I am going to lose twenty pounds, meditate everyday and work out five times a week. I will give up sugar and caffeine and feel great. It will be a fresh start. The gym? Here I come.
Wait a minute...this is a set up for failure. I used to teach fitness classes at our local gym and the new year would mean crowded cardio equipment and full classes. But as regulars, a small core group of us would just sigh and say, just wait three weeks and it will be clear again. Why have some of my resolutions stuck while others have gloriously failed? It comes down to execution. Am I reaching for the mighty goal or have I kept it small? Do I overload myself with a huge list of inadequacies I resolve to change as the calendar changes? For me, only baby steps work. My brain will put the breaks on if it thinks the goal is too large. Instead of eliminating all sugar from my diet (huge fail) I instead need to eliminate one thing that I eat on a regular basis, say peanut butter cups (ok bad example, the peanut cups are here to stay.)
Take my oboe fiasco for example; I decided to teach myself how to play one of the most difficult instruments. I ordered it, bought books, (all classical solos) a plethora of reeds and greedily opened the box when my new shiny instrument arrived. I would practice for an hour everyday, I would be playing "Gabriel's Oboe" by Christmas. I placed the reed in my mouth and blew. It was the most horrible sound, my dog started howling, the cats took off and I tried again. The squawk...well, it wasn't pretty, words do not describe. I had set myself up yet again for failure. Unreasonable expectations of myself. Why? Do I need to make sure I fail so that I don't have to try anything risky or difficult? Possibly. Finally, after three months went by, the shiny instrument sitting inside its cushy box, I asked for help. I took an oboe lesson from a local music teacher. After some pointers on a double reed instrument and warnings about tongue placement etc, he gave me the best piece of advice: start by practicing 5 minutes every day. I did, after all it was only five minutes. Now five minutes is a long time when you find out that your cheeks have weird muscles and your lungs, although you run five miles a day, have some training to do. But those five minutes turned into ten and fifteen and now forty - five. Once I began to have some small successes, playing "Mary Had a Little Lamb," for example, my motivation grew and I was able to carve out more time from my day. I was even able to take another lesson. I am still squawking occasionally, but I have now moved on to work on rhythm and training my fingers to make crisper sounds.
My "five minutes a day" lesson transfers onto all areas of my life and most of my resolutions. Am I going to meditate for an hour everyday or can I just start with ten full breathes when I am in the shower? Am I going to go to yoga class everyday or is it possible to fit one pose in every morning while I brush my teeth? I need realistic expectations of myself. Once I can hold a half of a tree pose while brushing, everyday, once it becomes automatic, I can add a bit to the routine. Bit by bit, "inch by inch, row by row" I can assimilate healthy behaviors into my day. So although my resolutions might not be great feats, they are attainable. I kept last years' now it time to start fresh, with ten breaths everyday, thirty seconds of my time. I can do it...