A new year has begun and as 2010 came to a close I thought about the year to come and my hopes for 2011. I am not much of a new years’ resolution kind of gal. In the past, I have found resolutions to feel stale and repetitive (ie: I will lose 5 pounds, I will exercise consistently, etc…). Their rote themes were uninspiring to me so follow through was always a challenge. Yet I approach each year with a sense of hope for change where it is necessary, excitement about the years’ potential and inspiration for amazing times ahead.
Late in 2010, I read a quote that resonated with me… “Enlightenment is found in following something through to the end.” It made me think about another truth, which is as we do one thing, we do everything. I tell this to my clients all the time when they are struggling to change their eating habits. I try to draw a line between the way they approach their food and they way they approach, say, their job or their relationships. If one is struggling to keep healthy foods in the house in order to stay on top of their eating so as not to grab unhealthy meals or snacks on the run, then it is likely they are struggling to stay on top of their work in order to follow through on their projects. If you are failing at keeping your impulse to eat at night under control then perhaps you are feeling challenged by maintaining equanimity in your relationships, instead giving in to feelings of disappointment or hostility rather than approaching challenges with love and openness. As we do one thing, we do everything and what I have found to be true of me is that I have a challenging time with finishing and following through.
Can you relate? I suspect that many of you can. One consistent bit of feedback I get from my clients is that while they are excited by their new bodies and increased vitality because of their change in diet, maintaining their new eating plan is a challenge. While the beginning of a new plan can provide enormous inspiration to get you started, maintaining that level of excitement and commitment can be hard. Just like New Year’s resolutions, we start out strong only to waver and falter in the end, another year and opportunity gone to get us on track. Yet, without maintenance, the results will never last. In order to continue looking and feeling great, there needs to be a regular, consistent intention to eat well and exercise and the ability to follow through every day on that intention. If approached in fits and starts, the results will reflect that. If approached as a lifetime practice, the rewards will be yours and they will reflect your efforts.
Recently I met with a long-standing client that was having difficulties with dairy elimination even though consuming dairy sent her promptly to the bathroom. In addition to the improvement in bowel function from avoiding dairy products, her skin was also clearer, she had lost seven pounds and had increased energy and vitality. She was also sleeping better and wasn’t getting the debilitating headaches that had plagued her for years. Great right? Reading this, you’d think that it would be effortless for someone to maintain his or her commitment to dairy elimination in order to continue to benefit from its absence. You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. Despite these improvements, she was having a very difficult time avoiding the cheese she loved so much and the ice cream she shared with her husband at night. And she’s not alone. Many of my clients start out strong, get amazing results and then as life and its challenges settle back in, follow through becomes an issue.
Finishing things and following through are at the crux of change. Without the ability to embrace this concept and practice it, we are left in the cycle of desire and disappointment in a continuous loop. It’s easy to get inspired to eat well, exercise and take the first steps in changing the course of our lives and our careers through various means, such as putting out feelers to fellow colleagues or looking into a course of study at a local college in order to learn about a potentially new career. These things take little effort other than desire. The hard work comes after that, when real life happens, and the work is in the follow through.
I, too have my challenges in the “finishing things” department, as the dozens of half finished moisturizers, essential oils and eye creams on my bathroom counter can attest. And since as you do one thing, you are likely to do everything, if I look around I also see projects once started with great enthusiasm left in the dust for more pressing matters, fitness regimens that are routinely deferred when work and life take over, and a half finished book writing project that I want more than anything to see the light of day.
With these half finished projects and intentions in mind, I decided that rather than making New Year’s resolutions detailing all the things I wanted to see come to fruition this year, I would instead live this year with a theme, a concept that I could apply to all aspects of my life and keep in my mind like a mantra that I could repeat to myself when I was feeling challenged to stay with things. Rather than breaking it down to two or three tasks, I would instead approach the year with a theme and as a practice… the practice of following through, finishing things and closing the circle.
The beauty of living this year with this theme in mind is that it can be applied to everything. Intentions to clear drawers of clothes no longer worn needed to be followed through on. Food that I purchase needs to be prepared and eaten and not wasted. Work projects and the book needed to be re-examined and picked up again. These are all examples on how follow through has eluded me in certain aspects of my life. I am sure there are emotional reasons for this, but bowing to these shadow feelings isn’t helping me nor moving me along in life.
What is needed when endeavoring to create lasting change through the practice of follow through is a plan to make it happen, a routine that creates the structure within which one can work and play. It needs to be approached with discipline, a word that can sometimes feel like an allergic reaction. But as Gurumayi, the spiritual leader of the Siddha Yoga Path says, discipline is the road to freedom and I believe these words to be true. Cloaking your intentions for the New Year within a theme can make the discipline easier to embrace.
Approaching change as a theme rather than a task has a sense of poetry and fluidity to it. It allows the change to be a part of life, not a separate aspect of life. It can be applied to every element of your life and day and used as a mantra when old patterns of operating begin to creep up to the surface. It is like an anchor that ties you to your intention and can make what may feel like a daunting or burdensome task, fun and exciting and bursting with potential.
I encourage you to consider a theme for yourself in the New Year. In order to find what might be appropriate for you, think about what your resolutions might be, your goals and aspirations, and see if you can find a common thread between them. See if you can determine how as you do one of these things, you are doing all things and therein may be your answer. I have shared this idea with many friends and clients and what has emerged are things like “I want this year to be a year of learning” or “I want this year to be about new experiences”. It can be anything that moves you to action and intention and has personal meaning to you.
I believe that you will find a greater reward in living your life in a complete way rather than a compartmentalized way. In creating a theme for the year, you are integrating all the aspects of your life into a concept that can help deliver you to all your hopes and dreams and teach you a little bit about yourself. It will help you follow through to the end, where enlightenment can be found.
Many blessing for a peaceful, healthy and abundantly happy new year!