Each new year, millions of people resolve to “change” or “fix” something. Very lofty and unattainable goals are set – particularly those concerning weight loss and fitness – that are set-ups for failure. Even if 20 pounds is lost in the first six weeks at that crazy boot camp you signed up for, that level of intensity is not sustainable for the long term. Eventually, life happens or an injury occurs that prevents you from continuing, and the weight creeps back on.
This year, what if the choice is for an evolution of the self, rather than a resolution for drastic change? It takes years to become who we are as individuals. Taking the necessary steps to evolve into a better self takes time, patience, and reflection. How did those crazy, unhealthy habits begin in the first place? Connecting to various levels of self can aid in creating and attaining goals. Here are some steps to help establish lasting change – through evolution.
Find Your “Why”
First, what are your primary goals and wants? A lot of work is centered around finding your “why” these days. There is a science to working toward your truest intentions, and it means activation of that part of the brain that inspires passion and drives you toward success. Although this concept started as a movement for entrepreneurs, the practice can be used for anything you may want to achieve. Finding your “why” is an exercise in which a series of questions is asked about what you want to create, all followed up by the question “why?”
Each year your instincts and expectations are to change or remove something from your life. The “want” may be to “lose 20 pounds.” Ask yourself “why?” The response may be, “because I feel fat.” Again, ask yourself “why.” Continue ask “why” after each answer until you come to your most authentic answer, which may be something more like, “I want to feel better when I wake up in the morning.” Getting to the truth of the matter is a more empowering place to begin, a reminder of what’s really behind the desire to change.
Be in the Present
Life is a marathon, not a sprint, right? Moving through life at lightning speed without really seeing or feeling what is happening around you is a common thread in the lives of many Americans. Adding mindfulness to the day is a practice that brings many benefits, including reducing anxiety, lowering blood pressure, and gaining an improved sense of well-being. You may think practicing mindfulness begins with meditation, but it can be far less involved than that. Begin with making a mundane task one that you completely engage in.
Take doing the dishes, for example. Rather than create that laundry list of things to check off for today or tomorrow while getting through the loathsome task of washing dishes, take a deep breath and feel the warm water on your hands. Feel the texture of the sponge on your fingers. Hear the sound of the water flowing from the faucet. Engaging the senses in these activities slows the brain down and brings a greater connection to self and what is being felt in the moment. In this space, breath can slow down, and ease and relaxation may be created. The task is now no longer a task, but one of resting your mind and enjoying the moment.
A commitment to being grateful is truly evolutionary. When mixed with being more present in life, suddenly the smallest thing can stop you in your tracks and make you take pause. The warm sun on your skin can remind you just how beautiful life is and how wonderful it is to share it with so many people. In this moment of reflection, your heart is full of those you care about rather than how long the line may be at the grocery store.
Gratitude begins with the acceptance of the things you currently have and not focusing on things you want or need. Focusing on where you are right now, in the moment, and being grateful for that circumstance helps map out what is most important.
Make a Plan
Of course, goal-setting is important. Goals keep you on track and guide your steps throughout a day or a week. But understanding the overall plan and intention of getting there are key components to achieving success. What about the days when the plan needs to be put on hold? Are there allowances for a day of perceived failure without it actually being a failure? Intellectually these things all make sense, but putting them into practice is another matter.
Most people are conditioned to feel shame or to reprimand themselves for not meeting their daily expectations. Would yelling at your child for being tired and wanting to rest be useful in getting your child to work harder? Of course not; allowing your child the space to rest and play helps him get back at it when he feels better. It’s not giving up but recognizing another need before returning to the primary goal. Oftentimes, work involving change brings about other unrelated feelings or issues. Work on those as they arise; it may be a surprise that these feelings or issues are related to the change you are already working on.
Finding your “why,” being present, having gratitude, and making goals are kind and thoughtful ways to evolve this year. We are given one beautiful and glorious life, and it is to be cherished. This year, take the opportunity to evolve and grow. This effort is far greater that 30 mindless minutes spent at the gym envying someone else’s progress. Happy New Year!
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