Resolutions and Setbacks

frozen lake
clashing clothing with pj pants
pj’s at work are the best

Blue Monday!? There’s a tradition at my workplace for Blue Monday, where people wear their brightest, clashing-est clothing to fight off the darkness and cold of winter in Canada. I’m not sure the science behind it is solid, but it does mean I get to wear purple polka dot pajama pants all day so I don’t quibble. (Okay, I did quibble the first year we did it, because everyone else forgot – including the woman who suggested it in the first place – and as the only one dressed ridiculously, I did get more than my fair share of curious stares from the public waiting area outside my office.)

One reason people can feel down in January is that they aren’t meeting their expectations for their New Year’s resolutions. Did you stop bringing lunch from home and end up getting fast food? Maybe you’re not going to the gym every morning at 5 a.m. like you promised yourself you would.

Common resolutions I hear about in my line of work are getting through all emails before leaving the office, or doing daily work on a big project rather than leaving it to a panicked rush at the last minute. One client went back and retroactively put her project into her calendar so it would look like she’d worked on it each day – not to lie about it to anyone, more as an aspiration, “I want to become the kind of person my calendar says I am.”

When you don’t meet the resolution you made, what story do you tell yourself?

The only true story is: Setbacks are part of the process of change. They’re a healthy, expected part of forming any new habit. There’s no need to over-interpret them, or interpret them at all.

When you aren’t following your plan, ask yourself, what do I want? What can I do today to move towards that?

If you want an empty email box, stop reading this post and go deal with some emails. If you want to eat healthier lunches, pack a healthy lunch for tomorrow – go, get the food ready, we’ll wait. If you don’t do those things, the same thing applies the next day: Ask yourself what you want and what you can do for yourself that day to move towards it.

Small steps, big steps, no steps, they’re all part of the journey. Steps backward are too – I think of them as my inner rebel, telling myself, “You’re not the boss of me!” They don’t mean I failed or that I’m a failure, they don’t mean anything at all. The next day, I get to choose again what step to take.

The client who back-dated work in her calendar? When she felt the urge to do that again, she simply saw it as sign that she was thinking / worrying about the project. Rather than fall down the rabbit-hole of tying it to her whole identity, she noticed the thought and jotted down a few notes about the project while it was on her mind. Sometimes, that turned into a longer, productive session, sometimes it didn’t.

Changing habits is like walking through familiar woods. You’ve already worn a clear path along that ridge and down to the pond. When you decide you’d rather go over to the meadow now, it’s hard to get through the untamed brush. From time to time, you’ll step back onto the well-worn path because its familiarity and ease are soothing. You may find yourself at the pond and not even know how it happened. It’s okay – the meadow is still there, and you can take a step or two towards it, each step making the new path easier to follow.

Happy January ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

boy in forest, mouth full of raspberries
make your own path, you’ll find the best raspberry bushes there

3 thoughts on “Resolutions and Setbacks

  1. I like the analogy of the wood and forming a new path through the meadow. It’s such a good way of describing the process of change, especially how we often veer back to the familiar path for comfort. Also, I love the idea of wearing purple polka dot PJ’s and other clothing that clashes with them to work (although, surely everything goes with purple polka dot PJ’s?!). I just wonder what my clients would say…

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