This post was inspired by Susan, a brilliant attorney, sensitive and intuitive seeker, and dear friend. Susan, thanks for suggesting this topic.
I suspect that most of us are aware of some legacy beliefs or behaviors we’d like to leave behind in the Old Year, and I intend to make 2015 “the year without self-created obstacles.” Step One: Awareness. Step Two: Presence, and cold water.
Monday, January 5:
I am cozied up by the fireplace of a slopeside New Hampshire condo, musing about the fresh promise of days to come, as 2015 begins its steady march of connected present moments. The ringing in of a new year also reminds me of the preciousness of every one of those moments, a concept intensified by headlines like yesterday’s “Mother Dies After Fall From Ski Lift.” If I were to slip off the chairlift today, I would do so as a marginally self-actualized human being, a heap of potential crumpled in a snow bank.
Clearly I believe I’ve got to do something bigger with my life before my own demise goes viral.
But when I think about that “something bigger,” I am overcome with a sudden desire to nap. Immediately. I can justify that nap because all those big ideas will still be around after my nap. And, come to think of it, they’ll be there tomorrow, too, so maybe I’ll go ice skating now.
Friday, January 9:
I realize that the problem is not that I don’t actually want to accomplish these things I dream of, nor am I lazy. It’s not that I don’t work hard enough or don’t want them enough. I’m just stuck between idea and execution. I’m so focused on ‘getting it done’ that I miss the point, which is the part where I actually do it.
Here’s how this goes for me, in the how we do anything is how we do everything department.
Three days a week I wake up dreading my 2500 yard swim. That’s 25 football fields of water to cover, and it takes almost an hour to go the distance. It’s cold out, and the locker room is cold and the water is cold and I need to eat before I go. Plus there’s the drive, and the hair drying time, which I could be spending on projects or writing or clients.
I focus on all the uncomfortable things that stand between me and that workout. I long to proceed directly to the post-swim shower, which of course feels amazing after I accomplish my aquatic feat. That amazing feeling is why I swim in the first place.
But I’m easily discouraged from lap #1 because lap #1 means 25 yards of ice-water torture and because lap #100’s hot victory shower is an hour and 25 football fields away.
Discomfort and delayed gratification. Not the greatest incentives for showing up.
Outside the pool, big, wonderful ideas and accomplishments loom, with similarly distant outcomes. There are so many tasks to complete—tasks that take time and take me far from my comfort zone (which, by the way, involves a couch, a 50-inch screen and melted cheese). It’s uncomfortable to jump in, and the metaphorical hot shower gratification moment is days, months, years in the future.
It’s a hellish combination of impatience and a long-standing argument with reality. I wish the outcome was here already, which stands in my way and defeats me before I get off the starting block. I wish it was easier. But I yam where I yam, and unless a can of spinach can give me the superpower to time travel, I am doomed to take one small step at a time, learn along the way, and maybe even grow a little.
I’ve tried to cheat myself of the experiences along the way. I’ve treated as-yet-unrealized outcomes as an admonishment about what I haven’t accomplished, rather than an inspiration. I’ve tried to find immediate gratification in things that take time, and I’ve failed.
Sunday, January 11:
I decided to leave behind the self-defeating response of overwhelm, so I spent the First Swim of the New Year focusing on how super-bad-ass I look in my fancy new mirrored goggles, how strong my shoulders are, and how I can eat pizza AND have dessert when I finish.
It worked. I added ten football fields to my 2500 yard workout because I tuned into the meditative, rhythmic qualities of swimming, and I wasn’t rushing to “get it done.” I let myself enjoy just being where I was (pool), without lamenting where I’d prefer to be (gratification shower), and that enjoyment translated into 1000 extra yards. Wonders never do cease.
As I set my intentions to do the uncomfortable things that will move my practice and my life forward, the lesson for me is to focus on what feels good, acknowledge and move past what doesn’t, and let the path be an experiment. I’ll look for the rhythms. I’ll seek moments of meditation.
I will treat the goal as an aspiration, not a measuring stick.
The water’s gonna be cold, but I’m jumping in. You?