Begin Where You Are; Begin Again.
I had high hopes for 2020! I just knew I was gonna start the year off right! From day one I was going to adopt those healthy habit’s I’d always struggled with, and I was gonna kill that novel manuscript dead by day eight!
But then I got sick and my plans went out the window.
New Year’s Resolutions are built on judgment–how well we did last year, how well we expect ourselves to do this year–and by this time of year the shine of our goals may have worn thin. I know I’m a victim of the perfection beast looming about this time each year, telling me I’ve failed because I tripped at what should have been a running start.
I’ve learned, though, not to listen to that beast and that it’s ok not to be at 100% right out of the gate. How? Well, I’ve got a couple principles I’ve gleaned from some mindfulness practices helping me keep those unrealistic expectations in check so I’m actually more productive!
First: Begin where you are
It’s pointless pushing yourself beyond your current limits. Whatever you used to be able to do, or what the person next to you is doing, you have to assess where you are and start there. Trying to start where you aren’t is just madness and will lead to burn out or worse: injury.
Story time! Daily fitness is a goal of mine this year and about a week after I finally recovered from my nasty cold, I went to the gym. Here I was, thinking my week of yoga and past experience was gonna help me get fit fast. I was gonna nail that work out! I walked and jogged for a bit then went to my old nemesis: the stair master! I didn’t think much of it–after all, what’s ten minutes? Turns out all it took was 8 before I was stumbling off of the machine, light-headed, only to land on my butt in front of it because, dear readers, I am an idiot and only barely didn’t faint off of the stair master and break my neck.
Point is: past you is not current you. That other guy murdering the stair master? Also not you. Figure out where you are now and build up from there! I’m currently working my way back up to stairs, and I’m gonna make it–preferably with less fainting on the way!
Second: Begin again
Failure happens. Sometimes we skip a day of working out, or eat a cake, or don’t write for a few days, or forget that our to-do list is a thing and miss a deadline. That’s all ok! Not that you shouldn’t learn from it, but it doesn’t have to be the end of a workout, diet, or writing career.
Just recognize the failure, and begin again.
Very rare is the situation where you have to get something perfect on the first try (rocket science and brain surgery come to mind here, but they’re obvious outliers). Your first draft sucks? Begin again: rewrite it. You fainted in front of the stair master? Begin again: come back tomorrow with realistic expectations.
These two ideas might not sound like a whole lot, but they’re helping me beat my perfection beast and make good on my goals. If I gave up the first time I failed and refused to realistically evaluate my plans, I’d be screwed. But those won’t be problems for me this year. I’m learning from past mistakes.
Here’s to 2020: the year of hindsight!