According to the Urban Dictionary, the definition of going against the grain is "when you make life difficult by going against the wishes of others."
I'm going to suggest here that going against the grain is when you make your own life difficult by trying to be someone or something you're not.
I see people do it all of the time when they join the gym. "I'm not a morning person," they'll say. "But I'm going to sign up for the 5:30 am time slot to force myself to get out of bed."
In some cases that works - in some cases that's the only time people can make it to the gym and they make that work. But usually, if someone is trying to force themselves to workout in the morning, it fails. Because when it comes down to it, they're just not wired to work out in the morning.
I think we live in a society where certain qualities are reinforced as "good" and others as "bad." I wrote last week that I'm not I'm not a checklist person. I'm not particularly organized, and I'm sure as hell not a morning person. Yet I've tried to make myself be all three of those things at one time or another. I am easily criticized for my inefficiency. Yet when I try to work against my nature, I just become bitchy and annoyed, because I'm not working with my personality - I'm working against it. And it feels awkward and makes me miserable.
In our latest podcast (you can find the link below), Doug and I talk about our respective process for writing a book. If you're going to write a book, the bottom line is that you have to sit down and write.
You can’t create something if you don’t find the discipline to sit down to do it. In Doug’s case, he worked writing into his morning routine. He made an appointment with his laptop every day and he kept it. That’s how he has been able to write a new blog post almost every day of the week for the past few years.
My process for writing a book has been much different. I sit down to write, get antsy, stand up, pet the dog, pour more coffee, scratch my armpits, shave my legs, pluck my whiskers, turn my hat on backwards, flip over the vinyl record, write three words, stand up, vacuum the office…..
Hell, I once tied myself to a chair with panty hose in order to keep myself put. But it just put a knot in the panty hose and freaked my roommates out.
Ultimately, what allowed me to finish my book was two things: external accountability and a weekly goal instead of a daily goal. I found someone to meet with once a week and that meeting kept me accountable to the process. But I had certain pieces of the book that I would finish during the week, without necessarily following a set schedule. I couldn’t keep a daily appointment, but I could keep weekly accountability…..to someone else. And that made a big difference.
That's also how I get my workouts in. I don't set a daily schedule - I set a weekly goal. I want to lift three times a week, and if Thursday comes along and I haven't gotten the first one in, I have no choice but to do it then. That kind of flexibility also allows me to bite things off in chunks. I also give myself permission to do half of a workout - usually when I do that I can get the whole workout in, but it prevents me from inertia. There is so much to be said for starting.
For a long time, I felt bad about many of my natural tendencies - sure I was creative, but I was messy, disorganized and scattered. I tried using a planner for a hot minute, tried to train myself to become a morning person, tied myself to a chair with panty hose - but in the end, I’ve had the most success when I’ve worked with who I already am.
When I stop trying to force myself to be someone I’m not, good things happen.
When I work with my personality instead of against it, I can find the slightly better version of myself that I’m looking for.
Most days, that’s all any of us can ask for. But we can stop feeling bad about all of the things that we’re not, and all of the characteristics that we think will make us a better version of ourselves.
The best thing you can do, is do you, whatever that looks like.