This Year, Let Your Garden Grow

Well, it's that time of year again. January. Resolution season. Blank slate, fresh start, New You! Also known as: where best intentions go to die. 

Sorry for the bleak perspective, but that's just reality for those of us in the Fit Biz. January is too often the time when lovely, admirable intentions are made (January 1), acted on (January 2) and then abandoned (January 5). By the end of the month, we're usually back to our regularly scheduled programming, and feeling very much like we did the year before. 

But for some people, that totally arbitrary line-in-the-sand that is January 1 actually kicks off a shift. The flip of the calendar page plants seeds that, with focus and perspiration, will bear tangible fruit for them. What makes these people different? 

Well, first, they have a plan. They have broken down their resolutions/visions/dreams into constituent steps, and laid out a path that connects those steps. They have systematically backtracked, from the new, shiny person that they imagine their 2017-selves to be, all the way back to who they are right now. What do the steps in between Now and New look like? Where will they be at the end of January? February? And most crucially, what will change immediately in service of their long-term, change-erific goal?

That last question brings us to the second indicator: successful Resolutioners make the center-piece of their resolution an actionable goal that can start on January 2. However small it might be, they determine to enact a small, (usually) daily act of resistance to their own status-quo. This is the gardener deciding to start weeding and pruning their garden every week, the artist deciding to sketch every day, or the yogi deciding to do 3 sun salutations every morning. They have found a tiny seam in their regular hum-drum, a tiny glimpse into the future, and they have resolved to hone in on it with precision and doggedness.

This is a huge step. Only by clarifying their grand notions into regular and actionable chunks--chunks that they can truly imagine baking into the rest of their lives--do these people enact actual change over the long haul. 

Finally, one more thing is at work for these Successful Resolutioners. They realize, sometimes for the first time, that even at their lowest, even when facing their biggest obstacle, they have one major factor forever in their favor: change is already happening.  It might be described generally, as entropy (the gradual and universal tendency toward chaos), or specifically (e.g. the protein-turnover of our muscles), but realize that life is progressing and evolving and changing all around us (despite us!), all the time.

Successful Resolutioners harness that power. Like an experienced gardener, they have realized that progress looks more like cultivation than creation. Each day (and not just January 1) is a culmination of what has come before and a threshold into the opportunity of what comes next;  our role as changers is to intervene only as much as that intervention helps.

As a gardener myself, I love the garden as an analogy for change (and have written about it before). I love how succinctly it captures the magic of progress: given the right conditions, plants just grow. I think humans are the same. 

This perspective is not very mainstream these days, but it gets to the very center of a compassionate approach to changing yourself. Rather than seeing change as an abrupt and often violent departure from what came before (e.g. the gym newbie committing to 6am workouts every day), Successful Resolutioners see change as the evolving growth-process that it always--and I do mean always--is. 

So this year, while we're still in this fertile valley of January, I encourage you to take stock of your plans for change. Are you acting out a plan, or just hoping that change happens? Are you enacting that change with microscopic, daily resistance to your personal normal? And finally, are you appreciating the constant Forward that governs our lives, and harnessing that power?  

If those pieces are in place, then your garden is in great shape heading into 2017, and I look forward to seeing what it yields!