In a previous blog, I talked about my new years’ resolution to eat fewer animal products. And that made me think about the many times I have decided to change something in my life but often ended up with the feeling that I had failed to achieve what I had set out to do.
Those usually weren’t new years’ resolutions. Instead, they were serious intentions I had formulated in those these moments in life when you realise something needs to change; for example, when trying to buy clothes, feeling tired all day, day after day, or being agitated for no obvious reason. And even though at those moments I can feel a sense of urgency, and have learned to set realistic goals, often – after just less than a month – I already find it difficult to sustain the new habits.
It’s at that moment when you feel that progress slows to almost zero, when I don’t feel sufficient difference or enough positive change to give me an incentive to keep going. It’s also the moment I encounter setbacks, a certain fatigue and that I succumb more easily to unhelpful temptations. It’s that moment when I have the feeling that all my efforts are in vain.
Of course there are plenty of articles available, especially this time of year, with tips to be successful and truly experience your success. For example, much of this advice tells you to focus on what you have achieved, instead of on what you haven’t achieved. Or to focus on what you do well instead of trying to improve what you don’t do well. Or include tips on how to deal with practical barriers or cope with the millions of hijacking thoughts that will try and prevent you from doing what you think is important.
All very helpful advice, and I use many of them in my daily life and they do help me think more deeply about the subject. And they do make me wonder whether I always really failed, or whether I maybe wasn’t able to recognise the progress I’d made. Maybe my expectations were too high, and I was hoping for a dramatic change.
My weight is one example. For my whole adult life, my aim has been to lose weight. I’ve only ever managed that when I was a teenager. But only now, now that I’m nearly fifty, I’m actually proud that I am the same weight as I was twenty years ago.
The same applies to other things in life. For the last couple of years, I have learned to maintain a better balance between work and free time, and it has gone so gradually, that I don’t even notice it anymore.
As for exercising, I have never done it as often and regularly as I do now. However the increase has been so slow, that there was no specific moment to celebrate any particular success. There were no drastic changes through which I felt so much better, or so much more fulfilled.
And it was when I was running a faux-plat – one of those hills that doesn’t look like a hill but a flat road – that I realised how these things sometimes work. While on the way you probably feel resistance, and occasionally some support, but you feel like you’re getting nowhere, maybe only forward. It all goes so slow that you don’t notice the difference, and don’t see the positive change. You can so easily overlook the fact that you are actually going up or down, and you don’t feel like you’re get anywhere except in time and space. You feel it all stays the same, as if you’re running on a flat road.
But then, when you look back to where you have come from, you’ll notice that some of what you set out to achieve has actually been realised.
It’s like so many things in life, or even life itself – it’s only when you look back that you see that the support or resistance you felt was really helping, that you were getting somewhere after all.