Sometimes it’s the slightest shifts, repeated, that make the biggest impacts. It could be simply holding our tongues and being slow to anger that sets off a chain reaction of faith in our abilities and strengthening of our characters. It could be skipping the lasagna and ordering the salad because we want to see those cholesterol numbers to drop. Or maybe it’s showing grace in the face of adversity. Alone, these will never be small feats in my book, but they lack the panache of swearing off alcohol by way of pouring all the contents of your liquor cabinet down the drain or quitting your job and taking out a substantial loan to attend a month long retreat in Bali to find your voice.
Yet, when we leap into these small changes, something nearly miraculous occurs; we build momentum. I have sworn off carbs, and dairy and grain and animals (all at different points of my life) with limited and short term success in achieving well-being. When I began to practice mindful eating though, stopping when I was full instead of trying to produce a “happy plate” (which for the uninitiated, means clear of all traces of food that was served to me) I shockingly (or not so) ate less. Instead of eating a McGriddle and a hash brown because, well, it was breakfast time, even though I wasn’t hungry, I said, (wait for it) “I am not hungry”. Slowly and steadily the weight that I carried for so long that I thought it loved me, fell off.
I can barely resist the siren song of lofty goals. If I sit down to write and produce a thousand good words of storytelling, I quickly get hooked into calculating how fantastic I would actually feel if I produced two thousand. That kind of thinking guarantees only one thing; my disappointment (and usually a glass of wine or six double stuffed Oreos). Which I would hastily consume to sooth my disappointment pushing me ever further from not only my writing and life goals, but my fitness goals as well. Ain’t THAT a kick to the head.
Blindly, I repeated this pattern. Not for days, or weeks, but for years. Replace the wine and Oreos for binge watching television and eating Doritos or some other combination of seemingly harmless fluff and you see the pattern that held me hostage to my own worst scenario. Quietly, and long past the once in a lifetime catalyst that should have propelled me to be all that I could be, I set about my journey.
It has been slow and sometimes painful to scrape away all the critical things I have collected to define myself in order to get to work on who exactly I could be if I wasn’t afraid of failing. Yet, I do it. By pushing boundaries, I have realized they were almost always self-imposed. I willingly locked myself in to what people who never knew me needed me to be for them. It seems so ridiculous now.
Here is my challenge for anyone reading this. Take one step out of your comfort zone. It can be toeing the line even, if you, like me, have a hard time with defying the roles you’ve always assumed. Take stock of how you feel. Maybe not right away – which again, if you are like me might be easily surmised as “nauseous”. Stretching me as a person would always hurt in the beginning, until I learned to lean into it and trust that I could go the slightest bit further.
It’s not something I could accept by hearing about it from anyone else (much to my husband’s chagrin). I had to try it on, see it as ill-fitting, cast it aside and come back to it, repeating the process as many times as it took (and that was a considerable amount) before it sunk in. I have emerged capable and full of gratitude not only for the time it finally “clicked” but for all the times that came before it, where I stood irritated and unsatisfied but undefeated.
“Keep going” is beneficial advice only if you start first. But I can tell you that it does actually work. Here’s to a lifetime of first steps and seconds and thirds for us all. May we take them and encourage others to do the same.