It seems like it was only a few days ago. Like Charlie Brown and the football, eternally hopeful but always destined to have the trophy snatched from before us, we opened our crisp new journals and started a list of New Year’s resolutions.
This year I’m going to lose 10 lbs, walk the dog twice a day (see first resolution for inspiration), eat only healthy foods and yes, this year I’m finally going to get organized.
No really, I mean it this time. None of this gradual building the habit nonsense thank you very much, this is the year I’m going to break the back of this procrastination and get it done.
It happens to us all, and just as predictably, we falter sometime around mid January and decide that resolutions are stupid anyway. And I’ll wager it’s because we feel that we haven’t done it perfectly. Yes, we walked the dog five days out of seven, but what about those two days we looked at Baxter and said sorry dude, it’s just not happening today? Or we did walk him but since it was only a block, we decided that doesn’t count.
We’re so hard on ourselves. Because we can’t live up to our own impossibly high standards, we say the heck with it and completely give up. Let’s say some crazy organizer told you that the way to cut down on trash everywhere was to have at least two wastebaskets in every room of your house and set up a routine to empty them twice weekly.
You thought it was a bit strange but decided to give it a go. And at first, you loved it. No more gum wrappers on the floor, a general feeling of being on top of things trash-wise. But then that old perfectionism kicked in and you decided that to really do this right, you needed to empty every singly wastebasket in the house every single day. And that lasted a couple of days before it felt like an onerous, tedious chore that you just couldn’t do. So the heck with ever emptying the trash cans. And dammit, why are there all these stupid trash cans in my house?
In our house we call it the “P” word. It’s a bad thing, because it stops us getting much of anything done. I see it in my daughter frantically making 1,400+ flashcards the week before end of semester finals. Because she skipped a few days here and there at the beginning of the semester, she said the heck with making flash cards, and the task became enormous.
I see it in myself, spending over 45 minutes on the phone with customer service because I want the timeline of when I meditated on Headspace to look perfect but I missed a few days. So now I’m somehow trying to convince customer service to reset my entire account so I can start over and have that perfect timeline. I know, a meditation app. The irony doesn’t escape me.
What are you trying to do perfectly? Can you set a ridiculously small goal and sustain it rather than shooting for the dizzyingly discouraging heights of perfectionism?
- Can you empty your wastebaskets once a week (pick a day)
- Can you find one book each month you don’t need anymore from the groaning shelves you’d love to heave onto the floor and sort all at once (except the phone will ring and you’ll take the call and somehow the books will still be scattered on the floor six weeks later)?
- Can I meditate once every two weeks and count it a success?
Your stomach may ache at the thought of such pathetic little goals, but it’ll calm down and feel so good when you look back in May and realize you’ve established a habit without even realizing it.
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