Every year I usually join in the fun of flipping over the old leaf and welcoming a New Me. Boosted by the ads for health and vitality all around me, I ride the wave of people who want change, who want to see results. This year my modest resolutions weren’t even creative. I changed up my exercise, got myself out for longer walks, went back to strength training, and attended yoga classes that weren’t always labeled “gentle.” Oh yes. And I cut out sugar and caffeine. Just a few small steps to self-improvement. The part of me that loves challenge is enthusiastic about catching the Big Wave and believes she can ride it to the shore.
But the thing is, the wave of self-reform starts to break about now. If you’re like me, the newness has worn off and your Clean Slate is a bit tarnished. Have you noticed? The numbers at exercise classes are beginning to dwindle. And the lines at Starbucks, conveniently located on the way to everything, are growing again.
Life has a way of taking over and overriding our best resolves. For me, there was a break in my routine for travel. For others, it’s illness. Sometimes it’s discouragement because will power alone usually isn’t enough to sustain change. Eventually most of us forget, conveniently or inconveniently. Or we give up, consciously or unconsciously. What’s a self-improvement surfer to do?
We can always do what we’re advised to do: redouble our efforts and re-commit. Sometimes that’s what it takes, if it comes from a strong desire for a future result. In that case, it works to ask yourself, now where was I? And then to get back on track.
But taking a step back, I’d first question the idea that you truly need to improve. Be curious about how that belief has played out for you in the past. Usually it’s accompanied by a bit of self-judgement. Or maybe a tidal wave of self-judgment. And harshness. Observe your own pattern and see if this is familiar. Self-criticism seldom inspires lasting change.
Placing attention on your self as a project usually isn’t enough. As in almost always. Real change must be accompanied by a soupcon of kindness and a sense of humor.
And a whole lot of intention.
Attention on Intention.
I once heard the journey of self-awareness summarized this way: Put your attention on intention. Sounds simple.
And yet … Maybe not. Attention is a currency that is highly under-rated in this culture. It takes strong intention to notice where attention goes, with all the bells and whistles and attractions around us, even in our most private spaces at home.
I’m guessing I don’t need to make a list for you of all the opportunities to surf or delve into social media or answer bleeps or tweets or dings in your life?
But. What if we apply the hopefulness we applied toward our January resolutions to a kind shift toward intention?
What would that look like?
For me, it would be kinder, more solid and firm. I’d take time each week and each morning to sit quietly and envision and affirm the way I’m becoming. I’d connect with the intention, which I think of as a kind invitation from my future self, to health and vitality.
I’d imagine what this future self wants from me. Then I would place my attention on the momentum I’m already creating with each small choice as I move into the day. What I do might look the same, but the feeling would be different … like being carried gently but insistently into shore by what Life wants from me. Step by step.
What about you? Where is your momentum already leading you? How would you invite your future self to join you? I welcome comments as you explore this in the coming week …