I was recently working with a colleague who made an enthusiastic comment on how much she loves the winter. I thought, “Is she for real”? As one who shivers at the mere thought of being cold, this was a little too much ‘chill’ talk for me. And yet as I thought about it, what struck me most was how happy she was as said it. I began to consider my own cynical viewpoint – ouch. I soon discovered in making a few subtle changes (layering up better and raising the heat a notch), I am actually enjoying the days so much more. A timely reminder that although outward circumstances often can’t be controlled, I can shift the way I view them. Perspective work at its best!
I have carried this mindset over to the timeworn topic of New Year Resolutions. Like a cold winter blast that hits us when we step out the door, we experience this word everywhere. Shudder! Now, I am all for making a plan but so often notice the motivation to keep going quickly wanes. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “I can’t adult today”, you may know the familiar feeling. It’s a get that heavy-ball rolling phrase, otherwise known as self-activation, coined by author and ADHD expert Ari Tuckman. We all have those tasks which we dread; some eventually getting done, others never crossed off the endless to-do list. We create too ambitious a goal, and beat ourselves up emotionally because we ‘failed’. We get stuck and before you know it, that same old overwhelm returns.
This is where I often meet clients: in a place desperate for change. We need reminders that there is indeed hope, myself included. A few weeks ago in the midst of the ‘joyous’ season, I was pretty wiped out, defeated, discouraged, My heart literally ached. Life is incredibly painful and I know you too have shared many sorrows. As I sat praying and reading my Bible, enjoying the gift of solitude, an amazing thing happened. Hope slowly began to fill me, as God’s truth worked its way in, anchoring my soul. I found myself strengthened and filled with peace. God has plans to give each of us a hope and future as we seek Him (Jeremiah 29:11-12). Indeed, His Presence is all around; as we take notice, we are soon reminded that we are not alone. What a difference!
This makes me wonder if there is another way to look at our intentions, one that is filled with such anticipation. What could it look like to forget fading resolutions, and instead dream about a life that better fits? What if more things came to fruition simply by taking small steps towards workable solutions? A few months ago I was taught a powerful little Spanish word with a big meaning: Pasito, which in English means “a small step”. Let’s all consider the following “Pasito Steps” as we start this year off anew:
- Start with the critical process of bigger picture thinking: what do you envision for your family, home or work life? Have a winter blast brainstorm session! In coaching, I offer a Rope Bridge exercise that serves as an excellent metaphor for the change process. When we preload our imagination with a positive picture, we are less likely to let a negative one take hold. Doing this is like creating a road map of where you want to go. Even if you are still a bit unclear, taking small steps gets you started on your journey! Thinking this way will help you get you into action, keep you on track, and allow you to measure your progress. Before you sit down, be aware of what distractions you may face. (For me, it’s the cell phone – a quick glance at messages causes me to instantly lose focus.) Ask yourself: “How much time do I need for this first step? What supplies will I want to have on hand, like a journal, planner, pens? Where is a good place for me to do this? And when exactly will I schedule it in?
- Keep in mind a realistic start for the different things you’d like to accomplish and/or change. For example, knowing you want to clear out that garage, it might be best to plan that for June! You may find some things you have written down cannot be resolved in the here and now. Your decision could be to postpone it to another time, perhaps another year. This will help you feel you are taking action, even if it means to delay it. This allows you to move onto other important things more easily.
- Choose something you feel is important to focus on in the next few weeks. Pick just ONE. Don’t try to conquer the entire project or goal at once. Begin by asking: “What’s the very next thing I need to do to work on this? Try this out, reflect on it and tweak as necessary. If it works, move on to the next tiny step. When we begin to break projects or goals down this way, we can see progress being made. Know that ANY forward movement gets credit and is a success, even if the goal is not fully reached, or in the timeframe hoped for. Pasito Steps are far better than leaps never taken! The thing to ask is: “What is working well here? What is not so much? Is this adding value into the life I want? What am I learning about myself along the way?”
- Sign any planning pages like you would a contract. Did you know that this actually solidifies the commitment we make to ourselves? Keep them in a place you can see, to tally up and keep track of. Find a positive focused friend, coach or colleague who can be your accountability partner; one who will faithfully remind you of your goals and check in with you about them. This support makes a huge difference – we are more inclined to follow through what we say we’ll do when we tell others. Did you know the ADHD brain does not respond to consequences, but will to positive reinforcement? I would say this is true for most all brains out there!
- Put up some visual cues to represent where you want to be. For example, one year we felt it important to save for our family vacation (raising six children on a teachers’ budget did not allow us savings to pull from). My husband made a poster of a large thermometer and each time we had a little extra cash to put in the fund, we would color in with red marker. It was a tangible way for the whole family to see how far along we were. What is something you can put around your home or office as a sign of inspiration? One last tip is to be sure to reward yourself along the way! Little perks will help kick motivation into gear when needed, as setbacks are bound to happen. Anticipate them! Ask yourself: “What feels like a reward to me, to challenge me to continue taking Pasito Steps?”
Until next time, may you keep warm & cozy as you look forward to all the wonderful things that can indeed happen this year. As for me, its time to start taking my own little steps towards some new solutions!