Rushing toward the end of the year (and having successfully negotiated the projected end of the world, unscathed) I’m probably not alone in contemplating resolutions for the next year. I’ve already made a commitment to be a ‘dryathlete’ for January – no, NOT triathlete, my days of indulging in daft endurance challenges are behind me – the Dryathlon is a brilliant fundraising wheeze for Cancer Research UK, and will fit in nicely with my Whole30 plan.
I feel confident that I can go without alcohol for a month – I’ve done it before, just as I’ve done a Whole30 before (No: dairy, sugar, grains, legumes, alcohol. Yes: meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds – hell yeah!), these are not radical changes, and don’t represent a significant challenge.
There are plenty of other instances when I’ve found myself not doing something that might represent positive change, and I’m trying now to evaluate my reasons. I notice immediately, casting my eye back over the previous sentence, that I ‘found’ myself not doing something – how’s that for disowning behaviour? On the whole, I’m not referring to very significant life changes, or behavioural changes, but rather the small things that might make a difference to a single day, and accumulate over time into more substantial benefit. For example, if I practiced skipping every day (I’m really crap at skipping – do not ask me to do a double under yet) I’m sure that I would get better at it relatively quickly. I do practice from time to time but, if it crosses my mind to do so, my usual gut reaction to that ‘practice-skipping’ thought is, at best “tomorrow”, and at worst “f**k it, I’m not in the mood”. There you are: compelling reasons not to be better… Why is it that those negatives seem so powerful? Perhaps it’s just me, and I’m inherently lazy. Yet, even as I write that, my mind is compiling a long list of evidence to support the case for my not being lazy, and I can’t accept that notion.
Along with the evidence from my own teaching practice, I hear plenty of tales from the coach that I see regularly of clients that are resistant to making small changes to their lives – small changes that might have a large effect. It appears, too, that the great majority of people who seek treatment of a specific problem from a physiotherapist or other health practitioner do not do the exercises they’re given as homework. I’ve come across this phenomenon so many times that the people that do their home exercises take me by surprise. Often, on suggesting dietary changes to someone with a chronic condition, or body composition goals, I’ve seen the mental shutters come firmly down. I’ve tried to give up on making such suggestions, as nutrition seems to be as contentious a subject as politics or religion, (but I still wonder… does anyone truly believe that they may become malnourished if they don’t eat bread for a few weeks?)
I’ve strayed a little bit from the point – who am I to say that dietary changes would necessarily be positive? I don’t limit myself to failing to engage in physical challenges that would be good for me. How often have I travelled on public transport, with the option of either reading something, or playing some stupid game on my ‘smart’ phone, and chosen option B? I’ve not read any books of the “7 habits of highly successful…” ilk, but if I did perhaps I’d learn that one of them is that, faced with that internal “shall I make the small effort required to do X, or not bother?” dialogue, really successful people will typically make that little extra effort. It may well not be my destiny to be really successful, so I’m not going to worry about that, but I am resolving to make the negligible effort to do something useful with my available time, rather than taking the pointless option. It seems like such a simple thing, yet I know it will be a hard resolution to keep. I just need to hold fast to the truth that there are no compelling reasons not to make positive changes, or to take positive actions: “later”, “f**k it”, “tomorrow”, “I can’t be bothered” certainly will not qualify. As Frank Forencich writes in ‘Change Your Body, Change The World‘: “When it comes to making substantive changes to minds, bodies or lives, easy doesn’t work. Easy doesn’t transform….Easy doesn’t save time; easy is a waste of time.”
The thing with new year’s resolutions is that they always seem to be finite, like my dryathlon will be. The real challenge, then, is to make avoiding the easy path into a life strategy, rather than a new year’s resolution.
Image courtesy of blog.unstash.com