The Richard Nicholls Podcast

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Episode 160: Anything Is Better Than Nothing

Is there something you want to achieve that you know is going to take a while? Maybe something that has many steps, such as getting fitter or writing a dissertation? If so then you need to be aware that doing anything that brings you closer to the end result is better than doing nothing at all.
That might seem obvious, but it’s not uncommon for people to be really hard on ourselves for not putting in maximum effort. It’s likely that sometimes you could have done more to help yourself move to where you want to be. But if you did something, then it’s better than nothing.
Comparing ourselves to the achievements of others doesn’t help. We shouldn’t be comparing someone else’s best with our worst. There are personal trainers all over Instagram who are super fit, and are advertising their business by showing people how to do certain exercises to get fitter themselves and clients will sometimes say to me that rather than being inspired by Joe Wicks or Tom Daley, it’s too easy to look at what they’ve achieved themselves and think “What’s the point in trying, I could never look like that.”
Well probably not, I’ll go as far as to say that almost 100% of anyone who is unfit and either overweight or underweight is not going to look like Tom Daley or Joe Wicks if they follow their exercises. Tom Daley is literally an olympian and Joe Wicks did not get that 6 pack from simply doing star jumps and burpees.

Doing anything is better than nothing. And this isn’t just about physical health, this is about everything. Clients will come to me for help because they feel unable to either move away from something that they are doing, or move towards something that they’re not. They need to know that any movement is better than no movement. If someone has severe depression and it’s not unusual for them to be in bed all weekend, to feel unable to leave the room, their goal isn’t to suddenly wake up one morning and be so happy they could jump up and down laughing. It’s unrealistic. If that’s their goal then they won’t even notice any improvement that they DO make, because they’re still not who they feel they SHOULD be. It’s OK in that situation to set a small goal of simply being able to make a cup of tea. Or maybe even that is a step too far, fine. That’s OK, don’t add more stress to your life by telling yourself how crap you because you can’t even make a cup of tea. If neurons are misfiring, if our mind is foggy and dulled by anxiety and depression, its OK to shift our goal posts. Or even take them down for a bit and just play it by ear. If we can accept that something is hard for us, even if it’s something that could be easy to someone else, accept that it’s hard to you and that’s OK. Accept that because it’s hard it’s going to take you a while but whatever you do that moves you towards where you want to be is a step in the right direction, even if it sometimes looks as if you’re moving backwards.
In most situations in life, whether that’s decorating your house, revising for an exam or overcoming anxiety and depression, there’s usually more that could be done to move you further ahead. But that doesn’t mean you have to DO more, sometimes doing just enough is actually enough because anything is better than nothing.
I’ll ask my clients sometimesW”hat has happened since I saw you last that brings you closer to your goal?” People will see me for all sorts of reasons and some of them do have goals require specific steps. Such as losing weight or finding a new job. But if they tell me that they’ve done nothing since I saw them last we look a little closer and sometimes they are doing plenty, they just don’t recognise it, because it didn’t come with any sense of achievement. But they still worked towards their goal.
Sometimes we don’t have anything to show for our efforts, sometimes we’ve done what looks like the very minimum but it feels like the best we could do, and that’s ok.
Even in relationships, people will sometimes feel as if their relationship is stagnating because they don’t see love from their partner, they don’t see respect or attention. Yet sometimes, those things ARE there it’s just for whatever reason they stopped seeing them, familiarity maybe. But any respect is better than no respect, any love is better than no love providing it’s a healthy relationship. Any date night is better than no date night even if it’s nothing more than a pint and a packet of crisps because you’ve only got a childminder for an hour, it’s better than nothing.
It’s the same with our finances. Be grateful for what you do have, even if your goal is to be earning more. What you do have is still better than nothing, especially here in the UK. It might sometimes look like the country’s falling apart but we’re still one of the wealthiest countries on the world. Yes, people have to use food banks because the system needs fixing, but the fact that we have people with enough spare cash to help fund those food banks means we’re doing alright on the whole.
For ever packet of sanitary towels you take to the food bank (because we often forget about things like that and believe me that would be appreciated) you can make a difference.
Maybe not a massive difference, maybe just a drop in the ocean, but anything is better than nothing!