I just read this great article about habits and resolutions. If you, like me, are hoping for some success in these areas, shoot for Valentine’s Day first. Apparently, that’s the point at which most people are done. This article talks about how to make it stick.
It’s still the first week of 2016. The very first week. Inside 7 days. Like, if I’d started driving to California on January 1st, I’d hardly be there by now from where I live.
And it’s already hard.
This is where many people give up. It’s likely where I have always given up.
But I have chosen this year–2016–to be the year I do not give up. Intentionally.
So I had to look at all of it and say, “How do I make this year different?” How will this year not be like the others. The answer is pretty simple, really. It’s the same reason that certain marriages survive when so many others don’t. It’s not because life for the survivors is better…or perfect…or easier. It’s because the survivors–the hangers-on–have chosen to keep their grip. You don’t give up, because you just don’t.
All the love I had for my resolutions two days ago is gone. I’m home from the honeymoon. My resolutions are still pretty and they still sound good. But they’re hard and I’m not feeling it. I wonder if I’m up to the task.
It wasn’t the smoothest of mornings. I woke up with enough mucous in my head to supply a family of 6 (thinking I might do this or at least tweet about it). My kids are coughing and were at each other before 7 a.m. about who got to sit in front of the fake logs (this is a real thing. I’m not making it up.). My neighbor–we’ll call him Denny, because that about fits how I feel about him this morning–has the city digging up my yard because of his sewer problem. And I didn’t get as much as a post-it note on my door warning me that by noon there’d be no more grass in my front yard. Awesome.
So I’m in a crummy mood and my pants are tight and a backhoe is in my yard. And this is the point at which a donuts day might be just the thing. Or a morning of Hallmark movies. When you are sick, or exhausted, or frustrated– a new year of trying might begin to seem hopeless. But it’s not hopeless. It’s just hard.
So what am I going to do now that the
love grass is gone?
What do I do when my pants are tight, even though I’m making an effort that isn’t showing up (yet)? Well, I’m gonna put on pants, I can assure you. I haven’t been able to find an acceptable pantsless society, so I’m going to have to wear the tight pants.
The following list is for me. If it benefits anyone else, so be it. But I’m making the list for me.
How to make progress when you hit a wall:
(1) Acknowledge that what you’re doing is hard. If it was easy it wouldn’t be a New Year’s resolution, it would be this morning’s to-do list.
(2) Accept where you are today. Better habits are good. Change is good. But there’s danger in deciding you hate where you are–or who you are–now. The person I am today is the one making the decisions, writing the lists, building the accountability buddies, etc. That person got me where I am today. Don’t be mean to her.
(2) Be patient. Again, your resolutions are long-term and slow-going. If you get there too quickly, you won’t get to remain there.
(3) Pace yourself. Remember the tortoise and the hare. Though I’ve never seen a tortoise or a hare in the wild, and it’s possible they don’t even exist, there’s a reason this is a wildly popular folktale. The person sprinting like a mad hare toward the finish is probably going to poop out and go eat some cabbage by the side of the road. The person stepping and a slow, steady, consistent pace will finish, however slowly.
(4) Be consistent. Whatever you’ve mapped out for yourself to do, do it. Consistently. Don’t take a week off for donuts. Don’t worry about how much progress you did or didn’t make in an hour or an afternoon or a day. Just take consistent steps toward the goal.
(5) Don’t feel. Do. Who cares if your head is full of mucous and Denny dug up your last remaining patch of St. Augustine grass? Who cares if the scale doesn’t move or the pants rise up against you in the night with a serrated knife? Who cares if the love is gone? You made a resolution. You resolved. The definition of resolution (which incidentally, I cannot spell on the first time through. Ever.) is a firm decision to do or not to do something. So what’s on your to-do list today? Do as much as you can muster for the day that you’re having. Each day has its own challenges and parameters, but you can make progress, however small, every day. Do. The feeling will come.
As I was typing this list to myself, a call came in to my cell phone. It was a city number, and since there’s city people crawling all over the front yard today, I figured I should answer it. So I did. It was the Automated Library Lady with a message for me: “According to our records, you have 5 items that are very overdue. Please return your items to the nearest library branch as soon as possible.” Very overdue? I have never heard this before. Do they really use adverbs now? Was she intending to make me feel guilt or just to get my books back faster? I have chosen to forgive her for her judgmental tone and am adding one final thing to today’s list:
(6) Return very overdue library books.
They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. They say this and they chuckle. I think you can only chuckle if you are fully confident that you are not standing on that road, paving that road yourself with your own good intentions. I stopped chuckling a long time ago. My intentions were almost always good. But they were almost never successful. I could wallpaper the Biltmore Estate with my resolutions lists. I don’t remember ever finishing any of them. Ever.
However. HOWEVER! I refuse to give up. I believe with my entire heart that people can always change. And while I believe there’s a place for cutting myself some slack and being content with who and what I am, I know who and what I want to be and don’t intend to quit. Not yet.
So I say that the road to success is paved with good intentions. The road to Heaven. The road to being Intentional.
My word of the year, for the whole year, is Intentional. Whatever I do this year, whether it’s spending a day in PJs while watching You’ve Got Mail or whether it’s finally entering a 10K and surviving it, I will do it on purpose.
I will save money intentionally. Get healthy intentionally. Parent better intentionally. Run the house more efficiently. Read the Bible cover-to-cover for the first time in my life. None of these things ever happen accidentally, after all.
It applies to everything. And it’s not that hard. It only requires a couple of major things: The first is that I redeem my time. I can’t let life schedule ME. I have to be holding the leash. And it requires making consistent and daily deposits into all of these banks. It requires being 100% proactive. I can’t intentionally procrastinate and have this work out for me in the end.
I intend to do many things.
I do not intend to fail.
We shall see, now won’t we?
It is January 2 of a brand new year. Yesterday, as hopefully you know, was January 1st. New Year’s. A new year in every way. I didn’t realize until now how much I love the new year. It’s because I live in constant fear of my own mistakes and in constant regret when I make them. I am bad at letting things go. And the beautiful thing about a new year is that you get a free pass to crumple up that previous one with any exponential number of regrets and drop it in the nearest trash receptacle. And then you get to take out that fresh, white piece of paper and pretend that maybe this year…this year...it will be different. I will be different. I will do that thing. I will make the change. I’m sorry this turned into Man in the Mirror. That was subconscious, I assure you.
I saw the memes all over Facebook yesterday and each time there was a different country singer credited as the author. (Someone has a good lawsuit waiting.) It said: “Today is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” There is something to this. I buy in 100%. Especially on January 1. Because as of yesterday, I hadn’t done a single thing poorly. Not one thing! I was 100% successful. My book was awesome. Riveting. Inspirational.
Wanting to celebrate my 90 minutes of mistake-free New Year’s Triumph (it was 9:30 a.m.), I took my new fitness tracker and went out on a walk. Shortly into this walk, I encountered a runner wearing a race bib. This person wasn’t exactly running. Nor were the stragglers behind him. It became clear to me within moments of my first racer sighting that this was the end of the race. The very end. These guys had been at it for awhile. They had been BEAT UP by this race. And as I climbed the only hill in my flat central FL tinytown, I saw the last place runner coming toward me. I know she was last place because she was being followed by a police car with his lights on. So either she was being arrested for running too slow, or he was the cop signaling the end of the race.
This woman was struggling. She was barely in it. I visually took her in, as much as I could, in the few moments we intersected. I somewhat unintentionally locked eyes with her briefly as she continued her woggle (jog + walk + wobble) down that hill, and she managed a weak, sheepish, almost apologetic smile at me. It was a smile that said she was embarrassed. She was sorry she wasn’t faster, thinner, nimbler, edgier. She seemed sorry it was her in front of that cop car. She seemed sorry I saw her. Sorry we made eye contact. She’d been caught in last place. But I wasn’t sorry at all. Because right then it hit me: A last place finish is still a finish. She was slow, sure. She was struggling, clearly. But she was IN THAT RACE. She had a bib on. She wore the sweat like a trophy. She had the cop car behind her. She was going to finish that race. And she did.
Me? I didn’t even know about the race until I turned off my street to take my January 1 Victory Walk. I wasn’t in the race at all. Last place was ahead of me. This year, I want in on the race. I want in. I want to be official. So I’ve picked a word I’ve been thinking about for years but never turned into a profit. This year I want to be intentional. I will do life intentionally.
I am entering the race. On purpose. Intentionally. And if I finish last, I still finish. And in good company, I’m just guessing.
That’s the goal.
Happy New Year!