At this time of year, our worlds become inundated with ‘new year, new me’ propaganda and the belief that overnight, we can and will change entrained habits and ways of thinking. I’m not immune to this belief – I’m the first to admit that I love this time of year. It’s another opportunity to embrace the privilege that is bestowed upon us with each new day – the ability to change, and do things differently. I also love the anticipation that a new year brings, and the unexpected twists and turns I may encounter, because as I reflect upon the year that has just passed, I see exactly that – an array of unexpected encounters, opportunities and experiences. Some of these were life changing, others not so much, but still they prove that change is really the only thing guaranteed in life. I really like this concept as much as I like stability, consistency and routine.
Last week, I took myself off to the shop and channelled my inner child – I went and bought myself a canvas, cute stickers, some glue and magazines and I mapped out my year in goals -physical health, mental health, work, travel, gratitude (yes, a really important goal when we are looking forward) and finally, a ‘mantras’ section. This latter section laid out two – three words or phrases that are really core for the process this year- phrases which I need to embrace in my everyday. Goals are great – they are motivational, they embed structure and provide us with direction in our lives. Often enough, simply writing a goal down can ease the anxiety that we often experience when we question whether we ‘doing enough’ with our lives. Seeing something, as opposed to simply visualising it makes it real and can give us the illusion of action. I’ve begun to believe however that goals in themselves, are futile if all we are really doing is simply ‘enduring’ the days until we get there. Then what? Do we even enjoy the goal or do we simply implement new ones, only to start the whole process again, often with the mentality that we are sacrificing life to get there.
Goal setting is a cycle I have often followed repeatedly in my life, especially when it comes to health and fitness. I am then surprised when nothing changes in the long term – it’s like Einstein once said ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. Subsequently, as opposed to writing down the same goals and hoping that this year will be the year where I achieve them, I thought I would change something about the journey I am taking to get there – this change comes in the form of one word. Patience.
Patience is defined as ‘the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious’. It is a word I see emerge over and over again in the field of personal development. Intrinsically, I’m not a patient person. I know what I want and I want it now. I beat myself up for delays. I’m not good at waiting. Like anything in life, even our vices have benefits – it means I get things done, and when you couple my capacity to be extremely focused and committed with my impulsive nature, I can achieve relatively anything I truly set my mind to. The challenge for me however is sustaining the results of the end goal because when the impulsivity has waned, so has the drive and my old habits re emerge. The culture we now live in, where pretty much anything we want can be achieved instantly simply feeds this gremlin – Uber eats means we can have our favourite food within minutes, and without even leaving our house, Tinder means we can date and have sex whenever and wherever we want and quick fix meal plans can achieve a 5kg weight loss within weeks. We really don’t have to work for anything. The question we need to ask ourselves though, is how fulfilled are we really, in comparison to having experienced the spaghetti like nature of real progress and achievement. I’m not talking about happiness here – a fleeting emotion. I’m talking about real contentment. When we achieve things quickly, we lose them quickly because inherently, we haven’t really sacrificed anything to get there so the goal loses it’s value. I’ve decided that I don’t want to be that person anymore. I want to grow into better.
Happiness this year for me therefore is…. patience. It’s about knowing and really implementing the notion that if I really want long lasting change, it will not happen within a week, four weeks or even four months. It will mean that things in my daily and weekly routine will have to change and I may not always see the benefits of that change immediately. Importantly though, I must keep going irrespective, because a very close friend and neighbour of patience, is consistency :). This year I want to get strong and lean. I don’t want a quick fix – I know I need to build muscle and eat well – not just 5 day of the week or for a few months, but by developing and sustaining a new lifestyle which means that I enjoy the process. In that way, the goal with be great, but not as good as knowing that the goal is now part of me, rather than something I have to aim for. I appreciate that I’m only two weeks in but hey, it’s written down, so its got to come true right? 😉