This time of the year always brings a bit of sadness to me. The middle of February is the start of the end. It is the moment where someone’s desire, motivation and optimism to turn over a new leaf, kick a bad habit(s) to the curb, start being healthier and more active starts to go stale and decay. It makes me sad because I know how excited they were to change and move away from being the person that they are currently. They were excited to leave behind the disappointment, embarrassment and guilt about choices they were making and start a life of pride, self-respect and joy.
The challenge that they face is their approach is most likely doomed from the start.
We are fed a constant stream of images and ideas that progress and change happens because you do epic things. Some big cleanse, a killer workout or a complete flip in lifestyle. The concept is set that if you can’t be epic, then change is impossible. Go big or stay home! No pain – no gain! If you are not going 110%, it isn’t enough.
So starting on January 1st, with the proclamation of their New Year’s resolution made public the night before, people begin their epic transformation and get after it. Hard! They push and are sore. They starve and are hungry. They quit and crave. They willpower and feel weak. Then they do it again and again and again….. until they just can’t keep it up anymore. The epic transformation becomes and epic fail as they watch and feel their new, better life slip away as they return to who they are. It feels good to not fight and struggle. It feels good to return to the comfort and ease of the old life. Until is doesn’t.
Disappointment. Embarrassment. Guilt.
Many people then believe that they can’t change. They believe that they are not strong enough to be epic. Once again to them, it is proven that failure was the expected outcome. So, then why try.
Resolutions are things that people do. Actions that they take. They rarely every work. A person who is on a diet still wants to eat the cupcake, but tries to have the willpower not to. Who they are, at their core, is still someone who wants to eat the cupcake and they are trying to do something that is in conflict with who they are. It will never work.
A reorientation is becoming the person who you want to be because your reason to be different is truly who you want to be. When in this mindset, you stop doing things and you start being. And while you are being, you start to making more choices to move towards something and fewer choices to move away from other things.
I was out on a run one morning with Jason a few years back. We ran past the bakery near the caboose on the Monon and the smells of the fresh bread and the pastries came floating across the trail. I smelled longingly, because at the time, I was trying to not eat gluten and sugar. I was moving away from something. It wasn’t going to last. I asked Jason if he missed having bread, because his body couldn’t process gluten. Without any twang of loss, he said absolutely not. If he ate it, it made him sick and feel absolutely miserable. He was making choices from a place of knowing who he was and was choosing to move towards having a happy tummy and body instead of away from the cinnamon roll that was hot out of the oven. He was successful and it was going to last.
In my opinion, the key to reorienting yourself is threefold: purpose, grace and doing small things often. To reorient yourself, you need to know where you are headed and the path you are going to take to get there. Know your why, decide who you want to be and what you are choosing to move towards. You also need to realize that between black and white there is a whole rainbow of colors. Many more than the 64 size box of crayons. But even if it were just 64 colors to go through to get from one end of the spectrum to the other, each step is closer to being the person you want to be than the moment before. Each step and each choice is being the person who you strive to be and less of the person who you want to leave behind. Every small choice, each small little moment is one step closer to the new you. Every moment forward is then you being authentically you in an honest way. Some of those authentic choices might feel like a step backwards and that is just the reality of who you are in that moment, but it isn’t a declaration that your next moment and your next choice won’t be stepping in a more positive direction.
I am a person who likes to have some significant moment to start something new. It feels clean and easy to justify a change if there is some kind of moment where others can understand why. I think that this is why New Year’s Eve will always be that moment for many people to reflect and evaluate where they are at in their lives. Ultimately any life moment with some weight is that moment to reflect: birthday, finding out you are pregnant, moving to a different town, signing up for a marathon, the end of a relationship or a visit to your doctor to name a few. I invite you, when your moment of reflection happens, to pick one small, but significant choice, and celebrate the new you making that decision in a totally non-epic way.