Do you ever get caught up in that excitement at the beginning of the new year that this is going to be THE YEAR that you do all the things that you’ve been wanting to do? You’ll finally get out there and do all the changes that you’d like to make to yourself. You make resolutions and share them with friends and really commit and feel that same sense of excitement and energy that we often get when it’s very late at night and we decide that starting tomorrow we’ll wake up really early and do everything on our to-do list in one single day.
Then January 2nd or 3rd comes along and you start to fade a little. Maybe you promised yourself that you would do 20 pushups a day as well as eat a good healthy breakfast but now your arms ache a bit and there’s nothing good in the fridge. So perhaps you skip a day and then when it comes to following your resolution the following day, you kind of go, “….eh, I can still do this even if I don’t do it everyday.” Then by January 20th you’re looking back at your list of resolutions going “Why did I think I could do all this?”
There are literally thousands of places to go on the internet or in a library to find people talking about what it takes to build a habit and what it means to skip a day and how hard it really is to change. There’s no end to the resources you can find that can walk you through step by step how to actually implement these kind of changes and follow through on your resolutions. But the hardest part for me is always the realization that a single change is:
- Won’t change everything
I have a tendency to tell myself that when I establish a good habit that so many other aspects of my life will fall together, because suddenly I will be the kind of person who can maintain good habits and don’t good habits beget good habits and then I”ll be the person I wish I could be. Maybe I’ll plan to get up early every day and write before work or start eating lunch at my desk so that I can get writing done, and the idea sounds splendid to me the night before. Then the alarm goes off and I hit snooze and roll over and end up being late to work. Then I forget to bring a lunch to work or I don’t want my lunch and I default to going out and eating alone in my car. These are the routines that I’m used to, the things that I’m trying to change for the better. And I assume that if I can change these things that the habits would incite something in me to be better than I currently am, because who I am is lumpy and lazy and resistant to the change necessary to become the person I want to be. Because change is hard, especially when you have to do it yourself, day by day, even when it’s tough.
I’m always incredibly disappointed to see the real me staring back when these changes I intend to make don’t end up coming easily. I resolve to floss daily and then skip a day and then suddenly I haven’t done it for a week and by then I know the plaque has built up so then what’s the use of starting again when I know my gums will bleed….it’s an apt analogy, fearing falling off the wagon just to drag yourself along for too far and then suddenly it feels impossible to get back on without having to go through that painful acclimating process again. I’ve always felt it would be easier to maintain a tough change by doing it every damn day, but doing anything every single day can feel like too much. I have an Apple Watch and try to fill out most of my rings, but being sick in bed one entire day can break my streak. I don’t know what it is about streaks that makes it so easy to feel like breaking the streak at all seems to imply that the change is insurmountable and it’s easiest not to even try.
I do suspect that some of my stress with resolutions and change stems from being a perfectionist about certain things. I don’t want to stumble, I don’t want to fail. Even though failing is the first step at getting good at something, even if that something is establishing a habit, it still feels unacceptable. Failing feels like confirmation that I’m doomed to be the bumbling person that I feel I am rather than the glorious phoenix rising from the ashes of a chaotic life like I want to be.
I’ve started keeping a bullet journal. Let me rephrase that. I’ve been keeping a bullet journal since 2017, but I’ve been really terrible at keeping it consistently updated. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m sure leaving it in my purse overnight and forgetting to take it to work when I don’t doesn’t help at all. So I started a new one, different than the old ones, and I’m trying to stress less about whether I remember to write in it every single day. I’m trying to kick myself out of the rut I was in. I have no idea if it’ll work, but I’d rather be the kind of person who tries to keep a journal than the kind of person who gives up on keeping one because it feels too hard to do it “the right way.”
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure that I’m truly a perfectionist. I’ve been halfassing a lot lately, and I can’t bring myself to feel terrible about it at all. In fact, I can tell myself that it’s an exercise in accepting flaws by publishing this post without rereading it, but I’ll be honest here – I just want to be lazy. So am I a perfectionist, or am I lazy? I know some of these posts read more like a journal than a decent productive blog post about a specific topic, but I do feel that some of the thing I’ve been thinking may resonate with others. I want to talk openly about how hard it can feel to change, how much failure hurts, and how often we feel that getting one thing “right” in our life will allow everything else to fall in place. In the end, life is hard, and I’m tired of feeling that I’m alone in the ways I approach it.