Do as I do, not as I say

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Annie Dillard

If someone could look at what I do, instead of what I say, what would they think my priorities are? It’s a thought that’s been knocking around in my head and it shined a spotlight on the difference between what I say versus what I do.

For example, if someone did as I did rather than as I said they would:

  1. Spend many many hours on their phone despite saying they’re going to read.
  2. Find simple reasons to not train such as “I woke up too late” rather than just shortening the workout.
  3. Plan for things but when it comes down to working on it, it can be done tomorrow because “they have time later”.
  4. Make plans to study, but almost purposely never make a specific enough plan so it’s easier to skip
  5. They would read a healthy amount and workout a few times a week though.

This list isn’t intended to be mean (it does sound like it on reflection). There are more positives but we’ll get there.

I write all of this to say that our actions are the true reflections of our priorities, not what we write down on a piece of paper.

The paper can be forgotten, lost or ignored.

When we think of our priorities, we also need to think about what we are regularly doing.

Regularity is boring

The small steps we make to get to where we want to go are ultimately pretty dull.

When we look at the small actions we take on a grand scale, they ultimately look unexciting. The exciting part comes when you add them all together and see the end result.

  • Eating a healthy breakfast every day might be monotonous but when you look back on it and realise that you actually had much more energy through the day than usual, you’ll be thankful.
  • Working out even when you don’t feel like it, isn’t too exciting but realising that you’re fitter for it later down the line, that’s the exciting part.
  • Studying for a test that’s difficult is irritating and sometimes demoralising, but later, regardless of whether you passed or failed, you’ll be able to appreciate that you have the discipline to work towards something even if it’s difficult.

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives

If my actions reflected my priorities, would I be happy?

Potentially. There’s a chance I wouldn’t be. However, I’d be in a much better place to change my priorities if I knew how they actually impacted my life.

Perhaps I’d simply be happier I do what I say I’m going to do. If my actions matched the priorities I claimed I had for myself, I could trust in my word significantly more.

That is where small amounts of confidence come from. Let’s talk about the more positive examples:

  • I’ve been vegan for about 4 years now and I’m happy about it because at no point have I wavered, made excuses for myself or simply lied to myself. Here I’m living purely in line with the value I have set out for myself.
  • Every fundraising event I’ve done, I’ve completed to the best of my ability and, as an average person with large presence anywhere, I’ve been able to raise money while keeping fit at the same time.
  • I actually do read, even if it’s not as much as I’d like. There are a lot of great books out there and I get to enjoy them.

Taking the bird’s eye view

Back to the original question, if someone could only see what I do, and not hear what I say, what would they say my priorities are? Would I be happy with their answer?

Probably not delighted. My priority isn’t to be the largest consumer of TikTok or YouTube content (honestly, one of the inspirations to get words down about this was looking at my screen time on Youtube and I almost threw up).

There is space for better alignment of my words and actions and that’s something I’ll work on in a healthy way.

Yet, it doesn’t need to be perfect. It never will be. It can be slightly better. Which is the whole point of improving slowly.

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