…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
December of 2014 became a silly month for me. This was because I had let some of my efforts slip over the course of the year. I can make excuses for this, such as dad dying, moving house, and moving out of my office at work, but really I just let my efforts slip – it wasn’t laziness as such, but perhaps that is a relative term.
When December rolled up I realised time for two intended targets to be reached was running out – completing another volume of Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia (last year I acknowledged to myself that I wanted to read the whole ten volume set I had had since childhood and that I would read one volume a year, and I read the first volume), and cycling no fewer miles than I had done in 2013 (which had been my best year to date). Moving house and moving out of my office at work have both had an effect on my cycling because I have been using my bike for carting stuff about and doing my grocery shopping – loaded panniers mean a heavier bike, so really, I’d probably put in the same effort already as 2013, but done so over few miles. But that’s just me nit-picking – the number of miles was my target.
I was left with over 300 pages to read on various topics and 650 miles to cycle in one month. The reading part wasn’t a problem as such but the cycling target meant cycling over 100 miles more in a month than I had done before, although at little over 20 miles a day, I knew it was doable – last year I had done 300 miles over the course of five days and although my knees give little objections now and then, my fitness this year seems to be the same. In fact I don’t really measure my fitness in any specific way, I just know how many miles I cycle and average speeds (the latter I’ve never made any effort to increase).
The problem with setting myself these targets meant other things “had” to give, although this isn’t always intentional, and it often feels like another bout of lazyitis – I always tell myself there are plenty of hours in the day, it’s just a case of using them all, rather than partaking in procrastination, thumb-twiddling, or random mouse-clicking. When I read too much I end up writing less, and when I cycle too much I seem to spend my spare time eating.
I finished the reading on time and I now have a list of pages and notes for me to go back over, and I finished cycling the last 15 miles of the 650 miles, in the dark on new year’s eve. Pedalling at 30+mph in darkness in the wind and rain is actually quite thrilling, but I am actually quite sick of cycling now! I cycled 28 out of the 31 days of December, and for the last week my legs had had enough – my leg muscles were constantly tired and getting on the bike each day felt like I had just got off it after a long ride. For those that have managed greater feats, like Mark Beaumont when he cycled round the world, averaging some 90 miles a day for six and a half months, well, I can’t help but admire them and claim my body isn’t built for that.
Comparing ourselves to others can be depressing or even debilitating. I think most of us have to admit (and appreciate) that there are probably other people better at all the things we try our hands at, but we can’t let this prevent us from making our own efforts and contributions. This is perhaps why I prefer to set targets based on my own prior efforts – it means I can push myself, and do better, even when only comparing myself to myself, rather than others. I also find it quite amusing to push myself, even if it seems somewhat punishing – I think I will be kinder to myself in 2015 though.
It must have been some time earlier in the year that I realised cycling more miles each year than the previous year was not something that could be maintained indefinitely – there would come a point when something had to give. Just like consuming a balanced diet, I like to balance my time on this earth amongst all of the things and commitments that are important to me. However, I preferred to intend to cut down at a conscious point in time, rather than feel lazy if I didn’t meet a target I had set myself (one that perhaps didn’t acknowledge other things in my life), and then beat myself up about it.
Targets are all well and good, they can keep you on track, but I have seen how they prevent me from living more in the moment – “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” That is something else I tell myself, and I have told it to myself often when I have been too continually focussed on a target, and ended up putting other things off until the target was reached.