My least favorite time of year to go to the gym is in the first three weeks of January. Besides the overcrowding, the energy in the room feels frenetic, short-lived, and anxious. Usually by the fourth week, good intentions have withered and there are open treadmills to show for it.
The problem with New Years resolutions, just like many self development exercises, is that we have our eyes on the prize. ‘Lose weight,’ ‘get more fit,’ ‘read more and watch less TV,’ ‘get a better job,’ ‘save more money.’
We have to learn to pry our gaze off the end goal if we ever want to get there. When we first realize how hard it’s going to be to reach our goal, we get overwhelmed, stressed, and panicked. At the first stumble or distraction, we burn out or stop caring because we can’t sustain that energy.
January gym-goers are often obsessed with the big picture – with ‘losing weight’ or ‘getting fit,’ and often emotionally commit at a level that is impossible to sustain.
Every time I’ve hiked a trail on a steep ledge, I’ve been told to keep my eyes down on the next step I’ll take. I only hike for the big reward at the end – the gratification of a great view or sense of accomplishment. I don’t hike because I love laboring opposite gravity, just like I don’t do squats or drink kale for the sheer fun of it. If I only looked up at the summit of a big hike, I would stumble and fall a lot. In life, fixating on our overall success or failure is usually our downfall when it comes to following through with our goals.
I’ve been a January gym-goer literally and metaphorically. I get obsessed with a goal and don’t have the energy left over to commit to the steps.
Real behavior change is just one step at a time. Big accomplishments often creep up on us because we’re not fixated on the big picture. We’ve learned to focus on baby steps.
So make your resolutions. Trust yourself. Plan the steps. And during the third week of January, don’t ask yourself ‘are we there yet?’ Just ask, ‘What’s the next step?’