Monday, 9 July 2012

Putting pressure on yourself.

So Wimbledon’s over, the Grand Prix has finished and the Olympics nearly here. Lifting the trophy, standing on the podium or having a medal placed over your chest…that’s the nice bit. What about the lifetime of hard work and stress that leads up to those few minutes of glory?
                  Let’s be honest and say that very few people will ever have to worry about that. The vast majority (let’s not get into global poverty here…) of us have enough stress and anxiety getting through the week at work, paying the bills and all the other humdrum tasks that make up life. We put enough pressure on ourselves by trying to get that promotion and earn more money, by buying that bigger house, by upgrading the car and so on. Hopefully we have fun as well and get a chance to enjoy ourselves, perhaps by watching Wimbledon, the Grand Prix or the Olympics. 
                  What happens when we try and go outside of our normal lives? What if our work isn’t all we do? What if once all the studying is out of the way, we are comfortable in our jobs, we are comfortable in our family lives…we still want something more? What if we aren’t comfortable in our lives but regardless of marriage, kids, houses, etc. we know we want something else to make us happy? I’ll never take life for granted, and of course it goes without saying that those of us that are fortunate enough to have been born in a place that gives us the opportunity to have comfortable lives should never moan, as the conditions so many people face are more terrible than I could ever describe. However, that fortune has its own guilt for me. I feel sorry for myself a lot, I feel down a lot, and I struggle to be positive a lot. One reason for this I want to talk about now, the need to put pressure on myself.
                  I don’t like the idea of wasting my life. There’s another blog down the line somewhere I’m sure to talk about regrets, but whether you have time for regrets or not, I hope you understand what I mean by saying I don’t want to look back and say that I didn’t try. I don’t care about success and I don’t care about achievement, I care about giving it a go. I can look back on my life so far and say that I’ve done a fair bit, I’ve tried hard in a lot of different areas, I’ve had a lot of hobbies, I’ve had a lot of adventures and I’ve had a lot of experiences and I can honestly say that I’ve worked hard (mostly). I’m sure you will, like me, have had sleepless nights worrying about something you have to do the next day, work, exams, a date, etc. Maybe you have had restless nights anxious that you have bitten off more than you can chew, maybe you have had many nervous hours contemplating how on Earth you have gotten yourself into some ridiculously stressful situation…but I wonder how many of them you look back on and say to yourself, yes it was hard, yes I ground my teeth to dust, yes I cried, yes I hated it…but it was worth it, I learnt from it, it made me a better person? Let’s not include turning up for a meeting with just seconds to spare after only getting out of the nightclub at 5am and waking up naked the other side of town, or losing that powerpoint presentation just as the audience sits down and you have to B.S your way through the next hour…things like that don’t count. I mean when have you really wanted to do something that takes you out of your comfortable existence and tests you.
                  I don’t have to write. I don’t know if I’ll end up being any good and I don’t know if I’ll end up writing a novel and I don’t know if I’ll end up getting a publishing deal and I don’t for one second pretend to myself that I know what the future holds. I don’t have to spend my spare time outside of work sweating away in self-hatred doubting every word I type. I don’t have to spend countless hours writing notes, scribbling ideas and rewriting the same paragraphs twenty times. I don’t have to constantly wonder what the hell I am doing and why I am bothering, telling myself who am I kidding…and on it goes. But I tell myself I have to.
                  Now replace writing with whatever it is that you love and hate in equal measure. Replace it with that passion that is inside you. Maybe you don’t have to spend countless hours practicing for a sports competition, but you do. Perhaps you don’t have to spend all of your weekend in your studio creating art, but you do.  What about staying in when all your friends are out. What about missing that holiday. What about facing criticism. What about opening yourself up. Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.
                  The thing is, I wouldn’t change it. I don’t want to give up on writing because it is what I want to do.  You have to accept that pressure is inevitable and you have to embrace it and fight it simultaneously. That ‘something’ inside you, that feeling, that vocation, that emotion, that need…it requires pressure. You want to be better, you want to try, you want to improve and the reason you give up your free hours when you could be in the pub with your mates, or on a beach, or watching TV or whatever the hell it is…is because you want something more and to say you have tried.  
                  Pretty early on in life you work out that being lucky is one of the main ingredients of success. It’s not jealously to say that there is truth in who you know not what you know. But you also work out early on that aside from luck (and nepotism, inherited wealth, power and contacts too and a few other to boot) you don’t get very far without hard work. No one gives you anything unless you work for it. If you have a story inside you, no one is going to write it for you. If you have a vision of art inside you no one is going to produce it for you. If you have a skill then no one is going to develop it for you. Putting pressure on yourself is how you tear yourself away from your normal world, you may not make it (whatever your individual sense of making it is), you may not get where you want to be but you can look back and say that you tried and who cares if that is more than most could say or not, you aren’t doing it to be better that anyone else, you are doing it because you want it, and that’s enough. So, learn to love pressure. Learn to need pressure. Learn to not hate yourself for feeling pressure.

Hour’s up.


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