Happy New Year!  I know! I know! We are pushing February.  The year is not so new anymore. Looking back those three weeks or so, was anybody else as surprised as I was that so many people were sooooo ready to be done with 2019?  Personally, I do not remember the year, as a whole, as being even one of my three worst years; even though 2019 gave me a major cut in pay, two major car issues, and I lost my father.  As a good friend of mine recently reminded me, “Sometimes, perspective is everything.” Yet because of how bad 2019 was for some people, I also heard a lot of hope for 2020. Well, I say “hope,” but it more often came out as pressure.  “2020 better be better!” “2020 is the year I…” Do you have a way to fill in that sentence? What is/was your New Year’s Resolution?

I am not really a fan of the proverbial New Year’s Resolution.  I think it puts too much pressure on the person making the resolution (not to mention, the month of January in general).  Look at it. We start the year trying to make a change, usually a major one (or ten). We set ourselves up to ruin our year before it even gets started.  How many people are already upset with 2020 because of broken resolutions? I found a blog on the web—because you can find anything on the internet—that claims “the professionals” know that most people lose their resolve by January 12th each year.  I do not know who “the professionals” are or from where they gleaned their knowledge, but I am NOT surprised by that date at all. Be honest! Are you? If you are, then perhaps you are part of the 9.2% of resolution makers that actually keep them. If that is the case, good for you!  Your prize (I mean beyond the benefits of your successful, hopefully-positive change) is that you may stop reading. There is likely very little in this blog entry for you, other than perhaps a better understanding of how over ninety percent of us struggle with making changes in our lives.

That is right!  Over 90% of us struggle with making changes in our lives.  Sometimes we struggle with more insignificant changes. I grew up with a mom who was very appearance and brand focused. (That is not meant to be a criticism of my mom.  She had her reasons. They made sense, mostly. Regardless, she was a fantastic mother!) So we only ate “Kraft” singles–not “Borden,” not “Dutch Farms,” and certainly not any store brand (Supermarkets did this thing called “No Frills” for a while—anathema to my mother!).  I only wore new from the rack “Lee” jeans, “OP” corduroy shorts, and “Members Only” jackets (I may have just dated myself a little—but the 80’s were hands down the BEST decade to grow up in.) Mom only used “Spic and Span” to clean her floors and “Palmolive” to do the dishes.  She watched CBS almost exclusively! (Her brand loyalty was pretty fierce!) I think you get the picture. So do you know how hard it was(is) for me to shop at “Aldi?!!” Even their produce is “off-brand” by Mom’s standards. What about buying clothes from…gulp…”Good Will.” Do you know other people have worn those?  Yeah, pretty insignificant right? Yet it was really tough for me to learn to do things like that. 

We also struggle with more significant changes.  One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is some form of better physical health: lose weight, exercise more, give up alcohol, stop smoking, run a 5k, etc. Another popular theme is relationships: find Mr./Mrs Right, make new friends, spend more time with kids, get to know the neighbors, have a weekly/monthly date/family/game night, etc.  Of course, there are always the money and career options: save more and spend less, find a new job, go back to school, follow my dream…and the list goes on. Simple or complicated we (most of us) struggle with change.

The problem is we generally expect too much of ourselves.  Then when we fall short, we beat ourselves up. As that is generally not pleasant, we just give up.  So just lower expectations, right? Well…that is not necessarily the answer either. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did not reach the summit of Mount Everest in a single leap.  It took them seven weeks of climbing. (They did not do it on their own either, but that is for another blog entry.) “Well of course they did not scale the 29,035 foot mountain in a leap!” you point out.  Right! Yet we try to do so when we attempt to change. Very often all we see is the mountain, all or nothing. That is why January 12th is a day of so much failure.  Climbing a mountain is daunting, but you can ONLY do it one step at a time.  Making changes in our lives whether they are New Years resolutions or just decisions to be healthier can be daunting, especially if that particular change is our own personal Everest.  You do not need to look for a shorter mountain. Shorter mountains are climbed one step at a time. Instead, try breaking your goal down into smaller parts. Work on the smaller parts (dare I say “steps?”) one at a time.  Celebrate the ones you complete. Learn from the ones you do not and then try them again. It is ok to keep the image of your Everest in mind, but you are going to celebrate climbing it until you finish. Why give up when you make a mistake/misstep?

Enough with the hyperbole (New years resolution to use big words—just kidding).  You want to exercise more? Ok, instead of trying to run 5 miles every day of 2020, how about first walk around the block every other day for a few weeks.   When you forget or are too busy or “just can’t,” give yourself a break and pick it up the next day. Then build on that. 2020 does not have to be ruined because it snowed to hard this week to walk outside.  

I could go on and on, but I’m about 300 words over already.  Resolutions are fine! Just find reasonable pieces to work on at a time.  Do not tie the success of the year or your self-esteem to their completion.  Be gentle with yourself when you need to be. The year marches on. So do you.