So, 2014 has started. The ink on our New Year’s Resolutions have dried and we’re trying to make them work in the real world. The holidays are over and we have no more excuses. Determined folks are still soldiering forward, seeing how long they can sustain this new and exciting motivation. On the other hand there are some of us who have given up our new year’s resolutions, falling back in the same old routine, judging ourselves as failures.
We are a species that thrives on growth and change. We are always striving, looking for the next thing to fix, the next new opportunity. We want to make things better! Now, this doesn’t mean that we actually change things, necessarily. This desire for change can leave us feeling stuck and hopeless if we can’t find ways to actually do something different.
The title of this post, “Just Breathe,” is a reminder for us all to take a step back and accept what is. If we keep barreling forward, we may be headed in the wrong direction. Especially if we have started in the wrong place, or if we are facing the wrong direction. If we fail to step back and breathe, so to speak, we may feel frozen in self-judgment, watching our new year’s motivation drain out of us with each passing day. How do we breathe?
- Get rid of the “shoulds.” When we create our goals (whether at New Years or not), there are many influences on what we set out to do. We can be influenced by our family and friends and even by society. The people around us, as well as those critical inner voices, give us a lot of things we “should” be doing. I really should journal or run or knit (even if I don’t like those things). I believe that we have an instinct for health in the core of our essence. Okay. I just read that again and I know that sounds a little cheesy. BUT, we need to listen to the healthiest parts of ourselves when we make choices. We can uncover what we want, find ourselves healthy ways to pursue those things, and move forward. We just need to let go of the shoulds. Do what you want to do, or what you need to do. Let go of what you “should” do. Be yourself with no apologies.
- Seek out positive mirrors. When we surround ourselves with critical or negative people, we can’t help but take that on. Even people who are encouraging us to do better can get overwhelming at times. The message here is always that we are not good enough or that we must change to be acceptable. Too often, we connect change or growth with fixing something that is wrong (more about this in a minute). If the people around us reflect back to us all of our short-comings as well, we lose the best part of ourselves. What we focus on will grow. So, put people in your life who will remind you of why you are valuable, what your strengths are, and what you do well. Make sure that you have positive reflections coming back at you. We often become what surrounds us. Let’s make it positive!
- Come from a foundation of success and strength. When we start goal setting with a plan to fix what we have been doing wrong, we start off on the wrong place. You suck, get better. That does not feel good and does not create forward momentum. In this set up, you are pushing away from faults. Instead, identify what is going well and do more of that. Expand and grow from a foundation of success and strength. Don’t dig a hole of negativity and then try to find some way to climb back out. Understand what you are good at and what you have done well before you take on the next steps. Understand what “is,” from a positive framework. Change you perspective to one of growing or evolving, rather than completing revamping or fixing. You will be most successful (and will feel more comfortable and able to breathe) when you build on a foundation of your strengths and successes.
- One change at a time. When we uncover what we want to do differently, we want it all to change RIGHT NOW. That is not possible. Unless you have a team of people yelling at you and cameras watching your every move, you will have difficulty maintaining huge changes in your lifestyle all at once. We are fearful of change, so we get frozen, angry, or run away from any shifts or tweaks in our lives. To contain this fear, we must breathe and allow ourselves to get used to each change as it comes. We are much more successful if we can add in small changes, a little at a time, rather than trying to change it all at once. I hate to use the metaphor of slowing boiling a frog, but I think it does allude to how we can circumvent our fear if we change things just a little bit at a time.
- Celebrate the process, not the outcome. So often, we get so caught up in the outcome that we don’t even pay attention to the process. This might be okay if the outcome is a given (e.g., if we start tying our shoes, we will most likely end up with shoes, tied on our feet). However, if we don’t have full control of the outcome, we must celebrate the successful implementation of the process. This is especially true if we have little control over the outcome (e.g., getting a job). If there is any aspect of the outcome we have no control over, we can really only implement changes on the pieces that we do have control over. And it can be confusing sometimes whether we have control or not. SO, take a breath and celebrate each successful step or healthy decision. If we do these things long enough, we will be able to move forward with our goals. In a recent post, James Clear goes even further and says to forget about the goals completely. I don’t know if I would go that far, but I do agree that we can get stuck if we only focus on the outcome. Either way, it is important to celebrate your movement along the path. Don’t wait to reach your destination (or you might be waiting a long time!).
Are you able to breathe? Can you let things happen a bit more slowly and accept what is? Contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org; 424-241-3205) or leave a comment with your thoughts!