scrunched up paper turned into paper aeroplane how to vs. when to

“But I don’t know how…”

The “how to” challenge has been solved by Google and YouTube. It is no longer a challenge or an excuse. It is simply a question with answers ready to be discovered by the click of a button or the tap of a finger. Hell, you could even ask Alexa or Siri to tell you what to do step-by-step. The real challenge, now, is “when to?”.

There is no shortage of ‘shoulds’ or messaging that tells us what we are meant to be doing to be ‘best in class’ human beings.

Drink less. Eat healthier. Sleep more. Be resilient. Have compassion for others. Be brave. Worry less. Forgive others. Keep trying even if you fail. Fail fast. Be strong. Lose weight. Spend more time with your kids. Don’t get angry with your kids. Declutter. Practice mindfulness. Earn more money. Exercise regularly. Do your stretches.

The list goes on and on. Try it out for yourself – pause for a moment and add your own “to-do’s” to this list.

a wife's brown hair freshly cut at home during lockdown

We already know (apparently) what we are meant to do to live our best life. So here is the kicker – the “how to” problem was solved a long time ago. Just Google “how to” in front of any of these phases and you will receive a litany of advice and people ready to take your money. “5 ways of practicing mindfulness”, “7 secrets to living a happier life”, “The insiders guide to earning a million dollars a year”, “10 tips to declutter you home and your mind”, “6 week workout for a guaranteed 6 pack”, “how to cut your wife’s hair during lockdown” (Hot tip: I did this for my wife recently. I was going to ask her to sign a waiver before we started, but I didn’t. I got lucky this time).

So it is blindingly obvious. We all “know” what we “should” be doing. Sometimes we make up an excuse that we don’t know how to do it, so we don’t try at all. But apparently Google and YouTube have solved that problem. Yes: up-skill, grow, expand your horizons. Levelling up is awesome, as long as you remember that it is a game.

Most people think they can’t do something, because they don’t know “how” to do it. But the truth is – most people can’t do something, because they are too scared to try. They cling to their beliefs about what they are capable of, repeating inaudible narratives in the echo chamber of their thoughts that hold them back from taking action. It is only in taking action, however, that fear gives way to courage. That resentment gives way to forgiveness. That numbness gives way to living again.

The question is no longer “how to”… but “when to”.

If you really, really want it, the only thing holding you back from having it are your beliefs about what is possible for you. That you are capable of having what you really want. It is not a question of skill or knowledge. Every human being is capable of learning and growing. Pushing beyond the boundaries of their current reality. After all, you taught yourself how to get up off the ground and walk.

It is a resistance where belief blocks action. And the only person that chooses what they believe, is you.

So the question remains – “When to?”.

Rabbi Hillel gives it a red hot crack, with bonus points for injecting some values and character into questions that only you can answer:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?”

The decision to leap is an entirely differently thing versus actually jumping. And flight feels amazing.

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