20 Dec How To Stop Doing Stuff You Don’t Want To Do (When Everyone Else Says You Should)
If you’ve ever been to Guatape, this small Colombian pueblo just outside of Medellin, you probably know about this massive rock you’re supposed to climb (Piedra del Penol if you want to Google it). It takes about 25 minutes, there’s just over 700 steps, and apparently you get amazing views at the top. Every travel blogger says you just HAVE to do it. Well I didn’t and it made me realise a lot.
You see when you travel you’re constantly inundated with people telling you what to do. ‘You need to eat this, you need to go here, blah blah blah.’ It was the same for that rock. So even though I’m afraid of heights, climbing the rock was the thing to do in Guatape, and I was in Guatape, so I was going to do it. I had every intention, even took the bus out there and began the pre-ascent. I was 100 steps up, maybe halfway to just the base of the rock, but high enough that I could feel my legs kinda shake when I looked around.
But how could I come all the way here and not climb it? I would be so embarrassed when people asked me! And that pressure to do something you’re supposed to, something everyone else does, started to wash over me and was almost enough to make me keep going.
But then I thought to myself, wait a minute, do I even WANT to do this?
And I just kinda stood there for a minute with that thought in my head. Not thinking about what I ‘SHOULD’ do, but about what I WANTED to do.
Actually…no, I don’t want to fucking do this! I don’t want to tire myself out and pay 18,000 mil (Colombian pesos but still a lot of money when you don’t have a job) to climb a rock to get some view that I could only get by scaring myself half to death. Sorry, not worth it. And then I realised, I was only doing this because everyone else said I HAVE to. It’s what other people want for me, it’s not what I want for myself. And there’s a huge difference. So I turned around and took the bus back to town.
It sounds silly, but it took that one incident for me to realise how often we are even subtly going off the momentum of other people’s expectations. It’s embedded everywhere, not just career decisions and major life decisions (those are the big ones), but where you travel, the things you buy, the food you eat, the clothes you wear. Without thinking about it you do what other people do. And if you don’t, you feel like you’re not good enough. Like something is wrong with you. Like how I felt on those steps halfway to that rock.
But here’s the thing. Nothing is wrong with you. It’s not that you can’t do it. It’s that you don’t want to. And being able to make the choice to do something else is the most empowering thing you can do for yourself. You just have to realise that you have that choice.
I’m sure there are plenty of people that have loved the view from the top of that rock. And that’s great! Me? I loved the two beers I bought with my 18,000 mil instead. Different strokes for different folks.
So the next time you are in the middle of something that just feels so wrong for you on every level, whether it’s climbing a rock for the great views, or taking a job for a lot more money, just stop and ask yourself, ‘do I even WANT this?’
And if the answer is yes, then great, do it and do it loudly.
But if the answer is no, if you know it is not working for you, then there is absolutely no shame in turning around and taking the bus back to town.