We’ve turned the corner into the New Year. It’s a fresh start; a clean slate. So naturally it’s a perfect time for many – perhaps even you – to make some resolutions or set some lofty goals regarding changes you want to make in your world. Perhaps you want to make more money, get a new job or seek out better clients. Or maybe you’re ready to let go of unnecessary clutter, manage your time better, read more, meet more people, expand or bolster your network, or have better conversations. Or, if you are like many people, you want to eat better, lose weight, and get back in shape.
Let’s talk about that last one as an example.
I observed this on my way home from the grocery store this morning: a middle-aged woman I’ve never seen before jogging very ploddingly and painfully up the hill that winds into my neighborhood. She wasn’t wearing typical workout gear and was panting. She was clearly exhausted. I’m guessing she has never jogged (let alone walked) up that hill – or anywhere – for a very long time. She was hunched over, and her hair hung loosely around her face. I have to hand it to her though: she was still moving along.
This scene made me sad.
It almost seemed like she was punishing herself; atoning for a horrible sin. Or perhaps something (a snarky comment from her spouse, an upcoming class reunion, or a TV infomercial) moved her to launch into a new and highly aggressive exercise program after several weeks (or perhaps many years) of overeating and not taking care of her health and fitness. Or maybe it was just an overabundant Holiday Season and her pants didn’t fit.
I’m seeing similar scenes at my gym. The place is suddenly packed with very enthusiastic newbies who are diving into new exercise programs. They give themselves away because you can see them taking on far too much, far too soon. And they look miserable. They are going all Jillian Michaels or Steve Austin on themselves before they are ready. They are not having fun.
The sad truth is that most of them will lose interest, burn out, or even hurt themselves in some way before January is over. And they will retreat to their desks, easy chairs, and sofas and unhealthy habits.
It’s very human to get fired up about a positive change we want to make. But, being human and living in an ambitious world that gives us so much instant gratification, we often dive in to changes expecting immediate results. Therefore we typically overdo it and quit before any change is complete. It’s painful, we’re not really integrating the new habits gradually into our lives, and it’s no fun. Therefore it’s unsustainable.
We’ve all done it.
Are you doing this (or about to do it) in your work or life? If so, how about this: how about going easy on yourself and trying another approach. How about making just a few changes – maybe even just one that you really are passionate about. And strive for gradual, steady, and sustainable effort. The kind that allows you to realistically add an activity to your already packed schedule or To Do List and accomplish small but important changes, everyday and over time. The results may not happen overnight. But they will happen.
My mental note for this is “To make forward progress everyday.” I ask myself each evening if I’ve done this in the areas where I want to make positive changes. Some days the answer is “yes.” Other days it’s “not so much.” But I keep trying because I’ve made it easier and more pleasant to do so.
Could you spend 15 minutes reading something inspiring each day? Could you have one less glass of wine or coffee? Could you take your dogs for a 20 minute walk each evening? Or do that yoga class a couple of times a week, then increase it to three? Or make two business development calls each morning? You get the idea. Small, simple changes regularly and in a dedicated and highly manageable fashion.
Maybe this can work for you?
I’d love to know when and how you’ve made changes in your life, from the simple to the astounding. I encourage you to share your ideas and comments below.
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So true. I face the same challenge with my writing and all the ways I market myself as a writer. I planned to spend the Christmas-New Year’s break writing my book, recording my new podcast, promoting my new podcast, writing 3 blogs, AND submitting some stories.
Looking back over the last couple weeks, the podcast activities won. I could beat myself up for not working on the book yet, or not getting my company blog updated, but instead I’ve found great challenge and joy producing and coming up with fun ways to promote my podcast. And the recording process is getting more streamlined. Plus, my work there is trickling over to other creative work and how I approach my day job.
Great thoughts for the new year. Thanks, Patti!
Thanks, Hope, for sharing what you’re experiencing. I had huge ambitions for what I would do with my “free” time over the Holiday Break. Hah! I did get quite a few things done – some that weren’t even initially on my list but became very important to me and seemed timely. Other things just fell by the wayside. Ah well. I am going to work on NOT beating myself up over all the things I’m not getting done instantly. And, again, my mantra of “Forward progress each day” is my measuring stick. We do what we can, as we are able (and inspired). Best to you in the New Year!
This is beautiful advice, Patti. It is well timed for me: last night I journalled about equilibrium and feeling bipolar in how I use my energy. My physical therapist mentor says we should only increase our workouts 1-3% at a time. Maybe this follows in many areas of life.
Thanks Cameron. That is an excellent formula for lots of things. I was talking to a trainer at the gym today and he said this time of year the words he speaks most often to his new clients is “Whoa! Settle down! Let’s take this slow and steady!” Makes sense!
Wow! Just… WOW!!
Thanks, Jan, for the “Wow’s” of approval! And for being a subscriber / reader!