We all know what it feels like to be unhappy with something in our present.
Maybe we wish we were a little more fit, we liked our job more, we want our relationships to improve, or we just feel a little depressed and would love an attitude shift.
After a while, just looking at what you find unsatisfying in life can be quite disheartening.
There is a place of tension we eventually arrive at. It comes right before you do one of two things: either make a decision and actually follow through on it and do something or just kind of let the whole thing go and let momentum take you in whatever direction it is currently going, be that on a run or to sleep.
And yes, one could say it in other words like either giving up or changing.
The crux of the matter is really decision-making. We’ve all had the experience of deciding something and then not going back on that decision. Sometimes it feels really easy. Other times it feels very difficult. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, there’s a whole hierarchy of stages of decision-making that has to be gone through before you actually do the thing. It’s important not to skip these parts, or judge them as a waste of time. Reflection is important when getting ready to do something both internally and externally. That being said, if you find yourself in a stage for months or years, it may be time to reevaluate the goal.
All decisions innately involve a behavior change. When you decide to do or not to do something, what you’re really deciding to do is to change your behavior. Even if you choose the path of not-doing or continuing with the same behaviors and just not caring as much anymore about the outcome, that is a choice. It changes you, particularly your internal landscape. Sometimes this works out. It may be that you were holding yourself to an outdated standard, or what you were focusing on doesn't actually matter, or reaching for a goal that was not practically attainable (getting back to a high school weight when you are over 35 and/ or have had a child comes to mind as an example)
But sometimes, it really matters, is a realistic-but-will-take-effort goal, and it still feels very difficult to take action of any sort.
This is where conquering your fear, taking a deep breath, and doing it anyway comes in.
But here's the key- do a teeny tiny version at first.
Want to run a 5k but spent 2020-2022 on the couch? Walk around the block.
Want to lose weight but have no idea how? Drink more water and eat more vegetables.
Want to go back to school for a new degree? Find a really well-done podcast for professionals in your desired field and start listening to it.
Find a way to dip your toe in the water. Don't jump in the deep end before you know how to swim, please. That will end in failure and self-judgment and feeling stuck.
The tension you feel when you think about what you wish you were and who you are is made of two opposing forces- your care and your self-judgment. You can use the care as motivation to change. You can normalize and diffuse the judgment by reminding yourself that you are a human like everyone else and many people have, and are right at this very moment, experiencing what you are. As my mom taught me, we are all bozos on this bus. Let's keep doing our best.
Let’s look at an example from my life.
As you know if you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, I have been going through menopause. As a result of not getting good sleep for about eight months (hot flashes!), my health habits drifted I hardly exercised at all, and all too often I let the hormone ghrelin rule the day when it came to hunger. Meaning that I ate when I was tired in an attempt to feel more awake, instead of just trying to go to sleep. And when I did sleep, it wasn't well, so more cravings.
What this left me with is a little bit of extra weight and a feeling of physical weakness that I don’t feel comfortable with. I feel a little bit awkward in the way that I am inhabiting my body right now. I don’t feel as strong and responsive as I like to.
After I got my sleep sorted and recovered for about a month, I put my sights on exercise. I love lifting weights and yoga. I also like walking, hiking, and bike riding. I know that adding muscle mass will help my metabolism and I love feeling strong, so I went back to the gym after almost a year (I had been intermittently doing kettlebells at home when my energy level allowed it).
Before I went to the gym I bought new leggings, looked at workout plans, found my favorite water bottle with German Shepherd stickers on it, gave myself a lot of pep talks, told my husband I felt nervous about it, and got reassured, gave myself mindset talks about not expecting immediate results (us human love to decide something, do it once, and be astounded at the lack of immediate transformation), and the most important one- not expecting to be able to do what I used to do or look how I used to look. I'm older now. I have been through a life change. I am deconditioned. All of these things are true and not bad. I need to offer myself patience, understanding, and gumption.
So I did it. I went, and it wasn't easy. I was glad I went, but I can't say it was enjoyable. I asked my body to do movements that felt unfamiliar. My brain knew how to do them, but my body was like, what is this??? I just dipped my toe in. No weight on the bar.
That was yesterday, and today I feel my muscles. They aren't sore (yet), but they feel like something's going on in there.
I am now cultivating my curiosity to stave off self-judgment. What will happen? How will it feel next time? What will my body end up like at this age, with this input? Who will I become? How do I want to live my life?
What do you want to dip your toe in?