Happy New Year! It is that time again. Time for the symbolic “do-over” we all receive every January. A chance to start fresh. A chance to do better. A chance to finally do what you—and perhaps your nagging partner—have known that you needed to do for a long time. It is RESOLUTION TIME!!!
I have never been much for New Year’s resolutions. Up until two years ago, I stubbornly ignored the prospect altogether. I think it is because I always associated it with giving something up, like candy or soda. That didn’t sound like any fun to me. There is also my lifelong aversion to limitations. I cannot stand to be restrained in any way, and my narrow idea of resolutions saw them holding me back. For example, if my New Year’s resolution was to lose ten pounds and I did that by June, what did that leave for the rest of the year? So, I never bothered with a resolution.
As 2013 commenced, I changed my perspective on resolutions a bit and decided it would be good for me to challenge myself. So, I made a Daily To-Do List, which included several items that I wanted to not simply do once and be done with for the year, but to do every day of the year (see my post “Your Everyday To-Do List” from May 2014). I kept that priority list posted on my vanity and desk; it reminded me—or perhaps shamed me, I am not sure which—into acting better. I liked that. Did I get to them all every day, or even most days? Not exactly. Some of them became solid habits and mindsets, but a couple of them just never latched onto my daily routine. Still, that, for me, was a positive spin on resolution-making.
Whenever I think about things like goals, aspirations, agendas, or resolutions, I always find it more helpful to couch the question in terms of how I want to feel rather than what I want to do? I ask myself how I want to feel this year. The answer provides the soil for my seeds of resolution. This year, I want to feel impassioned, healthy & energized, challenged, of service, creative, impactful, at peace, nurturing, clear, and like I am growing. With those things clear in my heart and mind, I can then ask the follow-up question: “What can I DO to help me feel the way I want to feel?” The answer to this question is crucial. It is the packet of seeds to plant in the well-prepared soil. When the two are mixed and carefully tended, how can I possibly go wrong? I am sure to flourish this year. Right?
Well, maybe there is more to it. Gardens tend to grow weeds, too, and those weeds can suffocate even the most beautiful flowers. In the garden of resolutions, the weeds are excuses. Born from self-doubt, excuses suffocate us in two treacherous ways. First, they strike down our visions for a better life. Before we even make our list of goals or resolutions, they tell us why we have no business dreaming so big, that we should set our sights on something lower and more “realistic”, and that our past is a perfect indication of the limits of our future. “Think small, dream small, and you won’t be so disappointed,” they say. Second, excuses offer us a crutch for the goals or resolutions we don’t achieve. They make it someone else’s fault. They allow us to accept less because, after all, it is out of our hands. They give us a pass and don’t ask us to look in the mirror to make sure we really challenged ourselves, really did all we could, and really didn’t accept less than our very best. Then that general, Self-doubt, and its infantry of Excuses really muddy the waters by mixing the lowered expectations with a free pass for not meeting them. In the end, we are left with low self-esteem and the visual evidence for why it should be that way. It is a cancerous environment. Weeds!
I have felt the poison of self-doubt and excuses creep into my own process this year. As the New Year has crept closer, I have been pondering the way I want to feel and thus the way I want to live and the things I want to accomplish. It is ambitious stuff, no doubt. I set my sights high in many areas that matter most to me, such as quality time spent with my family, career transitions and aspirations, writing projects, personal enrichment challenges, and finally, health and fitness. And while I have felt the self-doubt and excuses rise up to challenge me on all fronts, I have been especially aware of them in the health and fitness category this year.
Feeling—and, I admit, looking—healthy, lean, and energetic have always been very important to me. I think I came to Earth with this drive, the same way others arrive with an innate drive to cook, race things, or heal people. Most years, I have not even been aware of my drive for fitness and how much I value it, as it has come relatively easily. I have been reasonably fit all my life, and when I am not able to exercise, or if I feel like I am losing the look or feel of an athletic body, I become quite frustrated and disappointed with myself. So, as I have been envisioning a lean, vibrant, and athletic body carrying me through the coming year, I have been extremely aware of an unusually strong barrage of self-doubt-driven excuses hurling themselves at me. I am now questioning what I once took for granted.
Over the past couple of years—my 40s, argh–I have become increasingly aware of belly fat. Maybe it was there before and I was just better at denial, but these days it seems I am painfully aware of its presence. I know that it is winning the war over my mind when I start to think that maybe I won’t ever lose it, that it is part of me, not just something a few weeks of running will take care of. (Cue the depressing music)
That running speaks to my second big doubt/excuse. This Fall, for the first time in ages, I did not have a gym membership and thus took up running outdoors for my cardiovascular fitness. I was doing weights at home and figured I could be fitter than ever with a few times per week of running. Heck, I was even preparing my mind to become a Winter runner, braving the frigid cold and wind for the sake of my health. I was committed! Then, just a few weeks into my routine and getting hooked (and fit), I pulled my calf muscle. It was devastating and frustrating simultaneously. Those feelings were multiplied in the weeks and months that followed, as each time I gave it a few weeks to heal and then tried to run again, the muscle popped. Over and over. Then, on my first full run with it feeling solid, the other leg did the same thing. Pop! “#@$&!!!!” So the process started over. Over and over again. My wife has said numerous times, “It is your body telling you that you can’t run anymore. Ever.” I really don’t want to believe that, but somehow my self-doubt has latched onto that comment and ridden it all the way into my psyche. (Cue the extra-depressing music)
With my ever-softening belly and my useless legs as background, I entered this little break for the holidays still doing my best to keep the excuses for an unhealthy, low-energy year at bay. I planned to get a little exercise while on vacation and build some momentum heading into the New Year. Then I proceeded to catch a bug that laid me out for my entire vacation. I was feverish, weak, and in pain. And, oh yeah, very frustrated. It felt like one last joke my body was playing on me for the year, just so I don’t get my hopes up and generate some real aspirations for next year.
It was lots of ammunition against my ambitions for a healthy, fit, and active body. My excuses are right there for me. I am getting old, maybe too old to stop the slide. My muscles can no longer hold up to vigorous exercise. And any little microorganism can knock me out for a week, further diminishing my muscle tone and lung capacity. I am a wreck! A wreck with excuses.
But stronger than any excuse is the choice to NOT use it. Those all seem like pretty good excuses for me to give myself a pass on getting back to fitness this year. But I choose to reject them. I am going to choose a different attitude, one that will make it easier to choose action steps that work for my values. I am going to choose to get back on the weights, figure out a cardiovascular option that works for me and my injuries, implement yoga, and eat better than I have before. I love The Gift of Choice! Instead of choosing excuses for the New Year, I am choosing ME.
How about you? What are your excuses for the coming year? Open up your journal and write out all of the things you think are holding you back from living your best life this year. What does your best life look like? What do you see yourself doing? What new habits would you like to add to your lifestyle and schedule? What things are dragging you down and need to be reduced or eliminated from your life? Who do you want to spend more time with? Less time with? How do you want to BE? What activities make you feel the way you want to feel? Can you see yourself really living the life you imagine? Okay, so what is keeping you from taking the steps to live that life? What stories are you telling yourself about why you can’t have that life? How long have you been telling yourself these stories? How is that working for you so far? Maybe it is time to tell yourself a new story. One with more dreams and fewer excuses, more passion and less self-doubt. I would love to hear that story. Leave me a reply and let me know: What is your New Year’s story?
The best time is now,