Let’s face it, New Year’s resolutions can be shame-inducing suckers. So much optimism so quickly shattered on the cliffs of Life’s reality. But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe approaching the resolution with some knowledge of how we humans actually work could lead to greater success in the long run.
Very often the culprit is too much too soon. We jump into our resolutions with no buildup, lots of enthusiasm, and unrealistic expectations. “I’m going to go to the gym every day!” says the couch potato. And maybe it starts out that way, but somehow it doesn’t last.
The reality is that humans change in degrees – a little bit at a time (kinda like how my grey hair grew in!) and we need to know why we are doing what we do. What’s the end goal? And also what’s the immediate reward? Torturing myself now for some reward later only works for a select few. For the rest of us, there’s got to be some immediate reward in order to keep going. What can you reasonably and realistically expect from yourself?
During my yoga teacher training, Goswami Kriyananda lectured the class about how to start meditating. He said to get everything set up and then sit and enjoy for one minute. Then get up and go on your way. Why? Because the mind can enjoy a minute. And then it might not resist going back for more. But if you tell yourself you have to sit for 40 minutes, the mind is likely to rebel.
A minute is manageable and pleasant (the immediate reward). The mind says “Uh, that’s so easy, I can do that!” So the next day you might find that you sit for longer without the mind complaining. Or you can choose in a week to increase the length of time to 2 minutes. Before long you’re doing 10 minutes (or more if that’s your desire) without the mind getting in the way.
I used the same strategy with my elliptical. I started with 2 minutes and it was easy. In a week I was up to 12 minutes with no resistance from my mind. I’m motivated to get on it to see how much more I can do today. Each day brings more time or distance with enjoyable effort but without a mental or physical struggle.
The reality is that we are drawn to what we enjoy. And having unreasonable expectations leads to a lack of enjoyment. Start small and build up. Enjoy your progress.