I don’t know about you, but I rode into 2020 on a horse named This is Your Year.
Coming into January, it just felt like a clean break from a weird 2019, and an excellent opportunity to take advantage of another fresh start. Not so much a new year, new you, but more of a new year, do you.
For the first time in a long time (ever?), I made actual spreadsheets. I did a crapload of worksheets, I did hours of journaling, I identified priorities, brainstormed ideas, made plans.
I found myself at a mastermind meeting on January 23 having made essentially zero progress on aforementioned plans.
I spent half an hour lamenting how rattled I felt about it. I spread all my worksheets out on the table and explained how frustrated I was that even though I had all this stuff together, “better” than ever before, I still didn’t feel like anything was working. Basically, best laid plans…le sigh. (If you can name the source of this obscure reference, you just made my day.)
My beautiful horse was feeling a lot more like a runty donkey.
Can you relate? I mean, here we are, February 12, more than six weeks into 2020. Better than ten percent of the year gone already. That feels like plenty of time to have made a little progress on the plans, created some habits, collected some leads, at the very least, tee up some quick wins. And yet, I know I’m not the only one out there who’s settled right back into the routine of life. And it looks more like 2019 life than 2020 life so far. UGH.
This is the thing about intentions, and even about plans. We spend a lot more time thinking about how nice they look on paper and a lot less time thinking about how they’re going to be represented in 3D, and what we’re going to do when the build doesn’t match the blueprint.
I’ve seen it so many times with clients and friends, and also, obviously, in myself. We do this thing where we work our way from the big dream and vision down to the action steps, building this ideal path to the end result. It’s what we’ve learned to do first, it’s what we know.
The problem comes in with the other stuff we’ve learned, the other stuff we know through experience – that things don’t always work as we intended, no matter how clearly we’ve identified the path and the plan, no matter how well-intentioned we are.
Life is gonna life all over you. Your horse is gonna buck.
And here’s the biggest problem with this intention and planning thing – we can know how to do that part, we can also know that it’s probably not going to go smoothly, and we somehow don’t know what to do when that happens.
So, we usually start by giving up. Berating ourselves and our lack of discipline or focus. Comparing ourselves to so-and-so who’s already killing it and 2020 really is her year.
You can visualize this part as kicking your horse with sharp spurs and whipping it with a crop.
Except you’re the horse.
Hurts more than it helps, doesn’t it?
But also, I understand that we still want to work toward our vision. To turn our intentions into reality. So what do you do when things aren’t going as you intended? How do you move past beating yourself up? How do you not quit? How do you move forward in a way that actually feels good?
First of all, just know and accept that that’s OK when your intentions don’t go the way you intended. It’s perfectly fine. Remember, it’s actually what we’ve always known deep down about intentions and plans and life. And there’s nothing to be ashamed or guilty or self-flagellating about. Horses are highly intelligent and also incredibly finicky animals. They can also be wild. And usually, not much about that is within your control.
Second, consider taking a step back. Give yourself a little break. Get down off your horse and let her graze a little. Take the saddle off for a minute. I’m not really saying to reevaluate all your intentions and plans so soon, though that is certainly a possibility. But maybe you just need to stop riding them so hard right now.
Next, check in with yourself. What’s been going on? How do you feel? What do you need? Are the intentions and the plans still ringing true, or one and not the other? What might be helpful in regaining direction, potentially speed, when you get back on This is Your Year? Think of this as a nice long brushing session so your horse feels pretty and confident (#selfcare). A few extra apples for treats so she’s not running on empty. Take care of that horse, she’ll take care of you.
Finally, think about taking a lesson. Horseback riding doesn’t come easily to everyone. Maybe you do need a little bit more knowledge. Maybe you need some training or practice or a coach. Maybe you started off with the basics, but it’s a little more like the horse is riding you. (And trust, you don’t want that. I speak from a terrible horseback encounter with an elk!)
And of course, remount. If horseback riding is still something you want to do, you can’t avoid it forever. You’ll be letting yourself down if you do. Maybe you won’t actually get back on the exact same horse, but there is a horse out there for you. You can’t be scared to ride any horse ever again though, she’ll always know, and that most definitely affects the quality of your ride.
In non-horse metaphor terms, things don’t always happen like we want them to, even if we go through all the motions of crafting a sensible plan.
It’s what we do when things don’t go according to plan that makes all the difference.
Let’s take the familiar example of getting in shape, losing weight, eating better, starting a workout routine, etc. (You knew I was gonna go here.)
Good intentions, some kind of plan (maybe a new app, trainer, gym membership, fitness challenge, nutrition program, etc.), and a positive attitude. This is My Year!
A couple weeks in, everything feels fine. A couple more weeks in, life starts to life. Kids are getting sick, partner gets it too, then you’re down and out for a whole week. Work is already picking up for the spring, and you find yourself canceling your workouts and eating more takeout. Oh also, it’s dark and cold and seasonal depression is real. No matter how much you intellectually understand working out and eating some home-cooked veggie soup will actually make you feel better, no matter how simple the plan was, you just can’t seem to make it happen.
So you give up. Well, forget it. If I can’t follow the whole plan, what’s the point? And ten-minute workouts are stupid and pointless, so don’t try to lecture me, fancy-pants trainer-person. I’ve screwed up yet again, I can’t do this, I’m a useless person, and what was I even thinking I could do this in the first place? I’m never going to be a fit person and do fit people things, so why try? (Right about this point is generally where I start hearing from people. They’re in the whipping stages and I help them move through the rest of the steps.)
You try because you’ve already determined this is meaningful to you.
In some form or fashion, you’ve figured out that taking care of your physical body will lead to other positive effects in your life. And that’s generally true for most people. It’s just that you haven’t quite figured out how to get from the knowing to the planning to the doing through the challenges and back to the doing – all the while without running your horse into the ground.
Yes, we’re back to horses.
Because here’s the thing with the fitness stuff – a lot of times people mistreat their horses, badly. Have you ever seen True Grit? If not, watch the original for sure because The Duke is the best, but also check out the remake because Jeff Bridges is pretty cool too. There’s a scene toward the end where Mattie gets snakebit and Rooster puts her on her horse and rides it at top speed through the night to get her to a doctor.
Spoiler alert: the horse dies of exhaustion.
It’s actually one of the saddest movie scenes ever, and exceedingly hard to watch.
(Ahem. Welcome to my life as a fitness coach.)
You are not snakebit and in need of emergency medical care. Unless you have a pressing medical condition that means you must drastically alter your diet and exercise immediately, you do not have to ride your horse to death, AKA force yourself to adhere to some horrible restrictive diet while doing an excessive amount of exercise you don’t want to be doing because society tells you your body should be different.
It’s your horse! And it’s your body.
Choose the area of life that feels hot for 2020 – the story is the same. You’ve got business goals? (This is me, too.) They were never going to happen overnight, and #hustle culture is BS, and maybe there’s a more authentic way to get results. It’s your career. You’ve got relationship goals? Forcing those uuuuuusually doesn’t work out so great either. It’s your heart.
The intentions and plans likely haven’t changed and perhaps don’t need to (though those things could be on the table), but the approach or support or timeline or perspective may need a little adjusting.
Just remember, we do this every year. Best of intentions that fade away and a crappy cycle of beating ourselves up about it. This year, I want you to remember that six weeks is a tiny, minuscule, eenie-meenie snapshot of all the time available to you to make good on your good intentions. Even this one year is a small, small bit. This year is not actually your one shot to finally do the thing, to finally make it, to finally get healthy, to finally whatever.
Your whole life is your chance, so take care of your damn horse, every day. Some days that means riding hard, some days (months!) it means something different.
You’re holding the reins.
It’s been a few weeks since that mastermind meeting that I came out of utterly defeated and confused and just about ready to put my This is Your Year horse out to pasture. I can say with a beaming heart that we’ve bonded. I didn’t have to give her up, and I understand her capabilities and strengths and weaknesses a whole lot better. I told her it was OK, I gave us both a break, I took some time out to practice some skills, and now we’re riding at a smooth, comfortable pace directly toward our needs and wants.
In non-horse terms again, oh, 2020 is still my ever-loving YEAR. And it’s damn sure yours too.
Hey, if you need some support in figuring out how to take a little better care of your horse, or where you want to ride her this year – let’s talk about it. Fitness, career, whatever, we’ll work it out. Set up a call below, or email me, anytime.