I stopped making New Year’s Resolutions years ago, but it’s difficult to let go of all of the associated behavior. I have always set goals, made checklists, self-reflected on where I am and where I want to be. I do this all the time and just a little more around natural times of transition (e.g., New Year’s). What makes my goal setting and attempts at behavior change different from a resolution is that I’m not really “resolved,” there’s no cliff I might fall off, no failure I cannot come back from, no hard line of any kind. My method of achieving my goals is a gentle push onward that incorporates subtle and gross shifts, steps backward and to the side. It doesn’t matter how far off course I get, I am always on course forward. I wasn’t always this way...
When I was younger (not that much younger) I did the yo-yo diet thing. I hit the gym every day for 4 months and then crashed. I hit the gym every other day for two years and then crashed. I found new ways of eating, new ways of being in my skin. I picked up hobbies and put them down. I picked up jobs and careers then changed my mind. I use to feel ashamed and afraid that was all I could be. Yes, I achieved degrees, I got promotions, I hit milestones, but later than some of my friends, and the picture of the path I took seemed a bizarre and unruly shape. What was I doing with my life?
When I came back to yoga, I knew it was the last time it would be a first time. Something had shifted in me. Instead of seeing my path like the first drawing of a three-year-old who just learned how to hold a crayon, I was honest with myself about my accomplishments, about my slow but persistent change, about how far I had come. Even though I use to be afraid I would never reach my potential, I was more afraid that I would, and it seemed like a heavy weight and scary endeavor to truly, honestly try. So, I made a lot of half-way gestures out of fear of what going all the way might do to me, how I might change, who I might become. I didn’t want to lose the me I knew. Then, I came to a moment, or maybe it was many seemingly indistinct and unexceptional moments gingerly gathering like mist condensing on a windowpane to form a fat, heavy droplet that suddenly streaks across the glass as if it were late for something. I had always been making progress. All of my half steps added up to many whole steps and I could suddenly see them stretching before me, a discernible path.
I saw with different eyes the journey that placed me on my yoga mat one day, teaching a class about calming breath, talking about the parasympathetic nervous system, self-regulation, and emotional resilience. I never could have predicted this path. I felt full and grateful and content. Yet, I knew it was not the last stop, there will be many more for me.
Today, I don’t give up now when I make a mistake, I don’t throw in the towel, I don’t quit yoga when I need to take off a few weeks or a few months to heal an injury or heal my heart. I am on my life’s journey and it doesn’t stop when I pause, it keeps going, gently nudging me along like a soft breeze at my back. I don’t go on an ice cream bender and give up on salad because I had some mozzarella sticks! I don’t diet. I seek balance. I look at what I’ve done, and I seek balance. Even in ways you might not suspect. If I am going too hard at one of my goals, focusing all of my energy and attention on my Yoga Therapy training and not going for walks with my husband and dog, I ease off. I give myself space and freedom.
I don’t make resolutions, I make plans.
There are a lot of 30-day and 21-day challenges happening this time of year. How many of you have ever completed one of these? I never did. The worst was how helpless I felt when I didn’t follow through. That emotional energy never motivated me to try harder, it caused me to fear trying and failing. If you did complete a 21- or 30-day challenge, did it change your life afterward? Did it lead to 365 days and then another year and another? Or did you drop it because it was too much too soon?
I encourage my students to find just one class a week that fits their schedule and sign up for the same class every week for four weeks. That’s one hour a week or four hours a month. That’s doable! That's enough to be a catalyst for change because success is likely, and it motivates. It takes longer but it lasts. Maybe after a few months one class leads to two - that’s great - but perhaps it stays one class a week and instead leads to including a few more vegetables and one less serving of meat a week, that’s great too! Positive results in one area of your life beget positive results elsewhere, and aren’t we looking for wellness and success in all aspects of our lives? Yoga isn't the only thing, but if built with time and care, it can be a foundation to support all of the other things.
Take the slow road, take the weird path, keep your gaze ahead and when you fall down let the gentle breeze of your inner strength lift you up and nudge you on, maybe sideways or in a circle for a bit, that’s life! After some time, the coherent path will reveal itself. We don’t need guilt, shame, fear, comparisons, envy or idealization of the “other” who could do it when we didn’t (not “couldn’t”). We need compassion, patience, and a little grace. We’ll get there. Just start with one. If you the miss the next one, start again… no one is keeping score but you.
Rest is necessary. Balance underpins wellness. Resolutions do not fit into my paradigm anymore. How are they working for you? Maybe they are! We’re all different and your path might be a fast train on a straight track. Let’s talk. There’s more to this than meets the eye and what I’ve put in these words before you. What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.
I encourage new students in my studio to sign up for 15-minute consultations with me so I can get to know their needs and help them set and work toward achievable goals. If you’d like to talk with me, feel free to sign up and let’s get to know one another.