You bite off more than you can chew, ‘course you’re going to choke. One bite at a time. And that goes for thinking things, too, not just food.
—Margaret Peterson Haddix
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.) —Dr. Seuss
If your New Year’s resolutions are already vague memories, I’ve got good news:
It’s never too late to honor them.
We take imposing oaths when a new year beckons with a clean slate:
This is my year. I’ll stop snacking, cook at home, lose weight. I’ll spend more time with my family and friends, listen more, be kinder. I’ll focus on my own life. Meet someone. Stop buying crap. Waste less time online, volunteer at that nonprofit. I’ll clean my room. I’ll pay more attention in class, get good grades, save money for college. I’ll go back to school, get a job, get a better job. I’ll learn to play an instrument, speak a language, change a tire. I’m going to turn my life around. This year will be different.
Alas, good intentions slacken as holiday cheer gives way to the daily grind. But you’re not doomed to fail! You just need a reality check. All good things take time. Usually a lot of time. And lots of work. But the hardest work is being honest with yourself about where you are, what you want, and how you’ll get it. Problems, goals, plans. Be specific!
I hate how I look. I weigh too much. If I lost 25 pounds I’d be so much happier. Well, I can start packing carrots for a snack instead of cookies. And I’ve heard eating late doesn’t help; I can stop eating after 8pm. I hate exercising, though. But I love my dog, and she’d love to get out more. I can walk her around the block once a day.
Swapping carrots for cookies, no food after 8pm, and walking the dog? Challenging but doable. Swearing off junk food (when you live on junk food) and exercising everyday (when you hate to exercise)? Not so realistic. Your unrealistic goals set you up to fail. Realistic goals prime you for success.
If you want to make new friends, say hi to interesting people you pass. Don’t just swear off impulse shopping; freeze your credit cards in water so they’re harder to get to. Want to quit smoking? Pay attention to how you feel before and after each cigarette. Curse like a sailor? Nix one four-letter word that you won’t miss much. Always online? Ignore people in the ether when there are people in the room.
Little successes add up quickly. Ten baby steps will get you farther than one giant abandoned leap. Sudden life change is more likely to come from a freak accident than a winning lottery ticket anyway. It may not be sexy, but slow progress trumps even the grandest ambition. If you really want to relish your life, take smaller bites.