Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"That's Just the Way It Is..."

"...Some things will never change."

I am quoting Bruce Hornsby for a reason here, I promise. 

"Thanks for the shout-out, Cory!"
Everyone I know, including me, likes to think big around the New Year. We recognize that the New Year is symbolic and not a literal new beginning, but we've built enough ceremonies and rituals around New Year's that it's now part of our culture. Our sense of renewal is very real. 

When it comes to making resolutions, we like to go big. For example, going from almost no exercise at all to hitting the gym five days a week. Or, quitting a vice we've held for decades, cold turkey. Or, most irrationally, deciding not to eat butter, even though it's the most important meal of the day. 

"Dinner is served!"
With this caliber of resolution, it's no wonder we fail. Maybe we visit the gym regularly for three weeks, but then we realize that five days a week isn't sustainable, so we cut down to three days, then two days, then none.  

And then we feel bad. But we shouldn't. It's ambitious and admirable but totally insane to make such a big decision about the rest of our lives, especially when the proposed lifestyle change is so monumental. We might as well say, "From now on, I will play in the NBA." 

I think we should start thinking smaller. I'm all for bettering ourselves, but when people make "overnight" changes in their lives, these changes usually seem to be the product of several smaller changes that slowly happened over time. Someone who is 100% sedentary doesn't just wake up one day and say "Now I run marathons." They wake up one day and say, "I'm going to go for a walk." Then, they wake up the next day and say the same thing. Then, six months later, they might wake up and say, "I think I'll try running." 

"This is great fun!" said the LIAR.
Making personal changes isn't a sprint, or even a marathon; it's a crawl up a steep hill, with your old habits grabbing at your ankles, trying to pull you down. When it doesn't work out like we'd hoped, we feel that we've failed. But, if we learn even one thing from our journey, I'd call it a success. 

We also give ourselves unrealistic timelines. What sounds more reasonable: losing 100 pounds this year, or eating a healthy meal for lunch? When we set the bar too high, we are sabotaging ourselves. We need to think in terms of today. Not eating Doritos for the rest of my life is impossible, but I can avoid them today, and that is a victory. 

Maybe just one.
One final thing I've noticed about resolutions: They often come from a place of self-judgment, rather than a place of self-love. We think, "I'm terrible at money so I am going to quit being such a slacker!" instead of "I deserve to be financially stable, so I am going to treat myself right." It's semantic, sure, but we believe what we say about ourselves. 

This New Year's, perhaps the most important resolution is to love yourself without condition, failures and all. Cut yourself some slack. Make changes out of respect for who you are, not loathing. 

I know it sounds impossible. I'm terrible at it, too. But we deserve it. 

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