if you don’t start, you’re not travelling

This is one minute message 251. i recorded this message from bed, with a scratchy throat, very tired, I thought, ok, i’ll record a one minute message … and this is it.

To hear this message, play below. nothing to download. just press play.

If you don’t start, you’re not travelling. and there’s something very special and exciting about being underway. even if it takes a while. even if the changes are small. even if.


QUESTION: If we had to make a bumper stick out of one phrase in this podcast, what would it be? I’ll pick the 11th new comment, and you’ll get an audio bonus gift. New comments are held in moderation, so you won’t know who’s number 11. so submit one now.


and in case you hate listening to audios, here’s the transcript:

Yesterday somebody sent me an email and they said: “I’m always looking through your sober messages for little nuggets on how you problem solve things in regular life.” And I’m like, what? How I do what? I wasn’t even aware that I was doing it, so it means when I’m narrating my life, I’m saying things that are interesting — which of course is always shocking. Because you know how on the inside of your head, stuff just occurs, right? You’ve got a voice in your head, it says things. Some of it we listen to, some of it we don’t. I have a voice in my head that tells me if this doesn’t work then try something else.

It has been very shocking to me in the process of doing the sober work to find that there are people out there who don’t have that same voice that says, “if you can’t find a solution doing it this way, do something else.” And so I started to research it. Because it turns out it’s a thing. It’s sort of like having brown hair or a cleft chin; just don’t have any sense of “what, you don’t hear this?” You know what it’s like over-drinking, you’re like, “what you mean, you don’t hear the voice that says drink now? Fuck, I thought everybody heard it. I thought everybody drank like me.” And then somebody points out some part of your personality and it’s kind of humbling and strange at the same time, because it forces me then to think about how I think, which of course is just exhausting.

I’m actually recording this from bed. It is 9:30 am. I have been awake for 2 hours. I have done nothing. I had a very busy catering day yesterday and today I’m having a coma. Although at least my coma has been coherent, upright, well no, prone, not upright. I’m in bed with my decaf coffee. I know, you want to hear a story about why I drink decaf. You can listen to a podcast about orchids. Because if I have caffeine, the top of my head comes off. And maybe that’s one of those lessons that when shit doesn’t work, you change something. Always trying to tweak and find a better solution, find a better way. How do you get from point A to point B?

The point of this video…video ha ha ha ha…the point of this audio today is to say … yeah I don’t know what I’m trying to say. I’m now trying to tie it all up in a small thing when really I have a lot more to say so now I can’t … that was me just self-editing to decide whether or not I was going to talk for longer or for less. I think I’ll do less … Yeah, I’m still trying to find the way to wind it up in a tight little bundle. You know with something cute and pithy and I’m not coming up with it.

If what you’re trying isn’t working, you try something else. And if that doesn’t seem evident, then you follow somebody else’s lead who has done that exact thing. Because I think this is a skill you can learn obviously or I wouldn’t talk about it everyday. I think it’s entirely possible to learn what other people do and then do it. Not just like learn how somebody runs a marathon and then you do it, but learn how to speak a language, you learn it from somebody else and you can pick up ways of thinking from other people. Like if you go to law school, you learn how to form a certain kind of argument and you learn how to write a certain kind of document. You can learn how to think a certain way.

So is it possible to change your thinking about this idea of I don’t know what to do next? I think, I think, I think there is. People say “oh it’s creativity,” but for me it’s not creativity, it’s desperation. It’s absolute, abject despair. Like, “I don’t want this thing, I want something else. I don’t want this thing, whatever it is, whatever’s happening in my life, whatever it is, I don’t want this debt, I don’t want this unhappiness in my marriage, I don’t want this child with really difficult behaviour, I don’t want this drinking thing to be robbing me of all of my energy.”

I’m only now coming to the realization after 5 years of doing this, when somebody else points it out to me, because I’m a slow learner, that there are two kinds of people in a situation like all the ones that I just described. There’s a person who can look at a situation and say, “OK I don’t like this. I wonder what I can do to change it, even marginally, even incrementally, even slowly. How can I be moving in the direction of changing it.” Or the other point of view is: “well this fucking sucks, this sucks, this fucking sucks, fuck, fuck, this fucking sucks, fuck this sucks, oh my god this sucks.”

Of course, there’s something very noble and proud about saying “this fucking sucks” because you get to stand there and say, “Look my life fucking sucks.” And people go: “oh yeah yeah, you’re right, if fucking sucks.” Nobody ever says to you, “Um what are you doing incrementally, day by day, 1% a day to improve this situation? What are you doing? Like, are you doing one day at a time sober so that at the end of the year, you have 365? And are you incrementally making some other kind of change to evolve in some other kind of way or are you standing around a) waiting to feel like it or b) waiting for some kind of large motivations so that you can change everything all at once because that really never works.”

We lack patience. No shit. But if you were to look ahead and say, “I want this thing in my life,” how do you even head off in that direction?

Because you know what, you’re travelling on a road anyway. You get up every day, you do your day, you make decisions every day about what’s going to happen today. And to some extent, you’re affecting what’s going to happen tomorrow by what you do today. If you’re going to have to get up and live your day every day anyway, what could you be incrementally doing to move some thing in a new direction. I don’t mean moving 10 things at once. And I don’t mean moving one thing ginormously. Because when you’re first sober, just being sober is the goal and that is your change per day to get a new result. But if you’re 200+ days sober, then what are you doing incrementally to build on your sober foundation and create something else.

There’s something that you can have, do, or be when you’re sober that you can’t do as a drinker. But it is very, very, very easy to stand still and say: “fuck, fuck, fuck this fucking shit.” First of all, it eliminates responsibility. It’s you saying “this happens to me.” Instead of you saying “I’m going to do 1% a day to make this different or better or go in a different direction.”

Like, your relationship has some kind of crap in it, so what are you doing 1% a day to move that in a better direction? What are you doing in terms of kindness every day to try to move that in a better direction? What are you doing in terms of, I don’t know, forgiveness or gratitude or making a lunch for somebody or back massages … what do people do for other people? Are you making the bed? Are you doing some of her chores that you always ask her to do or are you just doing some of them? Or are you walking around with a score card keeping score that she didn’t do this, so you’re not going to do that because she didn’t do this? That’s not 1% moving in a better direction.

You write a book a page a day, and you could be sober in a year a day at a time. You can make large, large changes in your life, slowly. But if you’re drinking, you’ve heard me say this before, if you’re drinking, you nail your foot to the floor in a room where you don’t want to be.

So what are you changing?

If the results you’re getting are not working, what are you changing every day, every day, what are you adjusting and changing and improving so that you move in a better direction? “Well, I’m too depressed because I’m too fat and I can’t go out.” Well what are you doing 1% a day. Can you walk from here to the end of the street and then back. And then tomorrow, walk, another block. And your answer then is: “well that will take too long, I need to feel better now.”

And I’m saying: there’s something really special in the process of being on the road to the improvement. Because then you’re underway. You’re taking action. You are deciding what happens next. That’s different than sitting on the couch saying, “this is all happening to me.” What are you doing, small, incrementally, tiny to improve whatever it is? What are you doing?

There’s my One Minute Message and it’s only, you know, ten minutes and thirty seconds. If I’m going to do a daily One Minute Message they really need to be short and sweet. Can I do this in a short and sweet version? OK, here’s the One Minute Message of this message:

If you feel trapped and stuck
One thing you can do to make some improvement
Is to slowly go in the direction where you want to go
And try little things to adjust and move
And move forward
And move forward.

Because there’s something magical about moving forward
Even if it’s not very fast.

And to be obsessed with some magic right day
Or some magic right feeling
Or to be obsessed with I need to make a dramatic change
So I can’t make small change because it won’t add up fast enough.
What I say to that is, you get up and you live your day every day anyway.
You might as well be making tiny, incremental changes so that you’re going somewhere.

I think this is called living with intention. What do I know?  I don’t listen to enough Louise Hay, is that her name? Hay House. So for today, I want you to look around and figure out what is the 1% you can do on that. You can clean one drawer. I know it’s not the whole house, but you can do a drawer. And you can make your wife’s lunch. I know it doesn’t solve all of the marriage problems, but you can make her lunch. And you can do that stack of filing that’s sitting beside your co-worker’s desk. And I know it doesn’t solve all of your animosity and your difficult relationship with her, but it’s a start. It’s a piece. Because you know what, if you don’t start, you’re not travelling.

I deteriorated out of a One Minute Message …

If you don’t start, if you don’t start, you’re not travelling. And if you’re not travelling, you’re not going to the new thing that you want to go to. If you don’t start, you’re not travelling. And I must tell you that ‘travelling’ needs to be spelled with 2 L’s, that’s how Canadians spell it. Sorry, I insist. If you don’t start, you’re not travelling, 2 L’s. I don’t really know why I felt the need to say that, except that I want you to see it in your head the way I see it in my head. How’s that for a One Minute Message. My god. OK. Alright fine. OK good byyyeee!


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • Sat here sobbing thinking my life fucking sucks because my foot is nailed to the ground in a room I no longer wish to be in. I am not sober although I did manage it for 35 days + last year. Can’t seem to get back on track. I am no longer happy in where my marriage is and what struck me in this message was trying 1% every day to move in a positive direction. I must admit, I feel like that’s going to take too long but maybe it’s supposed to be that way. So my bumper sticker would be (to paraphrase) Progress, not perfection.

  • Bumper sticker #1: It’s not creativity, it’s desperation.
    Bumper sticker #2: 1% is all it takes to make a change.
    Bumper sticker #3: If you’re not traveling, you’re not living.

  • Thank you for this, it was most illuminating, Here’s my bumper sticker : “1% a day”, in big, bold letters. I’m gonna write in down in my notebook. Thank you.

  • You didn’t actually say these words, but my takeaway from this 13 minute message was this: inertia kills. So that would be my bumper sticker.

  • Great! Thank you for the message! I forgot about doing one thing better, then the day before. Greetings from Poland!

  • I think his would make a funny bumper sticker:
    “If I have caffeine the top of my comes off.”

    But for sake of a meaningful snippet for sober folks, this is more applicable and inspiring: “If you’re gonna have to get up and live your day every day anyway, what could you be incrementally doing to move some thing in a new direction? And I don’t mean moving 10 things at once, and I don’t mean moving one thing ginormously.

  • Hi Belle, my bumper sticker would just say “TRAVELLING”. Actually I’m going to go right now and write that on a note card and place it in a few stategic locations as a reminder to myself. I’m traveling. Some days a little some a lot but I’m moving.

  • Make large changes slooooowly
    I listened to a few of your 1 min messages this morning after listening to this one … I had another thought – it was “if I have caffeine my head comes off”. I don’t know why those words you said spoke to me today. I’ve had issues with caffeine for a while, and then after hearing that today, it made me feel like I wasnt the only one. Then I listened to the orchid 1 min msg too after you mentioned it. I always hear about how once sober, then drink coffee instead and although yes it is helping temporarily with the early sobriety tiredness, I may need to look at cutting it back sometime cause it doesn’t help with my anxiety.
    My entry of “make large changes slooooowly” … that sentence you said made so much sense! I always just don’t do anything cause I figure it’s not enough to make a difference so why bother. Like I bought a used exercise machine from a friend a couple weeks ago but haven’t gone on it now in the past week cause if I didn’t have a solid chunk of time to exercise, then I was not doing anything. So illogical?! But if I go for 10 min, it’s better than no minutes. And those small tiny 1% changes every day will add up! My one day at a time being sober will add up to 50 days, 100 days, a year, many years.

  • My bumper sticker – something to the effect of:

    Out of Desperation comes Clarity of Purpose
    Got Clarity? No? Get desperate.
    Desperation breeds Clarity
    Desperation breeds Purpose

    Ok… that’s too many. Obviously, I’m not desperate enough to be clear. But I am sober.

  • There’s something magical about moving forward even if it’s not very fast (with a picture of a sober? ? turtle)

  • Change 1%! That hit home today. Work has been a bear, overwhelming, no support. I feel like quitting every day. Here’s a 1% change I can make: Leave my house 15 minutes earlier to avoid traffic and get a prime parking spot so I’m not stressed out before the work day officially begins. Great audio, Belle!