Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Do you say yes, or no?

Have you ever thought you were facing this?


That what you wanted was on the top of that, or on the other side? Or maybe worse, what you had been told you wanted, perhaps by parents or a boss, was up there. It's hard enough scrambling up something like that when you want to of your own free will, but many times harder when you've been told to.

There was a talk given where the speaker discussed brick walls as a tool to keep out the uninterested. The assumption being that you somehow needed to get over, or around, or under, or through the wall, and only the most interested people would even attempt it, let alone succeed. That the brick wall was there to keep all those other people out.

Lots of people make resolutions this time of year. The detailed list is forever long, but the short list is that people want to be better. Better in some respect. They want to improve themselves. Maybe that means finishing that degree, or getting a better job, or losing weight, or running a 5K without stopping, or an infinity of detailed ors. But better in the eyes of your current self. There are some who want to be better in the eyes of other people, and that can be a hard row to hoe.

That means change, and change can be hard. As hard as scrambling up that mountain. Part of the trick is to get habit working for you, rather than against you. If your habit is to drink beer with dinner, then drink more beer while plopped on the couch watching TV and nothing changes, it's going to be really hard to finish that 5 K race you somehow signed up for.

(And BTW, couch to 5K is the hardest race there is, harder than a marathon, harder than Ironman. Why? Because non-motion to motion is hard. Once you can do 5K, doing 10 isn't so hard. Getting to a half marathon, or a full marathon has it's challenges, but it's just more of what you're already doing. And Ironman is a swim, bike, run, three things a child can do so how hard can it be? He said with a wink.)

Small steps. Cut back on the beer, and start moving more, rather than spending the whole evening on the couch. Start going for a walk before hitting the couch. Do it every day, a short one at first, then gradually getting longer. At first it will feel weird, but our bodies are evolved to move.

Walk every day for a month, and some days you'll find yourself putting on your shoes without even thinking of it. Moving more starts burning more calories and your weight gain will slow or maybe stop. Start eating more sensibly and the weight loss will start. It doesn't necessarily mean giving up on beer totally, just have fewer.

Any goal can be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps. If you think about trying to get to the top of that mountain in one go, you will fail. But if you think about it step by step, thinking where you need to rest, what route to take, what supplies you'll need, the individual steps can become manageable. Just keep moving. Build the habit of movement. Build the habit of change.

Whatever the change, start small, and keep going. Read one page of that book. Write one page of your great novel (250 words or so, any words, edit them later.) Wash and put away the dishes before starting the TV. Spend one TV show worth of time exploring the internet on a topic that interests you and that might make something about your job go better. Learning one XL function can save you hours on at your job. Whatever it is. Every day.

So that's you, deciding to change. Good for you! Then there's all the people around you. Most don't care one way or the other. That's ok, providing you don't take it personally. Some will support you, asked or unasked, and you might be surprised by whom. Don't be afraid to ask for help, and the response will help you sort out who your friends really are. The ones who help are like a drink of water in the desert, cherish them. Thank them. Help them if you can.

Then there are the ones who don't support you, who might even actively sabotage you. This might include your friends and your family. It certainly includes almost anything you can watch on TV. Ditch those so-called friends. They will drag you back into old habits. You can find better friends.

Family is tougher. You have to decide what you want. Do you want your goal, whatever it might be, or do you want to be that old person? If you want the change badly enough you must push back on your family. It's nearly impossible to quit smoking or drinking if you hang around with smokers or drinkers. Push back. If your family won't support your goals, then they've shown themselves to be vampires. Treat them accordingly.

Lots of what you will read about change and changing is all rainbows and unicorn poop. It does take a certain optimism to change. There is an element of "lalala I'm not listening." But the brutal fact is that change is hard. After all, if it was easy everyone would do it all the time and it wouldn't be any fun anymore. It doesn't matter what your change is. You've written down your small steps where you can see them. Soap on your bathroom mirror, a note on the inside of door you leave your home by. Whatever. You have to read it, and do it. First you see it, then you be it.

Find whatever it is that helps motivate you. That beach vacation bikini taped to your fridge. A photo of the finisher medal for the race you want to do. A wine glass in a glassed in box, with the sign, "in case of emergency break (wine) glass." A photo of the office you want to move into. A model of the fancy car you will win if you hit your sales target. A picture drawn by your kids of you playing with them instead of watching TV. Use your imagination. Use anything and everything you can think of. It's your life.

The only person who can make you into the person you want to be is you. It will take every minute of every day. At first not doing the old thing is hard. Everything will drag you back. Be strong. The new you will seem weird. You'll feel like a dork the first time you walk out of the change room to the pool deck wearing a new suit, wondering what lane to 'swim' in. Then the pool will become home. I know this, I've done it, and I've seen others do it. At first you'll think you don't belong in your new herd, and maybe they seem a little suspicious of you. That's ok, you're new to them. Hang in there, show them you belong. Keep trying. A hundred, a thousand times a day you'll think "I want x." Whatever that might be, it's your old you trying to program your nascent new you.

Stay strong. Recognize the old you for what it had done, good or bad, to get you where you are. Thank it, sarcastic or otherwise, then move on. Do what it takes. It's not easy. You'll slip up from time to time. Get up again, punch the world in the throat, and keep going. Do what it takes, this minute, to say yes to the new you, and no to the old you. Again and again. Success is all the sweeter for being hard to earn.

Are you going to say yes, or no? What changes do you want to make?

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