Beginning Towards Middles and Ends
Though we all feel like one at times, most of us do not see ourselves as a failure. Each of us has moments when we fall short of our own expectations and we experience that sense of discomfort at the realization. Each of us also has habits we wish we didn’t. Some of us overeat, or drink too much. Many of us have personality traits we wish we could alter or get rid of altogether. Which is why almost every year in January, many of us resolve to do better, to rid ourselves of things we don’t like.
This is not to say that all resolutions are made to rid ourselves of excess baggage. Often we resolve to add something new to our lives. We might want to write more , see family more often, be a better friend or find ways to live better lives with less.
Along with many of you, I set expectations for myself. In the darkness of my bedroom, pondering my choices and my life, I find it easy to make grand plans: Starting tomorrow I will eat less crappy food, write my book, exercise before noon, contact that friend I have been meaning to reconnect with, watch less television and play fewer video games. I will also clean more often and be a better father to my children, a better partner to my spouse. Of course when I wake, donuts are ready for breakfast, Facebook is more interesting than the blank document page, I am too tired to actually leave the house before 2:00 P.M. and that friend really doesn’t care if I get to them today or tomorrow. Strangely enough the house seems quite clean and my kids are demanding way too much from me after such a long week and my spouse is much better than I am at most everything.
Why do I and many others constantly set ourselves up for failure? The easy answer is we set our sights far beyond where we currently find ourselves. We want to get somewhere, whether it be completing the novel or losing 40 pounds, we see the finished product and really like what we see, like how it feels just to contemplate that vision.
Each new year feels like the perfect time to start again. After months of not doing anything (and in many cases, adding to our issues-oh cheeseburgers), we feel that sense of renewal that comes with every new year. That feeling of rebirth, of unlimited possibilities overcomes us and we are ready to commit to anything. Anyone who has a gym membership knows that every machine and weight will be occupied every January while the newly committed start (again and again) their quest for a better body. The new semester at school always begins with no place to park as those returning to school are again ready to finally get that degree. But because of a vast array of reasons, by the middle of February, both the gym and the college are much less crowded.
I can only speak for myself, but it seems like once the initial zeal for the goal fades and the actual work begins, the results are often too minute to register. I remember my first attempts at weight loss. In my second year at the University of Utah I determined to run 3 miles a day. I was great at it for three months, but when the weight didn’t come off, rather than examine what else I needed to do, I just quit running. I have many times committed to writing every day, but again, when certain days were hard it was all too easy to promise to do double the next day. Before I realized it, weeks had gone by and I had written nothing.
So, for myself, I am determining to attack this years blank slate with a different approach. I still want to lose weight, I still want to write the book and I still want to be better with my family. What I am proposing to myself (and maybe writing and posting it can serve as some kind of contract) is smaller, easier, attainable goals with the grand end in mind. Of course I know this is not revolutionary thinking, but great ideas are not always revolutionary. Some of the most poignant insights in my life are ones that seem ordinary but for some reason they resonate at a specific time. This is that specific time for me. I am going to remember the simple idea that I only control this moment. I cannot affect the past nor anticipate the future. I can only choose what to do in this second. I can control if I eat that oh so tasty candy right now. I can write seven words, right now. I can put my winter bike gear on right now and ride.
We will see how this approach progresses. My feeling is that as I learn to control more of my daily choices, deciding to do, rather than not do, my far distant, seemingly out of reach goals will find themselves closer to completion.
I am also offering a challenge to any of you who have thought this might be a good year to take up cycling. The Cycle Salt Lake Century is coming up in May. It is a mostly flat ride and is a perfect way to get excited about riding and also experience a very large sense of accomplishment. In keeping with my philosophy of reaching larger goals by focusing on the day to day choices, I would challenge any of you to start riding, start a spinning class, start training and join me this May on the ride. I promise it will be a fantastic time and well worth your efforts. Are you game?