Bamberg potatoes

Bamberg potatoes, the world’s best motivational tool? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s blog is brought to you with the help of a potato, a duvet cover and Jedward.

Over the last few days I’ve been receiving feedback on the latest draft of my novel from my lovely alpha readers. I asked them to be robust and I’m pleased to say that they were happy to oblige, providing much detail on where my book can be improved. As any writer knows, alpha reader feedback is like tough love – you know it’s invaluable and the right thing to do, but by god it can be painful. Interestingly, to stop me from going into a spiral of pity and self-doubt, each alpha reader started their feedback by congratulated me for getting to this point, saying what an achievement it was and how impressed they were. At the same time another friend commented about how he too was impressed with my work ethic; that I hadn’t allowed anything to distract me from finishing the book. Even my Dad said he admired the fact that when I started something, I tried to do it properly and didn’t stop until I was finished.

The thing is, this is nothing like how I view myself.

You see, I feel I’m a naturally lazy person who has had to fight against the desire to coast all their life. I’ve worked with many people who seem to have limitless reserves of motivation and bound through crises with Jedward-like energy levels. I’ve always wanted to be like them, yet when I look at my own behaviour I always see what else I could have achieved. For example, when I think about the writing process, I don’t look at the 110,000 words I’ve written, but at the times where I have just stared out of the window or played on Facebook or Twitter.

It is the same with anything I do in life: when I peel potatoes I always choose the biggest first as you get more potato per peel; when ironing I always put off ironing the duvet cover because it takes the same amount of time to iron as ten t-shirts*. The thing is, this approach would be fine if somebody else took up the slack, but at some point I will be peeling the small potatoes or ironing that bloody duvet cover (ironing the duvet cover is a big source of disgruntlement in our house and I could have been the subject of a “Petty domestic dispute” all of it’s own. I mean, really, who needs to iron a duvet cover?)

As I thought about it, I realised that each example reinforced one of life’s great truths, that the biggest block to achieving anything is yourself. Now before you start berating me as some kind of wannabe life coach, I’ve never bought into the cliche that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. I cannot beat Usain Bolt at the 100m sprint no matter how hard I train. But I do believe that most of us can achieve so much more than we think we can. I could just peel whichever potato I pick out of the bag first but I’m prevented by a mental bock that thinks it’s too much work. I could iron the duvet cover first so that it’s out of the way, but that mental block (plus the senselessness of it all) prevents me from doing so. Yet I’ve been faced with many, much larger challenges, which I have met with little fuss or bother because I either a: didn’t have a choice; b: had no idea the size of the task when I started (see writing a novel); or c, really enjoyed what I was doing. If you forget about what’s possible and just go ahead and start, you’ll be amazed by what you can achieve.

So there you go; nearly all of life’s challenges can be overcome by just thinking of a potato or a duvet cover. Challenge yourself, exceed your expectations; you can achieve way more than you think you can. And if you overreach, well sometimes that can turn out OK too. Just look at Jedward**.

*This is a guess, although if I put my foot down and refuse completely, I am sure it will be brought up in court as evidence

**I am so sorry for the Jedward video. Really. I promise not to do it again.