Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? I can’t remember the last time I made one. Every year, I have vague ideas about what I’d like to do differently, but I never put anything concrete down into words because I don’t trust myself to see them through. I have project-specific commitment-phobia. I might stick with something for a few weeks, but struggle just as things are starting to pick up. I don’t lose interest so much as I lose faith in my abilities, completely selling myself on the idea that I’m “not good enough” to go after something I want, which is becoming a tired insecurity. I’m only “not good enough” when I don’t put forth a substantial effort. People tend to put more emphasis on being rather doing, when doing is what will determine your state of being.
And the worst thing you can do after deciding on a thing is to overthink it, as the plight of the overthinker is that it’s easier not to do something than to think about doing it and how you’re doing it and whether or not you’re doing it well or right. My cousin, Emily (pictured above), once said something to me that I still haven’t been able to accomplish but that is a resolution in itself: “Decide on what you’re going to do, but first decide on its consequences.” Bad planning is refusing to see potential obstacles. This past year has shown me just how easily I’ve let obstacles stand in my way. Yes, they can be debilitating, but they don’t have to overpower you.
For instance, I woke up this morning with every intention of going to the gym when I realized a sharp pain in my neck would not allow me to do so. But while I wouldn’t be physically capable of lifting weights over my head or even accomplishing some of my regular yoga poses later that night, I could walk the stairs in my office throughout the day. No, it’s not exactly circuit training, but it’s something I could do to counteract the obstacle. There have also been nights where I only managed ten minutes of yoga or just stretched in bed because I couldn’t work in a lengthy practice. Don’t focus on not getting something done to the level you originally planned, but on not letting the obstacle defeat you. Push back however hard you can, in whatever way you can.
One of the biggest challenges I face when creating new habits is consistency. I used to make it really hard on myself. I’d plan out these intense and intricate schedules and routines, and if I slipped somewhere it would nip away at my confidence, my level of dedication, my resolve. My mind would immediately jump to quitting because obviously I couldn’t hack the workload. But then I learned I wasn’t creating a workload, I was creating a habit, and if these habits felt like work then I would inevitably fail.
It’s not that forming good habits doesn’t take a certain amount of work. Of course it does. But it has to be manageable in a way that allows your growth process to develop naturally, so that you’re not forcing your body into a foreign practice. I honestly believe that my body was at war with me sometimes when I first started working out, because I didn’t properly prepare it for the level of sophistication I wanted it to achieve. The same goes for my writing practice or my yoga practice or even something as domestic as meal prepping. They say “baby steps” for a reason. You have to build knowledge around what you’re doing before you can move forward.
So, for 2019, instead of making a handful of resolutions, I’m going to focus on two things: pace and response. I know I want to reinvigorate practices in writing, yoga, training, and meal preparation, but they all have to be in service to one another and they all have to be manageable habits. I usually don’t discuss things I want to do with other people because I’m afraid they’ll ask me about it and I’ll have to tell them that I flaked, so then I end up keeping it to myself and I flake anyway. The great thing about being open with others, especially people who inhabit your daily life, is that by doing so you create a support system.
Ideally, the people you open up with about these things will encourage you in your aspirations, but you also shouldn’t strive to make everyone happy. Of course, sacrificing your time to develop these practices for someone in need will be your call. You certainly don’t want to risk neglecting anyone you care about. And sometimes inviting someone who is in an emotional rut to partake in, say, a yoga class with you (or offering to do something within their interests) can not only be a way to sustain your own practices but to also be there for someone who needs you. You don’t want to be so strict with yourself that you develop no tolerance for leniency. Special circumstances are allowed.
What I try to avoid, though, is treating everything like a special circumstance. Sometimes, we come dangerously close to using non-urgent situations as an excuse not to do something. In that case, you are not sustaining a lifestyle, belief system, or habit, but saying that you never took yourself seriously in the first place. This is only negative because you lose your integrity this way. It’s like telling yourself, yet again, that you’re “not good enough” or worth putting in an effort for. If you don’t want to live the kind of life you’ve created for yourself, just remember to consider the consequences of disabling that life before you decide to change it. Will you be okay with that reality? I never was. 2018 taught me what I need in my life in order to thrive. It taught me what my weaknesses are. Most importantly, it taught me how to resolve them.