had to work on these things. As a result, things were very stop-start over this time and I didn’t stick with several of the challenges I had initially intended to do. So that part of the project was less successful.

After that project ground to a halt, I tried a few other things over the next year or two, including using the blog as accountability for making healthy habit changes by making commitments to a healthier lifestyle and posting weekly updates, but even that didn’t last very long. I also wrote about taking part in Care Australia’s Walk In Her Shoes challenge for a couple of years.

Walk in Her Shoes 2016

Finally, at the end of 2018, I decided to take on the 19 for 2019 challenge, which was a list of 19 things I wanted to accomplish in 2019. (Not 100, which I’d aimed for in 2013). I got the idea from Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft’s Happier podcast, as they were doing 18 for 2018. Finally, some success! I had an achievable list of 19 things to do, of which I did 14 and I updated the blog a lot more consistently, which kept me on track with the list. I carried it over into 20 for 2020 (and now 21 for 2021) and over time have gradually expanded it to include keeping up to date on habits I want to develop and little things I want to improve.

I’m feeling comfortable with where it’s at now and I have a nice little routine for writing the posts each week and keeping track of everything I’ve done.

It’s been an interesting process to look back on where I was ten years ago and to see how, in relation to some things, not much has changed at all. I thought I’d share my favourite post from each month over the next few weeks, to commemorate the tenth anniversary, beginning with this one

  • 8 January 2011: Tweetup, in which I overcome my fear of meeting people and bravely turn up to a BBQ with People From Twitter Who I Don’t Actually Know In Real Life.

Now on my blog’s tenth anniversary, I’ve been starting to wonder whether its format and title is really what it’s all about or if it needs a bit of a reboot, given the last reboot was in 2016. In particular, acknowledging that there’s nothing stopping me drawing curves or swirls or colouring outside the lines or making a mess but that, when I think about it, I don’t actually want to make that type of art.

There’s a lot going on in my head at the moment!

19 for 2019: week 10 update

Week of 4 March

Well, things took an unexpected turn this week, with a no-coffee experiment being unexpectedly thrown into the mix. You can read about that in Saturday’s post.

Everything else is going slowly, with my main focus this month on getting more sleep, avoiding alcohol (thing 13), and doing at least 15,000 steps a day for the Cancer Council’s March Charge fundraiser.

To get more sleep, I’m attempting to move my bedtime back from sometime between 11pm and midnight to closer to 10pm, with my interim goal being 10.45. I achieved this every day last week, and most of those days I was in bed well before 10.45 but decided to read for a bit before I went to sleep, so the times I’ve recorded are the times I’ve turned the light off, not the actual time I was in bed.

I’ve also been trying to turn my computer off no later than 9.45, to give myself an hour of screen-free time. That has been less successful, so I’m looking at things I can do to make it easier to do.

Here’s last week’s tracker:

Day 4 (Monday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,618 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 5 (Tuesday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,421 | Bedtime: 10:45

Day 6 (Wednesday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 28,311 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 7 (Thursday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps:19,963 | Bedtime: 10.30

Day 8 (Friday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 16,775 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 9 (Saturday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,825 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 10 (Sunday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,916 | Bedtime: 10.15

I’m also tracking my wakeup time and my computer off time, as well as keeping an hourly record of what I’m doing and what my energy levels are as Chris Bailey describes in Chapter 3 of The Productivity Project. The purpose of this is to determine what my times of highest energy are so I can make sure I’m working on the things that are most important to me at these times. After ten days, the results are inconclusive. There were a couple of unusual things that probably threw a couple of days’ results off, and Chris also notes that if you’re making a switch to no alcohol and no caffeine, the first few days might not be entirely accurate as your body adjusts to being without those stimulants. So I’m planning to keep this up for a month and see if things become more consistent later in the month.

So much tracking!

20190308 Waterfront from Mac 2 3 edit

A morning walk

Onto other things on the list.

  • Photo course (thing 1): I watched two videos (day 17 and 18) but haven’t done any more assignments.
  • Reading (thing 5): I finished three books this week, one fiction and two non-fiction (The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey and The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz). I’ve now read 12 books this year but the brief was six of them had to be fiction and I’ve only read five fiction books, so I don’t consider this thing to be complete.
  • Wellness program (thing 6): I guess cutting out alcohol and coffee should contribute to reducing my stress levels and helping me stay calm, even though they are not specific issues that have been covered at this time. My main focus is on building up strategies I can call on when I get overwhelmed so I can better deal with those situations. I haven’t done a lot this week.
  • 2018 photojournalism (thing 11): I stuck a couple of collages in the book.
  • Beer books (thing 12): I entered one more book into the spreadsheet so I’ve finished six books, with four to go.
  • Explore a track on kunanyi (thing 15): I already did this in February but I got another opportunity this week to accompany a group of kids from Kramstable’s school on a day bushwalk on the Pipeline Track so I can tick this one off again!

    20190306 01 View from the Pipeline Track edit

    Pipeline Track, kunanyi

    20190306 07 View of the Mountain from the Waterworks edit

    Looking back at kunanyi from the Waterworks after the Pipeline Track walk

  • Lightroom (thing 19): I haven’t done anything specifically new; I’m just getting familiar with it by using it.

Status for week 10

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed: 4 (7, 8. 9, 15)
  • Things I progressed: 7 (1, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 19)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 2 (2, 16)
  • Things not started: 6 (3, 4, 10, 14, 17, 18)

Walk in her shoes – a reflection on the week

So another Walk In Her Shoes week is over; my third time participating in this event for CARE Australia.

I love the idea behind the challenge: to walk 100km (or the distance of your choice) to raise funds for CARE’s work in countries where women and girls miss out on opportunities to attend school and work because they have to walk for several hours a day to get basics for their families like water, food and medical supplies.

Having to walk six kilometres carrying 20 litres of water on the way back isn’t something that sounds like much fun. I’m often guilty of forgetting that it’s nothing but my good luck that I was born in a country where I have access to plentiful water, food, education and opportunities for work. Walking for pleasure is a luxury that I am grateful for because it symbolises many other things I have.

Even so, I found this year’s challenge a struggle. I didn’t build-up to the week through the structured training and gradual increase of my daily goals that I’d done the past two years. And there wasn’t the excitement of being in the local papers like I was last year. (Yeah I did kind of like the attention for a couple of days!) I was distracted by other things going on at the same time, and just as the challenge started I came down with a miserable cold.

I think it’s the equivalent of the “difficult second album” syndrome that bands get afflicted with after a successful debut album, only for me, this was the difficult third album.

Not such a good analogy then. It sounded better in my head.

Anyway, as you know, I struggled through, and I ended up with a total of 150,400 steps for the week. A long way short of the almost 200,000 I did last year, but I’m OK with that. I can have a go at cracking 200,000 next year (maybe!). I’m pleased with what I achieved this year. I’m also thrilled to have raised $610 for CARE Australia – thank you to everyone who donated.

20160320 WIHS Steps

The main difference between this year and the previous two years is that after the challenge in the past I’ve stopped walking. I’m not sure why – maybe because there didn’t seem to be much point to be getting up at a time that Slabs mutters “it’s still the middle of the night” and going for a walk when I didn’t have to be accountable to anyone about it. (I told you already, if you believe Gretchen Rubin’s “four tendencies” I’m an obliger, so I tend to meet obligations to other people but not to myself. This is a really interesting framework – go check it out here if you’re interested.)

I want to keep walking, and so far I’ve continued the routine for almost a week after the challenge finished. I dropped my goal back to 15,000 steps. It’s that high because walking is the only exercise I do, apart from a weekly yoga class, so I wanted to make sure I had to do more than my everyday walking to and from school and work. One week in and it’s going well.

Ask me in the middle of winter if I still think this is a good idea . . .

So – a successful challenge that has given me a foundation on which I can build a regular exercise routine. Now to keep it going.

I also intend to wear bright leggings to work more often because I can!

And in case you missed my leggings pictures, here they are for the whole week.

20160314 WIHS Combo

Walk in her shoes – Days 6 and 7

Yesterday I thought I was feeling better so, while I had my chance, I went for a long morning walk along the walking track. This time I decided to do the whole track. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to walk later in the day so I had to make the most of the early morning.

My cold has moved from head to chest. So less sniffing, more coughing. Super!

We had a date in town in the afternoon to see Frank Woodley’s kids show Noodlenut at the Spiegeltent. We were all looking forward to it. Kramstable had loved it when we watched his TV show, and of course Lano and Woodley had been essential viewing for us many years ago.

20160313 Waiting for Woodley 1

It was a fun show, and we enjoyed it. It was very hot, which made Kramstable a bit irritable, and my learning from the day was to always take a bottle of water everywhere we go.

When we got home it was late afternoon, but it was pretty much my last chance to go for a walk yesterday. The late afternoon sun is not my friend, and it was a very uncomfortable walk.

20160313 Day 6 Leggings IG

I made it in the end. Day 6: 21,312 steps.

This morning I got up determined to get through the last day. Only 20,000 more steps and the challenge will be over. If this had been a school day it would have been fairly easy, but it’s not, and I was still feeling rather ordinary when I woke up. However, it is, I reminded myself, a challenge. It’s not meant to be easy.

I didn’t feel like doing the walking track this morning, so I headed over the bridge. I think I might have walked too far, and tired myself out. I hoped I’d make it home! Today was one of those mornings where, if I’d had to go to work, I’d have been unable to make up my mind up about whether to go, so I’d have gone, and by 10am would have been wiped out.

It wasn’t a work day, so I could go home, have coffee and rest on the couch.

20160314 Day 7 Leggings 1 IG

After that I had the final 10,000 steps to go, and I did another short walk before lunch. (Note to self: It helps to make sure you have your Fitbit on when you go out.)

I spent the rest of the afternoon watching DVDs and wondering if I should just call it a day. I didn’t want to. It looked like it was about to rain, so I took a deep breath and went out one last time. I was on my way home, with less than 1500 steps to go, when a tweet from CARE Australia reminded me that I’d already completed a week of 20,000 steps a day, because if you remember, I walked 20,000 steps on Monday, the day before the official start of the challenge.

The tweet to another walker who had started a day early by mistake and hadn’t met their goal today was: “. . . starting a day early means you could finish a day early (timing doesn’t have to be exact)!”

AAARGH! This hadn’t occurred to me! I’d finished the challenge already! The only thing that had been missing last Monday was leggings.

Well don’t I feel like a goose! Instead of whinging about sick I was, I could have been relaxing and celebrating having finished yesterday.

Never mind. What’s done is done, and I’ve finished the challenge for real. I’ll write a reflection post, with my final step count later in the week.

20160314 Day 7 Leggings 4 edit

Last year’s tshirt gets a workout.

Walk in her shoes – half way

Today is Day 4 of my 20,000 steps challenge for Care Australia’s Walk In Her Shoes.

To date my step counts are:

  • Tuesday: 21,146
  • Wednesday: 22,438
  • Thursday: 21,199

Getting struck down with a cold on Wednesday was unexpected and unwanted. If it’s my body’s way of telling me to get some rest, couldn’t it have waited until next week when I’m actually able to slack off a bit?

Obviously not.

And if my body needs rest could it, at the absolute least, let me sleep through the night, which, until I got sick, I could normally do very well thank you.

Who knows what’s going on?! I can’t stand another night like the last two, so I got some day & night tablets (you know the ones that you have to show ID to get from the chemist) that lady at the chemist said should give me some relief. I hope so.

So I’ve been trying to strike a balance between not pushing myself and getting my steps done. I think it’s rather a fine balance. I don’t want to wipe myself out, but I have committed to doing this.

It’s more than half way through Day 4, so I’ve passed the half way point. I can’t stop now!

On the plus side I’ve been having fun with my leggings.


I had someone stop me in the street yesterday, when I was wearing a bright purple outfit to match the leggings, and tell me they thought the colour really suited me and that I looked “absolutely fabulous”. His companion agreed. I’m so unused to anyone saying something like that to me, I wasn’t sure if he was taking the piss or being genuine. I chose to think he was being nice and that he meant it, so that made me feel a bit better for the rest of the afternoon.

Even though I’m not listening to competitive me, I was contemplating tackling my longest distance tomorrow morning. But in the spirit of knowing my limits and doing what I can, I’m not going to. I’ll probably space shorter walks over the next three days with some rest, so that I achieve my goal without overdoing it.

Wish me luck! Or bring me a Hot Toddy if you feel that way inclined. Or even better, sponsor me 🙂 

Walk in her shoes – Day 2

I woke up at that unspeakable hour this morning to hear an unusual rumbling.  At first I thought it was trucks, but didn’t take too long to work out it was thunder, accompanied by a huge lightning show out the kitchen window.

Well I wasn’t about to go outside and walk in a thunderstorm. I love the cause but I’m not going to get struck by lightening for it.

After tearing myself away from the lighting show, I sat down for my meditation/breathing/distracting thoughts exercise. It started to rain. I had visions of walking round my lounge room for 30 minutes to kick off my step count.

Fortunately, the storm was short-lived and I was able to go out. About half way round my circuit I saw more lightning, but it looked like it was further away and there was no thunder, so I imagined I was safe by then.

I had to go to work today. I decided to start out with some fairly conservative leggings. The bright ones will come later. 

Today’s steps included walking to work, a walk around the docks at lunch time, where I almost got knocked over by a driver who thought it wasn’t necessary to put his indicator on until he’d actually started turning the corner (thanks), walking to the boy’s school, doing laps around his school while we waited until it was time to go to his doctor appointment (he’s fine), walking to the doctor’s and walking to and from yoga.

A successful Day 2, although I feel the beginnings of a cold coming on, which I really do not need.

Day 1 step count: 21,146.

Walk in her shoes – Day 1

Day 1 of Walk In Her Shoes. It’s finally here!

I got up at an hour that most people would be fast asleep (this is becoming my new normal anyway so I can get things done in the morning that I’d never do if I slept later, but that’s for another time).

I started doing a form of meditation about three months ago, which is where you focus on your breath. I do that first thing after I get up. I’m really good at it. True. I can get to three breaths before I’m distracted with thoughts that I get carried away with for several minutes until I realise I’ve lost focus and go back to the breathing. For three more breaths, until the thoughts creep back in again.

I’m so good at sitting still sometimes my Fitbit doesn’t register that I’m awake and records my meditation time as sleep.

I know right!

I digress. I’m talking about walking.

I went for a 30 minute walk this morning in the cold and dark. Woohoo. It was really cold this morning. Like thick leggings, two jumpers and woolly socks cold. It had warmed up by lunch time, which was when I decided to go for a walk. I had to change into something more suitable and realised that, as it was my work at home day, I could have reshuffled my hours and walked earlier in the morning. But no, I had to pick the hottest part of the day.

I walked to the Esplanade and walked the walking track past Tynwald Park and back to The Avenue, which is the opposite way I usually do that track. I remembered the reason why as I climbed the eleven million steps to the top of the hill.

20160308 WIHS Combo 1

I made a couple of Periscope videos as well. I thought I might do that for a few of my walks this week. Not sure if I can post any of them on here. I will if I can work out how to do it. Otherwise I’ll post them on my very active and well-known Facebook page.

20160308 WIHS Combo 2

The other end of the walking track – open space to be sold off for development; the nearby community food garden; and Willow Court Barracks

I was still about 5,000 steps short when I got home, which I eventually knocked off this evening when, thankfully, it was cooler.

So Day 1 is down and I’ve met my step goal on what was always going to be one of the most challenging days, so I’m happy with that.

Like I did last year, I’m going to wear different leggings each day for a bit of fun. Here’s what I wore today.

20160308 WIHS 04 Leggings IG

I have a couple of new pairs to try out over the week. I’m spoiled for choice.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

Walk in her shoes – 2 days to go

The Walk In Her Shoes challenge starts on Tuesday. I thought that Tuesday was a strange day to start, and it’s taken me several weeks to realise that Tuesday is International Women’s Day. Because the focus of the challenge is on helping to fund projects that “help reduce the distance women and girls have to walk by providing clean water and nutritious food close to home”, starting on International Women’s Day makes perfect sense.

Tuesday is one of the days I struggle to get my step count up, so that’s the biggest challenge straight up. If I can do 20,000 steps on Tuesday (which I will, somehow), I know I’ll be able to do it every day for a week. (Deep breath.)

Let’s see how my training has gone this week. (Spoiler: Not very well.)

My goal this week was 15,000 steps a day. (Disclaimer: I was travelling earlier in the week, so I found it more difficult to make the time to go for a walk. And I didn’t feel much like it.)

Monday – 8,045
Tuesday – 7,290 (add Monday and Tuesday together and you get 15,000!)
Wednesday – 17,234
Thursday – 20,506 (yay!)
Friday – 19,252
Saturday – 12,441 (the price of sleeping in)
Sunday – 7,922 or thereabouts

Next week will be a big step up. In the past I’ve been pretty much at my target steps before I started, so being a long way behind is a new feeling for me.  I know 20,000 steps a day is doable. I’ve done it before. I’ve done more than that. I can do it.

20160306 Weather ForecastAnd, from look of the forecast, I’m probably going to get soaking wet doing it, so I won’t be able to use my fancy new headphones to listen to music while I’m doing it. Oh well. The key is for me to remember why I’m doing this, and that should be enough to keep me going.

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me and is supporting me. I appreciate it very much. If you’d like to contribute to Care Australia’s work, here’s a link to my sponsorship page.

Thank you!

Walking in her shoes 2016 – 1 week to go

I’ve lost my way a bit with my training for the Walk In Her Shoes challenge this year. In previous years I’d set myself a gradually increasing step target in the weeks leading up to the challenge and do everything I could to make sure I met those goals, even though the only goal that counted was the one in the week of the challenge.

This year I’ve been distracted and it hasn’t felt so pressing that I meet my training goals. But despite this, I know that I will do everything in my power to meet my 20,000 step goal in the 8-14 March week. It will happen.

(If you’re a reader of Gretchen Rubin’s blog you might have figured out by now that I have a pretty strong “obliger” tendency, which means that I’m good at meeting commitments I make when I have external accountability, but struggle to meet commitments I make to myself. You can throw in a dose of “questioner” in there too.)

After a week where I met my 12,000 step goal every day except for the day I missed it by 795 steps, last week I met my 15,000 step goal on exactly one day. Three days out of seven last week I didn’t even get to 10,000 steps.

Less-judgmental me is ok with this, even though competitive me is waving frantically and trying to get me to feel bad about “failing”. I’m ignoring her. Circumstances beyond my control, and my response to that, require a gentler approach.


In other news, I’m very happy to have reached my fundraising goal for this year. Thank you so much to everyone who has sponsored me. I appreciate your generosity and your encouragement. I won’t let you down!

Walking (imperfectly) in her shoes – 2016

It’s almost March, and that means it’s time to dust off the walking shoes and start training for the Care Australia Walk In Her Shoes Challenge. This will be the third year I’ve participated in the challenge,  which will take place between 8-14 March.

In 2014, my first year, I set an official target of 20,000 steps a day, which in my mind was really 25,000 steps, and I finished with a total of 183,214 steps.

Competitive Me was very keen to top that last year, so I set myself a goal of 26,000 steps per day, but I intended to top my total, as well as beating my longest walk of 2014 (12.45 km). I did all this, which was great – 199,609 steps over the week and 16.58 km in 2 hours and 53 minutes on the sixth day. I also raised almost twice my fundraising goal, which was helped, I’m sure, by some publicity in the local papers organised by CARE.

I don’t feel as prepared this year, and my current step goal is only 12,000 steps a day, which I’ve been getting nowhere near some days. I think I’d better start walking on the weekends because I’ve set myself a daily step goal of 20,000 steps.

At the end of last year’s challenge I thought that Competitive Me would be back this time, determined to crack the 200,000 step mark for the week, since I got so close last year. But I’m not going to do that.

In the past, I would have felt disappointed with myself for not wanting to try and do better this year. My tendency to set myself high standards would have come through, and Competitive Me would have set out to break last year’s total. Competitive Me would have felt like I was letting myself down for not even trying.

But I’ve been trying to be a bit easier on myself recently, and I feel comfortable with lowering my expectations, which feels really unusual. I feel like I’ve shifted into a new headspace.

It goes a bit like this:

I always thought that being hard on myself and aiming to do things perfectly (or not at all, because if I can’t do it perfectly I’m not going to do it) was something that was wrong with me and was something that I needed to fix. I spent years telling myself that I had it all wrong, and that I should lower my standards and accept “done” rather than “perfect”. But I never could. This never rang true for me. “Done” wasn’t good enough, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself otherwise and how hard I tried to stamp out the nagging perfectionist voice.

A few unrelated comments from unconnected people and equally unconnected passages from unrelated books over a period of several years were brewing away in my mind as I continued to believe that there was something wrong with me and that for me to change and overcome this perfection paralysis, I’d have to fix myself.

And one day it dawned on me that this was completely not true.

Some connections were finally made in my mind, and it slowly dawned on me that setting high standards for myself was part of what makes me me. In acknowledging this, I realised that by trying to “fix” it I was denying a part of my essential nature. Just like trying to “fix” my introversion, my height or my foot size, it cannot be done. And ultimately, I was stressing myself out and not being true to myself by trying to change it.

So I slowly began to realise that I can accept that I am what I am.

The traits in me that I perceive as being overwhelmingly negative are neither good nor bad. They just are. They are traits. Nothing more. There are times they serve me well and there are times they don’t. They can be used positively or they can be used negatively.

I think my mistake has been to focus on the times that a particular trait hasn’t been helpful or has held me back – and perhaps there have been many more times it’s been unhelpful than helpful – and make a projection onto the trait that it’s bad full stop, so I have to get rid of it so that I can be a better person.

I now believe that any trait can be expressed in a positive way or a negative way. Any trait can be a strength or a weakness, depending on how you use it. For example, setting high standards for yourself can lead you to achieve great things while you remain relatively stress-free and committed to what you’re doing. If you don’t achieve everything perfectly you’re okay with that and you don’t see it as a failure. You’ve still achieved what you’ve achieved and that’s pretty amazing. Setting high standards can be a positive thing.

But there’s a point where it can tip over into the negative, and that’s the time you start to get obsessed with getting things done perfectly, you beat yourself up if you don’t, and you set yourself higher and higher standards that become impossible to meet. You put all this stress on yourself to live up to your expectations, even when they’re impossible to meet. And then you feel terrible because not only did you (a) not do whatever it was to the standard you set, but because (b) you set the (probably not achievable) expectation in the first place, and if you weren’t such a perfectionist you wouldn’t have expected so much of yourself, so you should stop demanding so much of yourself and not be like this any more because setting high expectations is something you shouldn’t do . . . It’s a vicious circle.

I suspect that Competitive Me is like this, and wants me to walk 30,000 steps a day this year. And Competitive Me would drive me to do it, even if I was asleep on my feet. And Competitive Me would be devastated if I didn’t get there.

And that’s fine. I set high bars for myself. It’s what I do. I won’t lie. I’m tempted. I want to. I have no doubt that I could push myself very hard and walk 200,000 steps or even 210,000 in a week. But my life and my circumstances are different this year, and 20,000 steps a day will be challenging enough on most days. I’m struggling reaching my current 12,000 steps some days, and some days, well let’s not look at them . . .

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So instead of signing up to walk 30,000 steps right away and moving into training overdrive to make sure I didn’t fail (Because failure is not an option), I asked myself a couple of questions.

  • “Do you think this is reasonable given where you are right now?”
  • “Would you be taking good care of yourself if you set such a high expectation and pushed yourself to exhaustion?”
  • “Does it help you get to where you want to be by demanding this of yourself, when you can participate in the challenge with any step count you like? The point is to participate, not to break yourself.”

The answer was no in every case.

I am what I am. There’s nothing wrong with me setting high standards for myself and there’s nothing wrong with pushing myself to live up to them. It’s what I do.

But where Competitive Me would have been anxious, stressed and mad at myself for not trying to outdo last year’s steps (and/or for setting the high goal and not making it), I’m recognising that yes, I  want to do this, but instead of letting Competitive Me put me down about it, I’m  giving myself permission to not do it because it isn’t something I can do right now. I’m giving myself permission to feel okay about it.

It’s a huge mindset change.

So Competitive Me will not be walking 200,000 steps in a week, and I don’t feel guilty or like I’ve let myself down for not trying to do it. I’m aiming to do the best I can from where I am right now. That feels really good.

Now where did I put those shoes?

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