So it’s been almost 8 weeks since New Year’s Day. Since you made your resolution to reward yourself with bubble bath every Tuesday night … as long as you lost 2 pounds the preceding week. Since you made that resolution to get along better with your annoying coworker or have the perfect vacation with your family or whatever your resolution was. How’s that going for you?
The fact is, if you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably taken fewer than 8 bubble baths, eaten more Twinkies than you’d care to admit, and your Richard Simmons Sweatin’ to the Oldies video is probably still sitting on your DVD player, untouched (and covered with dust – oh yeah, be the perfect housekeeper – there’s another resolution that’s slipped away).
According to statisticbrain.com, 41% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions, while only 9.2% felt they were successful in achieving their goal, and a whopping 42.4% feel like they “never succeed and fail on their resolution each year“! Fail. Every. Year.
I know misery loves company (and a great double-fudge brownie), but before you go and bury your remorse in a gooey, warm hunk of unnecessary but delicious calories, finish reading this and you may find yourself sitting in a steaming, luxurious bubble bath every Tuesday night for the rest of the year and beyond!
Eh? Let me explain. You’ve probably read about S.M.A.R.T. goals (and if you haven’t, where the heck have you been every week before New Year’s Day??) They are goals which are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time Bound. So, “I want to lose weight” is not a S.M.A.R.T. goal since it doesn’t hit any of the requirements.
“I want to lose 10 pounds by Memorial Day” can be considered a S.M.A.R.T. goal, except it focuses on the wrong part of the equation – the result. For you to reach your S.M.A.R.T. goals, or any other goals, you need to focus on the A – Actionable. You also need to focus on the W – Why. (I know there’s no “W” in S.M.A.R.T., just pretend it’s there and stick with me.) Your “Why” + your Action = your Results. Focusing on the goal won’t get you anywhere if you don’t know why you want to succeed and if you don’t take action.
“One of the biggest reasons people fail to keep their New Year’s Resolutions is that they focus on the wrong end of the equation.”
Knowing your “Why” should be a no-brainer, but often it’s glossed over, or it’s someone else’s why. You can usually identify “other people’s whys” because they’re “should” goals – I should have a perfect house/body/vacation/winning streak playing pinochle.
Asking yourself why you want to lose 10 pounds is the first place to start. Do you have a class reunion coming up (don’t worry, I won’t ask which one…). Maybe none of your favorite clothes fit, or maybe it’s something a bit more serious, like a health scare. Whatever the reason, make sure it’s a vitally important reason to you. If you don’t have a powerful why, you’re not too likely to put a lot of effort into achieving your goal.
“Focus on the Action and the outcome will take care of itself.”
The second part of the equation is action. By focusing on the action, you’re focusing on the part of the equation you actually control. Break down the goal into manageable chunks, and you’ll be able to check them off on your calendar as you work your way closer to your goal. Using the examples in the opening paragraph, you could
- Reward yourself with a bubble bath every Tuesday night if you worked out 3 times in the previous week
- Say “How are you this morning” to your annoying coworker. You may not ever become best friends, but you may discover that she’s annoying because she’s on a short fuse because she’s a single mom taking care of her elderly mother and her 6-year-old daughter.
- Sit down with your family before planning your vacation and discuss what makes a great vacation (and what you can do to avoid past disasters that left you feeling like someone was secretly filming you for a sequel to those Vacation movies with Chevy Chase).
By focusing on the actions you control in each of these situations, you might just find yourself in very rare company – the “9.2% of people who felt they were successful in achieving their resolution”. You don’t have to thank me, just enjoy your bubble baths.
Liz Gilbert is an amazing writer. Along with most of the other women in the free world, I was captivated by Eat Pray Love. I adore her book Big Magic – I even “know” Liz, having met her a few times at her parent’s home, which is directly across the street from our old farm in Connecticut. Her writing apparently comes from a deep and fulfilling relationship with Inspiration – (deep almost to the point where you want to tell them to get a room….)
Her book Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear is a guidebook for creatives, a how-to that is so beautifully written, and so on-point, that you know that she’s seen straight into your soul and written the book just for you… except she didn’t – not for me. You see, I was an imposter.
I finally owned this rather depressing reality while listening to Liz’s podcast, Magic Lessons. She spoke with her guests of the need to create art. Creating art because that was their vocation – a calling, the reason they were here on earth. As I listened from the outside of this hallowed circle, I realized a horrible truth – I was a fake.
Yup, that’s me – a fake creative. I wasn’t writing for my art – I was writing because it’s my business. Writing is what a freelance writer does. This much per word, that much per newsletter, and so much per month for managing your social media. I was writing because I needed the money, not because I needed to feed my soul. In short, I was a hack.
Although I frequently say, “I don’t have an artistic bone in my body”, I’m always hoping someone will correct me – someone will say, “But you write! That’s art!”, “You take such beautiful photographs, that’s art!”.
And sometimes people do – but I never believed them. I realized I had long since abandoned any relationship with art. My writing was to spec, my camera hung on the back of my closet door, and the coloring books and beautiful colored pencils from my daughter lay under a pile of “to-do” paperwork on a table in my studio. (I had always insisted on calling it a studio instead of an office – I wasn’t ready to give up this last tenuous thread which connected me to Art.)
I had pretty much settled into this existence. I was giving a large chunk of my attention, time, and soul to my job teaching therapeutic riding, and I was pretty much OK with that. I was working on my editorial calendars for my business blogs, trying to get into a rhythm of planning, posting, and promoting. It was, after all, one of the ways I helped pay the bills. Art? No, not right now, thank you – I have medical bills to pay, which means I need to get to that book launch and course launch and 2 blog posts per week and newsletters… oh, yes, and the social media….
So Liz, despite you doing your darndest to convince me that I am, in fact, an artist, I appreciate your trying, but it’s just not going to work. I’ll keep listening obsessively to your podcasts, but only as fascinating stories of other people’s lives. This isn’t about me. No art. Not me. Not now.
Until this morning.
This morning, something happened to me. Actually, something happened in me and through me and it became me. My Muse returned. I returned.
Despite the fact that I had forgotten about my Muse the way we sometimes forget about our favorite books from childhood, she was still there, waiting patiently in the corner for me to remember her.
Was it the beauty of this morning’s sunrise? Was it the growing swell of birdsong this pre-Spring morning? Was it the daylight hours beginning to stretch both ends of the day, pushing away the darkness in which I rose and retired? Was it, in fact, Liz and her luminescent words, her unshaken belief that I’m as creative as the next person? Did Liz Gilbert change my life?
Much as I love Liz, the answer is no. Liz didn’t change my life. She provided me with interesting stories, strategies, and soul searching exercises, but she didn’t change my life. Nope, that was all me.
When I told my daughter this morning that the sunrise was almost too beautiful to absorb, I stopped and photographed it. When I did, a tiny crack opened in a shell I didn’t realize I had formed, and a sliver of light appeared. That light from within outshone the sunrise, outsang the birds, and made me feel like I was going to burst. I suddenly realized I was changing! The sameness of my life shattered in that moment and I knew that life never had to be the same, I could change anything.
In a heartbeat, everything I knew about myself became open to discussion. Yes, I can change my weight. Yes, I can become more secure financially. Yes, I can finish re-doing my studio. Yes, I can make time to write because I love words and I love the fact that sometimes the words that flow through me are almost as wonderfully crafted as the words which flow through Liz. I can create art.
I chose to listen to Liz’s podcast, to read her books, to see the sunrise a little more gratefully this morning. I chose to come back to this blog, my un-monetized blog that is, as of this writing, still hosted on WordPress.com, and not WordPress.org (which is where those who truly understand blogging tell you you must have your blog). I chose to spend some of my carefully doled-out minutes this morning to come here and record what happened. (Footnote to the un-monetized comment above – the links to Liz’s books on Amazon at the beginning of this post are affiliate links, and if thousands of you rush straight to Amazon and purchase those books for yourself and all of your friends, I’ll retire happy and head to Tahiti for a very long vacation).
No, Liz Gilbert never changed my life, but I’m immensely grateful that the Universe put Liz there as one of the guides who pointed me to the path where I now find myself – creating the most important art possible – my own life.