Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Oh, the places you'll go!

I was running with Anton yesterday on an overgrown path near my house.    

Anton is an athlete who was born in South Africa and now lives in London with his wife and two small children.  I listen to Anton. When he tells me to keep up the pace to the top of the hill, I do it even though I want to stop because I trust him.  

I’ve learned so much from him. Yesterday I learned this.

While we were running, I was telling him about my son who seems stuck at home at the moment spending all day in his room - reading, eating and sleeping. And that I couldn’t bear it.

Anton said to me quietly: “Ask him what his PVA is”

He said his high-school computer-science teacher would say that to anyone who came to her with a computer problem. It stands for Plan Van Aksie, which is Afrikaans for Plan of Action.

Got a problem? What’s your Plan van Aksie?
Overweight? Lonely? Bored? Unemployed? Stuck? What’s your PVA?

It means don’t just sit there waiting for the cavalry. Ignore the fear. Overcome the inertia. Just do it.

My favourite book of all time is Charlotte’s Web by EB White. In it, Wilbur the pig is trapped in the barn. He then makes a to-do list which involves food, sleeping and thinking about what it’s like to be alive, but it all falls apart when he realizes it’s not food he wants but love.  

I used to think of Wilbur’s to-do list when I was sitting in my apartment in New York on the 13th floor, feeling bored and lonely, and too scared to go out into the city.

Dr Seuss calls it The Waiting Place, in his guide to life called Oh, The Places You’ll Go. I was waiting for the fish to bite and waiting for wind to fly a kite. I was too scared to leave the building and find the bright places where the Boom Bands are playing.  I spent a lot of time talking to the doorman, watching TV and eating ice cream before I realized no-one was coming to save me.

There’s something about making a PVA that makes you accountable for what you do. It breaks it down to baby-steps. It’s forgiving, adjustable and yours.

When I came back from my run with Anton, I wrote my PVA. This morning I wrote another. It was very similar to yesterday’s PVA but it has a new addition.
Leave house.
As I write this, my beloved son is sleeping, and regardless of whether or not he wants to do more than spend all day reading and eating, I will be leaving the house.

I’ll let you know how it goes.