What Can I Do About it?

I don’t really live in the past too much. The future seems always to hold ambition, something to aspire to achieve that has not yet arrived; perhaps a skill, a piece to be made, an idea for something future-born.

Seeing this on an early morning bike ride change my whole perspective for the day . . .

What is it that motivates our rising to get up from our beds when we wake each day? It can indeed be something as simple as making that first coffee of the day, something which somehow expands from there. The issue for many is what is worth doing and what will you do when you do get up? It’s important for all of us to have something to get up for first of all. It’s all too easy for any one of us to just slide into a non-motivational life without noticing. We have seen this happen to people as we never expected the pandemic to come and infect us in so many ways. Those who were used to having people surrounding them suddenly found themselves alone for days, weeks and months on end. Worse still, it’s not always easy for us to find the grace to escape from lacking motivation, and especially is this so if we are isolated, whether intentionally or not! Even so, for those who find depression at their door, just waking up and getting up is as good a start to realise that the very realness of waking is the motivating force that helps us to escape without resorting to escapism. Our waking is well worth living for and if we have a plan before we actually go to sleep our minds will spin on this axis and we will wake with a drive to drive ourselves out of bed.

. . .and so did this!

Depression is incredibly debilitating. But others too can be debilitating and depressing too. Experience working with disabilities tells me that sometimes, more often than we think, others around us can disable our disabilities more than the disability itself does. dismiss those who try to dissuade you from going and doing. You don’t need that and neither do you need the voices in your head saying why this and why that. I motivate my self on a cold and frosty morning by riding when everything in me says, ‘Oh no! I can’t be bothered!‘ Even a short ride, run and walk is better than none, and I have found that once I am out there in the zone my legs, my emotions and my self-motivational powers somehow take over and I am warm and increasingly warming to the task of starting into my day! By that I mean I am fully engaged and warm to the task and with all the joy mixed in there too!


Once the nut roast is made at another time, this spicy-hot cheese omelette and mixed vedge medley takes only 20 minutes to make. It’s one of my favourites and a mainstay for my diabetic control

My favourite breakfasts are the ones I made and cooked myself. I salivate as I slice the onions and the courgettes. And cook the tomatoes and mushrooms in olive oil. How many times do we so easily think breakfast is two slices of toast or making breakfast is nothing more than pouring cerial from a thin cardboard box and adding some milk, a few nuts, and some seeds from other containers. Bagels and doughnuts too are very sweet, sticky and, to me at least, very boring day after day. Also, as a long-term diabetic, these things are not just bad for me but they are not my idea of ‘making’ breakfast!

Oh, you don’t have time! Well, I understand this too and with a family, this can seem an impossible change to make, but for those who can and who might lack motivation, it is important to make shifts that can create time we thought we didn’t have. Things like go to bed earlier so you can get up just a little earlier. COVID isolationism may change with the new vaccines rolling out but COVID may not be the reason for non-motivation. I take 30 minutes every morning to make my breakfast. I cycle first, straight out of bed and onto my bike. That was a gamechanger for me when I broke the morning cycle of tea in bed followed by breakfast coffee and toast followed by a car drive into work. I reversed it. Bike, breakfast for me begins the day best!

This rocking chair takes me 60 hours to make. An hour in the shop a day means I can have Sundays off and have a chair in 10 weeks. This would indeed motivate me.

There may well be days when we, a few here and there, feel less inclined and even disinclined to get up and go altogether. This is the most difficult time and the one that is so easy to give in to. I try to disallow such days by reasoning things out with myself because whereas a day here and there will be okay, it is easy for a single day to become days and days to increase the more. I know this myself and it is all too easy not to be disciplined. It can happen the more when we fail to see the essentiality of scheduling things into our day. I have learned in everything I do day to day that I must set myself realistic goals to work towards because without them I rarely achieve anything at all. When no schedule exists it is best to create one, even just a mental one, even if at first we see no need for such a schedule to our lives. Okay, you are retired, tied down by self-isolating, things like that. This in and of itself can be especially debilitating. Better to work out the goals and then create a plan I call a scope and sequence. This what I do for all my projects and even the start for my day. For instance, nowadays, due to long term exercising, I can easily cycle for a continuous one-hour ride. I might plan to push myself a little harder at different points by selecting different gear choices or extending the length of the ride if time permits. But then too I might schedule three rides into my day of a shorter duration but I will still get my hour in and sometimes, often, more. There are of course other exercises to do too. Even two minutes of bench presses at my workbench come in on the hour every hour. My working is my exercise as many actions are high demand anyway.

This vegetarian nut roast is several meals at work for me in a week. It’s delicious and easy to make.

Try your best to exercise, cook and work the making of things into your day. You may need to be alone for extended periods but wherever possible break the longer periods by taking walks, power walks, bike rides and quick-burst rides and by breaking up long work sessions; this is exercising your needs and rights to take explicit care of yourself; it isall inclusive of every part of your being, so mental, emotional and physical care interplays throughout the whole of your being. Remember that gardening is excellent exercise too, especially digging. Those who write me and told me of non-dig gardening left out the two realities! One, I love the exercise of actual deep digging and tilling and, two the exercise of all the body parts including the psychology of brain power are all good for me.

Building a greenhouse from scrap pallet wood and then new wood too is not only transformational to the garden but also the mind and body!

I am thinking this week and especially today of those who live with no one near enough and close-to to make a difference. What I am speaking of breaks the fatiguing influence caused by isolation. Also, don’t believe the lie that others don’t want to hear from you via phone, text or email, etc. I have made that mistake many times myself and found myself making a call that was so transformative it completely changed the course of the day. Of course, others need your phone call too because of their personal isolation feelings. Rarely is it one way. Of those of us who find themselves self-isolating without intending to or even when and where no rules exist, it can be difficult because we are the type that don’t want to ‘impose‘ ourselves on others in the first place. In this newest of years, we can all “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand. Make this world a better place, if you can!”

Keep going everybody! We can get through this!


  1. happy new year paul look forward to your greenhouse built so inspiring hope this year is a better one

  2. Happy New Year Paul and your family.
    Once again you have given another motivational speech which is thought-provoking and inspirational at the same time.
    I am looking forward to this year and seeing what I can achieve.
    So please stay safe and well look after one another.

    1. Happy New Year, Paul. I’m an Operating Room Nurse. The pandemic forced my retirement. I’m a rare bird…I really liked my work, was good at it and liked the people I worked with. The enforced isolation has made me rely on my inner resources. I just hope that it never happens again.

  3. yeah I hear you, I felt it when you touched isolation topic. I spent time christmas and new year alone ,I’m trying to work so i can pursue my passions

  4. My dog is what motivates me every morning. He will not leave me alone until we do our three mile walk through the woods every day. I meet the same people (and dogs) most days. I always feel much better afterwards no matter what the outside conditions were. Just before my walk while having my coffee I make a list of things I need to do. When I do one thing I take the time to cross it off the list and that gives me a feeling of accomplishment no matter how small a task it might have been. Sometimes just looking at what needs to be done is a start, the point is to do that every day.

  5. Thank you, Paul, for 2020… (for the workbench, the candle boxes, the tool chest, the wall clock, and many more things I have made). For the things you taught us that are now ours.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    All the best in 2021!

  6. Happy New year Paul,
    Haven’t seen you in years.
    Paul, I can’t begin to tell you how I look forward to your blog.
    Diane and I have just began your DVD’s
    And books again.
    This morning’s blog after devotional made my day.

  7. Beginning tomorrow I will get on my bike first thing. The bike, my addiction before hand tool woodworking, has fallen by the wayside. Because I can’t rationalize taking a three hour ride. But I can go for one hour.
    I am retired and have my coffee in bed, like you mentioned. No more!
    Thanks Paul.

    1. How does one end up having coffee in bed?

      Sorry to be ignorant, but does someone make it for you and then bring it to you or do you get up, make it and take it back to bed?

      1. Bedside coffee maker by the bed, someone makes you one or of course, most likely, you get up and make it and take it back to bed. But you know all of this.

        1. Paul, do you intend on making the Brazos rocking chair on the woodworking master class? I would truly like to try and make one. Thanks for all your help. Paul Swain

  8. Hi Paul,

    A friend of mine once asked me to buy my workbench, the one I made according to your plans, and I was unsure how to even put a price on it. I work wood for myself and my family just because I like doing it and usually give things away rather than sell. It just got me thinking, here you said you made the rocking chair in 60 hours. If you were to build something like that to sell do you have any kind of general formula you use to price things? Cost of material and time you spent, etc.


    1. Often it is not so much the worth of the chair but who designed and made it. In the USA, made from say Mesquite, I sold them for between $4,000 and $6,500. I sold my last one of this design, which is my design btw, here 8 years ago for £2,500 but here in the UK prices for hand made furniture are much lower than the US and it is a harder market because, well, IKEA is in most towns and most people’s heads and I have found that the Brits tend to be much less inclined to buy hand made pieces.

      1. It saddens me to see some excellent, perfectly serviceable pieces of furniture being sold for peanuts or broken up because ‘there’s no market for brown furniture’. Many of these pieces are very well made and could still be performing useful service in 100 years or more.

    2. Josh,
      I agree with Paul here. And from a hobbyist / amateur perspective:
      I’ve thought of that as well – I was lucky enough to get a huge oak tree for free, which I converted to a huge stack of materials. I have more oak than I possibly could (or want to) use in our own house, therefore I plan to make some furniture for sale. It could give me funding for tools or other materials, or provide a nice boost to the “family project fund” (renovating, a boat, vacation or what ever we want that cost some money).
      Say I got the same question as you did – someone wanted to buy my work bench. I would look at a commercial model that would come close to my bench and price it similar to the commercial one.
      My bench is made of cheap pine, but is very well made and a lot sturdier than any commercial bench I’ve seen here in Norway. It has the Eclipse vise and is on the larger size at 80x200cm.
      The benches I can buy commercially are made of beech. Mostly Sjöbergs, but there are a lot of cheaper ones that looks exactly the same (there are differences of course, in finish and wood selection/quality).
      Since my bench is hand made, the quality is very high. Every piece of wood has been selected, worked and placed with care, in order to produce the very best bench possible. No commercial considerations has been a factor. I therefore feel confident comparing it to the very best benches the commercial manufacturers can offer.
      I would do the same for a coffee table, for example. What does a similar table cost commercially? And here we must compare apples to apples. You cannot compare a veneered MDF thing stained to look like walnut, to a table made entirely from real wood. Even a commercial all-wood oak table could be of inferior quality. Edge glued or finger jointed pieces of Tetris is, in my mind, inferior to a table made from glued panels of wood planks.
      Since a hand made item is, I would assume, made to be the very best it can be and that any quality issues would have been considered and dealt with in the best way possible (such as some sap wood being included, but placed where it does not matter or won’t be seen), my opinion is that that item is of superior quality compared to a commercially fabricated item.

      It is only fair then that the price tag should reflect the price level in the market. Maybe even go a bit above the commercial pricetags. Then one should adjust the pricing to what the market are willing to pay – a one million dollar oak box 5 inches cubed is worth zero unless someone actually pays a millon for it…

      And of course, one could give a discount, give away for free or a mug of coffee or something like that. But as pricetags go, know your worth. Do not sell your work too cheap.
      This is not capitalism or greed. Back in the days, you would expect a fair trade. A dining table for a milking cow. If you “only” got a pig, you would have bacon but no cheese or butter.

      I think a good starting point for hobbyists, is the cost of materials times two. That enables you to replenish your stock of materials, get more materials, replace broken tools, buy new tools, etc. Basically, enjoy your hobby for free. THAT is luxury and a goal worth pursuing.
      Gifting your work, though… that is worth more than what money can buy!

      This was my bag of cents. Hopefully, it makes sense. If not, just ignore the ramblings from a simple mind.
      Happy new year to all of you!

  9. What wise words Paul . I have just retired and at long last have the time to build my bench and start using the tools I have bought and inherited from my grandfather who was a cabinate maker before going blind in the 30s . I have been unable to put your book down or stop watching you on YouTube . I have worked as a plumber and an external engineer on BT owned a shop and bought a pub . But the smell of wood just does it for me . Thank you Paul

  10. Happy new year Paul, wishing you and the family all the best in 2021.
    I ordered your new book as a wee extra Christmas present just when your office closed for the holidays, looking forward to reading it when it arrives. You have encouraged me to get back into my workshop since I found your site.
    There is so much truth in the above blog that relates to myself. I took depression at the beginning of the pandemic but continued to work in my job as a kitchen appliance service engineer. I eventually went on furlough as most engineers took the offer up before me and left me with too much work. I could not return to my job as I was deemed not fit for that position due to my health problems and was payed off.
    I have pushed myself back into my workshop that I made before I started as a service engineer and have purchased quite a few power tools but prefer working with hand tools once I discovered you haha.
    I am currently in the middle of renovating some second hand planes that I managed to purchase No 4, 4 1/2 and 5 Stanley planes.
    Anyway enough of my babbling and will catch up with you in you bloggs.
    All the best Eddie.

  11. Happy New Year Paul.
    I understand the trials of living with diabetes. However, I find that putting in an hour a day in my workshop gives me a respite from the daily routine of engineering. Now I truly enjoy my job, but, having grown up on the farm, working with my hands is a blessed experience. I love the rocking chair, reminds me of the one my mother had when I was a young one. Looking forward to enjoying your musings during this year. Stay safe

  12. Paul, You can’t just post a photo of vegetarian nut roast. Talk about how good it is and then not post a recipe to make it. Come on – give it up!

  13. Hello Paul, I’d like to thank you for working so hard to share your knowledge and experience. Your books, videos and blogs are fantastic, inspirational. Your latest blog struck a chord with me, and I imagine many others to. May me move into action, concentrating on the right things to bring happiness and fulfillment. Best wishes to you and your loved ones.

  14. Cats defecating in beds used to grow vegetables (two at once in the photo above) can be transmitting a parasitic disease known as toxoplasmosis. It’s not a rare disease. The organism is known as toxoplasma gondii. The single-celled organism reproduces in cats but infects other animals such as rats (cats’ prey) and humans. It takes up residence in the brain. In the US the Center for Disease Control warns of the danger and advises that gardeners must be sure to wear gloves.

    1. Re the cats in the photo: they are just fake silhouettes of cats as a kind of scarecrow!

    2. These two little beauties are very thin and possibly malnourished as they are only 1/16″ thick. Their eyes are glazed over too. Actually, they are plate metal with green glass eyes. They are supposed to deter bords, other cats, squirrels, etc. I don’t know that they work but we put them there when we put down a winter cover seed to stop the birds from eating the seeds. We now have a cover crop so I guess they did the job!

  15. Thank you Paul (and crew) for doing all you do in providing the inspirational blogs, vlogs, tool and project videos! It has been uplifting and motivating for myself (especially during the pandemic and isolation) anytime I’ve seen a new email of these simply because I find the content you offer real and down to earth. Keep up the great work!
    Hadn’t ever heard of vegetarian nut loaf but looking forward to trying one. 😋

  16. Happy New year’s Paul,
    I have watched you on YouTube for the last two years and I have learned so much from you .This is a wonderful blog, thank you for letting me join.

  17. Thank you paul for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I just lost a great friend in the last weeks, very sad. It just highlights how important people are in our lives. Thanks again hope you have a great year.

  18. Hi Paul,

    I wanted to wish you a happy birthday today.

    I like your blogs a lot they inspire me to greet each day and I use this to help me as I journey along in woodworking. I am building your workbench and I have had some set backs along the way but they don’t stop me from building. Most of the set backs are easy problems like split woods or defects inside the wood that I couldn’t see.

    I make my breakfasts for the entire week on the weekend. I make my own breakfast sandwich and I put in good things to eat. I can vary the flavours and store them in the fridge for he week.

  19. WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT? is, for me, perhaps the best post you have written. Thanks Paul.

  20. Happy Birthday January 4th Paul. Thanks for all of your inspirational videos of projects.
    Michael O’Brien
    Alabama, USA

    1. And I nearly forgot, as someone who shares a birthday with my mother-in-law, Happy Birthday .

  21. Thanks for the timely encouragement. Your ideas have been very helpful to me.

  22. As someone who also deals with depression, I appreciate your comments regarding motivation and the often extreme difficulty (for me) of just getting out of bed in the morning

    Sometimes just getting one important task completed first thing is all it takes. Or as you said, perhaps the first cup of coffee.

    Here’s to a better new year. Now, time to boil some water for the french press.

  23. I nearly forgot, as someone who shares a birthday with my mother-in-law, Happy Birthday .

  24. Thanks, Paul. What a wonderful and insightful piece to start this year with. I wasn’t expecting that.

  25. Happy new year Paul,
    Tank you for this friendly lesson of way of life not only for ourself but for all people around me. Take care of you and go on giving us so many good moments seeing you as woodworker and reading your really pleasant posts.
    Even in France you have so many followers. Have a good day.

  26. Hi Paul you’re comments are true and realistic I have not been out of my house for 10 months due to health problems. I have spent over a £1000 on woodworking tools and I have been trying to cut dovetails mostly and I’m rubbish at it. I now can’t get the motivation to carry on trying depression has gradually crept in I now get up in the morning and turn on the T V and watch the news. I have thought of getting rid of all of my tools but I think I’ll try again tomorrow but it hard to get motivated
    .Thanks for your posts I read them all keep up the good work.

    1. John, those reasons to get up and get motivated are out there. I find that somebody always needs a birdhouse, a cutting board, a small box. Giving gifts made with our hands make for great surprises and the gifts return in the way of smiles and hearts blessed. On the dove tails, I wrestle there too. So I backed away from dovetails and made things using simpler joinery. Guess what? By doing that I gained experience and now although I’m far from Paul’s perfect!
      I have gotten better. The number one thing that I got from Paul that has helped was his using the knife wall and cutting the notch dead up on my pencil marks. Whoops! Thats two things but knife work changed my game.

    2. Not turning on the TV, especially the news, may help from developing a depression. Nothing about what’s on the news is anything *you* can do anything about. Or are even meant to do anything about (apart from, perhaps, losing sleep). If you want to feel powerless, watching TV is a great way to achieve that. Those blasted dovetails, however, are completely within *your* ‘field of influence’. It’s just between you, the wood and the tools. No politics, anti-social media or opinions of talking heads.

      Not sure if you’ve glued up the dovetails or just discarded them as firewood, but every time I’ve made something that looks rather mediocre I did finish the workpiece anyway. Invariably, once glued up and planed flush, the joints look so much better. From a 3/10 before gluing to perhaps a 6/10, sometimes even a 7/10. My argument for gluing up anyway was that, despite not being perfect, the dovetails or mortise/tenon-joints would still be plenty strong enough and not come apart. They were fully functional, just not very pretty.

      Perseverance is key. I had your sort of trouble with freehand sharpening using oil stones. Very frustrating when you don’t succeed for years at a time (I managed to still get sharp tools, using jigs and sandpaper-method, a very time-consuming method). Then one day, it simply happened – freehand sharpened a chisel. Then another one. And another one. And within a week, I was sharpening my chisels, plane blades, etc. as if I was born with the skill….

      My takeout was that learning is very non-linear. Often not a case of continuous progress, but long plateaus, with occasional large jumps in skill. And, on average, improvement, but in individual cases plenty of relapses. Sometimes it takes the stubbornness of a mule…

      1. Responding to NEMO…Sir, I agree whole-heartedly with your assessment of television…the news. It is so easy for us to allow news and television to form our worldview. Thank you for your wisdom.

    3. John Emmerson, when you were learning to ride your bike you probably wondered when the time would come that you would stop falling off it. It’s the same with dovetails. Don’t sell your tools.

  27. A very motivational and inspirational article. I am guilty of a slight lack of motivation but also overcoming that without too much trouble. I have been setting up a very small but efficient shop the last few months. I’m loving just having the time to get it all tricked out. Ive had several shops over the years and made my living for over 20 years working as a remodeling contractor and also had a shop making european cabinets mostly for medical and dental offices. I never really got one of the shops quite as nice as I wanted as the work always got in the way and the need to produce didnt allow the time to do what I really wanted to do. Now I am retire and only make things for others as it suits me, giving me enough time to finish the shop as I have always wanted to. I normally travel about 6 months of the year but not this last year. I did spend a couple months sewing face masks for friends and family when they were not available commercially. I found that work very motivating as I could make something to help others, that they didnt have the ability to do themselves. I am jealous of your option to bike daily. I always loved riding, but where I currently spend most of my time is not conducive to riding, in fact it would be very dangerous. There is a highway that would not be good to ride on and then everything else consists of dirt country roads. Riding there would potentially cause a run in with big farm equipment or a grain hauling semi. Prior to COVID I was at the gym 4-5 days a week and loved it. Haven’t been able to do that since last march, but I did get the equipment to work out at my camp but am lacking the motivation to do so. Thats a silly personal problem that I just need to force myself to overcome. I do miss spending time with friends and family but actually I kind of enjoy the isolation. I jokingly (kind of) tell people that the older I get the more I enjoy my own company. The shop is about complete. I guess then I will just have to build stuff. Excited about that. I greatly enjoy all of your videos and have learned a lot that I have put into practice. I am a very good and competent carpenter but definitely not a woodworker yet. I find that learning woodworking vs carpentry is very enlightening and enjoyable. I think its important for everyone to have something to do that they are passionate about. Doesnt matter what it is but that will give you that reason to get up in the morning (or very late morning in my case as I like to work odd hours and tend to start late and work late). One of the things I do to help me keep on task (and I get to create the tasks) is keep several lists of things to do. It can be difficult to remember everything that needs to be done without a list. If I have an extra 15 minutes or hour I can just look on the list and find something that I need to do meeting that time frame. I find it useful to break the list down into several manageable and important benchmarks. As an example I recently built a pretty nice workbench. If I had simply added an item to the list that was “build workbench” that would be difficult to cross off of the list or keep track of any progress, so I broke it down into several separate tasks such as, complete the sketch, get the materials, prep the leg materials, build the legs build the work surface, add the shelf, install vises, apply finish. That method allowed me to see progress on the task and actually complete several tasks before completing the entire project.

  28. I used to have a subscription to master wood working when I lived in a 106 year old house but stopped when we sold. I have moved back east to Alberta and since giving all my tools and finished projects to a young woman who bought the house (and she had taken your courses funny enough) I got your Book again Woodworking 1&2. I also plan on signing on again just to support you monthly for the great work you do.

  29. Hi Paul, I’m reading this (and two more) post on the 4th of Jan, and my calendar had a note to the effect that this is Paul’s birthday. So If nothing else … you deserve a hearty Happy B’Day! Enjoy this start to your new trip around the Sun.

    Also, a truckful of ‘thank you’ for all you’ve done for a lot of us during 2020, regardless of all other conditions. Your impact resonates in the woodworking world, to be sure, but also in the daily life of the many people who read through your notes on walks, bike rides, food prep, etc. . I hope there are enough of us saying Thank You that you can see that.

    So, on to another year of reading of Sir Paul’s epistles.

  30. Happy birthday Paul and Happy New Year to you and your family. Received my copy of Essential Woodworking Hand Tools for Christmas. I have hard time putting it down as it’s so interesting. J.R. (Ronn)Winn – Vermont

  31. Hi Paul,
    Thank you for posting so many wonderful, informative videos. My Granddad was a cabinet maker and I have many of his tools. Currently I am making a workbench, learning the skills from your tutorials. I am also interested in including more vegetables in my diet and am interested in your breakfast nut roast loaf. Is the recipe available on line, I would love to try it. Thanks again for sharing your skills and offering encouragement. It means a lot to me, —-Jean from Woodstock, Illinois, USA

  32. Paul I have shared your writings with others. This motivational writing is spot on. I admire your ability to put into words what I think of but not able to put on paper. I am 76 yr old and retired and have used your writings to uplift me and allow me to explore new worlds. I thank you for writing your insight so clearly. This is one writing I will keep and refer to often. Thank you Bill. Oh Happy Birthday your cap is cute.

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