You’re off to a great start this year! That’s often the hardest part, getting started. Especially after a year that may have confirmed the deep dark fear of—What if it doesn’t work out? Throughout the year we think of many endeavors we’d like to pursue, but somehow, we never get around to it. Often it is because this subconscious thought of, What if it doesn’t work out?, that a barrier is created between you and what you want. Another explanation could be the result of how you think about your endeavors. So if you have already started working towards a goal this year, acknowledge yourself for taking the first step! Getting started is the hardest part.
Now keep going!
About 8% of Americans that set a resolution to move forward continue them throughout the year. That’s a whopping 92% that do not. I suspect we would find similar statistics with goals, habits, or other future-oriented efforts we proclaim throughout the year, not just at the beginning of a new year. Why is that? I have a few theories for you to try on.
1. The 0 to 100 mentality.
You’re ready to exercise, meditate, save money, or eat fresh more often. You think of your ideal regimen and you get started! Exercise 5 times a week, meditate every day, put $1,000 in the bank monthly, try new veggie recipes your kid may love. Although, you find the new regimen quickly falls off and you resume to your old patterns.
So, what went wrong?? You went from 0 to 100 real quick and attempted to start where you really want to end. But how can you expect yourself to cross the finish line at the very start of the race? James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, shares three tips on how to start building better habits. We especially love the first one…
“Start with a habit that is so easy you can’t say no.”
Let’s look at an example. One rule of thumb for meditation is at least 20 minutes a day and some styles suggest longer. So as a novice meditator, you may presume that you must meditate for 20 minutes to see results and nothing else will do.
Now, twenty minutes for an episode of Schitt’s Creek does not feel that long. Twenty minutes sitting upright, still, and focusing on one thing can feel like an eternity, especially if you have trouble sitting still; the stillness that is probably the appeal of meditation in the first place. So you give 20 minutes a day the ol’ college try, and find after one session it feels impossible—and POOF!-out the window goes your meditation practice. However, if you were to take Mr. Clear’s suggestion, you might find another alternative. Imagine, if you were asked to close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths, twice a day. Or even once a day! Could you do it? It’s hard to say “no,” isn’t it? Perfect. You’re at the right starting point.
Doing something always beats doing nothing. Change your mindset from 0 to 2, then from 2 to 4, and before you know it, you’ll be meditating daily for however long you desire.
2. It doesn’t mean that much.
A New Year brings hype to change and hope for something new, different, better. So you look around at what others are doing for some inspiration to breathe new life into this year. One friend has vowed to take off her quarantine weight because she simply doesn’t feel like herself. Inside, you hear, I must work on my quarantine weight also.Another friend has vowed to maintain the space in their schedule and say “no” more often. Instantly , you become aware of your schedule and it’s capacity. Ultimately, you feel compelled not only by your friends’ aspirations, but also the reason behind their aspirations. However, for you, the deep down you, the reasoning doesn’t really mean as much. Until Sally mentioned her weight loss endeavors, you were perfectly happy feeling a little softer. In fact, your hormones have balanced and your face appears more youthful with a little more fullness.
When we make long term decisions based on short term positions, the goal rarely comes to fruition. To create lasting change, one must understand the underlying motivation, one that really connects inside. What will it do for you? Why is it important? Once you understand why it means so much to pursue your endeavors, you’ll be more likely to succeed.
3. Immediate gratification.
Many resolutions stem from the success you see or hear about. Many people arrive to Ignite Yoga just to give yoga a try. They’ve heard of the many benefits—from lowered anxiety to more clarity, or better balance to increased sense of calm—so they’ve come to experience it for themselves, hoping to receive all the benefits right away, perhaps within a single class. During that class, they continuously look around to see what others are doing with their bodies, they get a little frustrated and tap their Apple Watch to see if they’ve missed any messages, and then they take a breath or two before adjusting their hair. After class they say to themselves, I don’t feel any different.
So what happened?
Evidence shows a crucial point was overlooked in the beginner’s mind. While it is possible to experience some transformational benefits from yoga in a single class; studies point to the benefits arising after acquiring a consistent practice.
But I want the benefits NOW.
Who doesn’t love immediate gratification? It comes from those first few bites of Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip ice cream or a few sips of bourbon after a long hard day. It seems as though all problems melt away until you wake up the next morning feeling sluggish and in a fog. Immediate gratification can also come in more subtle ways, like your first sip of coffee in the morning or hitting “Confirm Purchase” on the Sorel boots you just found at 40% off. Immediate gratification is pleasure without a lot of effort. It’s short. It’s sweet. And it just doesn’t get you too far.
However, because instant gratification works so frequently, we slowly become conditioned to think it will work in other areas of our life, such as bigger goals or resolutions. We see how other people have built their financial portfolio and are able to enjoy certain pleasure in life or they have regained their health and are radiating joy. You ask how they’ve done it and they attribute it to yoga, meditation, intuitive eating, or investing in Amazon stock and so on. When we see people happy, we want so badly to have what they have right now. So you design a short term resolution based on another’s long term success and after as little as just one try, immediate gratification isn’t there, so you quit.
Progress, not perfection.
Setting goals, making commitments, or working towards focused outcomes brings spice to life. It’s a sweet feeling to experience the peak of something you’ve worked so hard for. And it’s the root of growth. At some point, practice becomes a habit, the habit creates progress, and progress becomes a way of being. In Baptiste Yoga, we say “exceed your exceeding self.” This means in small or big ways, keep surprising yourself. You get so much satisfaction by sticking to a commitment you’ve made to yourself than by quitting. Something is always more than nothing. And to keep yourself motivated, include a cup of self-compassion and a thimble-full of grace. Your journey will ebb & flow. At this point, if you need to reassess your New Year commitment – do it! Then continue to be persistent in progressing, not perfecting. Small shifts make BIG changes.