• The Hopefulist

Brick by brick

I just finished reading Will Smith's latest autobiography. In the book he talks about how his father made him and his brother build a wall in their house when they were just kids. It took the two of them a year to get it done. When Will got exasperated about how little progress they were making his father told him he needed to stop focusing on the wall. He had to concentrate on one brick, then the next and the next. We've all heard stories like this before about taking one step at a time. But the cool part of this tale is once the wall was finally finished Will's father told him and his brother; "Now you both know you can do anything."

And that is the message I would like to bring to you today. It's the time of year we try to make major changes in our life. We get up on January 1st and try to change our entire lives. And them inevitably we have a hard time, give up a little at a time before we throw in the towel altogether because it's just too damn hard. We know this is what happens every year yet we continue with the same cycle year after year without making any real change.

It's how I lived my life for most of my years. Trying to make huge changes at once. Not just one huge change at a time. Many changes. And yes, I failed over and over again. Because we know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different result. The thing that comes foremost to my mind is my health and diet plan. I would constantly do the same things repeatedly and the end result was always the same. My giving in and usually eating everything I could get my hands on.

But over the years you learn and get better, right? Hopefully! We've had snow twice this week where I live. This is an example I go back to often. When I was kid we were those people who ran to the store before an impending storm to stock up. No, not on milk, eggs and bread. It was chips, ice cream, donuts and anything else we didn't normally eat. It was a literal food fest every time there was a snowstorm. I'm not sure why it was like that but that is what we did for every single storm.

For many years whenever I saw snow in the forecast I would want to run to the store and get all the junk I always deny myself. And for awhile I did. But there came a day when I realized it wasn't healthy and I didn't need all that junk. I probably still rummaged around my house and ate too much but it wasn't as bad. I made small changes throughout many years and when we had two snowstorms this week it didn't even occur to me to go get junk food. It's something I drilled right out of my brain. But it took a long time. There were many snowstorms that I sat around just wanting to eat through the whole thing. But small changes over time made a big difference and now I don't even think about running to the store before a storm. I know I already have what I need.

But this didn't happen overnight. In fact, it was so gradual I'm not even sure when it stopped being such a compulsion but I finally hammered it out of me. This is how we need to approach all changes in our life. Start small with one brick at a time. Yes, the results will likely be slower. But isn't it better to have slow results than fast failures?

I worked with a nutritionist last fall with the goal of not putting on a bunch of weight over the Fall and holiday season as that is my pattern. I don't typically put on a few pounds. It usually like 10 or 15. Yeah, I know! So my goal this year was to maintain. I worked really hard to keep the mentality that I needed to show some restraint at the holidays. It was okay to indulge but not overindulge. Then there were days that I knew that I was going to have everything I wanted. And that was okay. As long as those days were spaced out with healthy eating and habits in between. I'm happy to say that I only put on 2 pounds. Which is enormous for me. I'm so happy and proud. And I have ingrained in my brain so much to maintain that I even forgot this is the time of year when I usually try to lose weight. And I will try to get a few pounds off. But the most important thing is to not put any weight on. Sure, I would love to be a little thinner but what's more important to me is not getting bigger. It's become my new normal. And no, I did not get here overnight.

As my former pessimistic self I would start every new year gung ho to make all these changes and then start falling off track within a week or two. Then I would shame myself and say terrible things about myself. Such as what made you think you could do this? Of course you can't do this. You've never been able to stick to a healthy eating plan. You've never kept up with working out. What made you think you could do it now? You'll never do it. How helpful does this sound to you? Not very, right? Yet, you likely do it to yourself too. We are so hard on ourselves. We set ourselves up with impossible expectations and bash ourselves when we fall short. It's not a good way to live. Especially if you want to be happy.

I certainly haven't figured everything out and likely never will but I have learned to not take on too much at once. It's literally setting yourself up for failure and then self-loathing. And that my friend, never helps anyone.

So what is it you want most right now? What is the one thing you want to work on? Decide on that and figure out the small steps that will take you in that direction. Don't try to do it all in one day. Slow and steady wins the race. Brick by brick. Section by section. That is how you build the life of your dreams.

If you could use some guidance on making a plan for your specific goal I offer deep dive calls to help you figure out a plan for moving forward. Or if you could use a bigger overhaul than consider personal positivity training where we work on changing your mindset and actions week by week, adding things slowly. Just visit my website at hopefulist.com/training.

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