Today is January 13th, which means for many of you, we're now 13 days into the annual undertaking that is the New Year's Resolution. You know, those things you commit to at the end of a bit of a (sometimes alcohol-induced) retrospective sometime in late December where you're going to make it happen this year, goddamn it.
Sometimes they work. Unfortunately, many times, they don't. The list of reasons why can be long and unique… too long to list here. And that's not the point of this article anyway, so let's go ahead and skip straight to the one I have in mind:
Well, that seems like a bit of a cop-out, isn't it? After all, it hardly seems fair to pin our own personal failures on other people, right? I mean, I resolved at the beginning of the year to find a sweet red cape and some blue Spandex and live my life fighting supervillains, but yet here I am, writing this in sweatpants and without any sort of adverse reactions to glowing green rocks. THANKS, OBAMA!
It's true that often we'll fail at goals simply because we pick bad goals and have no vision of how to actually acheive them. But what about the ones with a plan? The ones that seem acheivable if you can stick to your guns? Losing weight, building your retirement, making a career change, changing existing relationships… these are valiant, often life-changing goals that have a personal level of payoff if they're acheived.
And many times, we get off to a great start.
"Hey, go me – I've been to the gym almost every morning this week!"
"I set my bank account to automatically move 10% of my disposable income every paycheck to go into my retirement fund! This'll be great!"
"I'm finally ready to get out of my comfort zone and start applying for jobs in a new career! I've already finished updating my resume!"
And we'll soldier on. Even when things get tough, we put our heads down and do our best to stay the course. And then it happens.
"You're going to the gym AGAIN? You've already been there three times this week! Why are you so obsessed with going?"
"What do you mean you don't have the money to go out on weekends with us anymore? You're just going to ditch us for no reason? Come on, I know how much money you make!"
"You really want to do THAT for a living? You know that's a huge risk, right? Just give it a year, you'll end up back living in your parents' basement. Your job right now is easy, I totally wouldn't leave if I were you."
And then your sense of confidence starts to shake a little. Maybe they're right! Who the hell am I to think I can do this anyway? And little by little, you start making concessions. You skip a morning workout so you can go out with your co-workers, just so they'll shut up and stop bugging you about it. You go on a "boys' weekend" to Vegas and lose half your savings at the casino. You stop applying for entry-level jobs in a new field because what if I fail? Why even try? It's too late for me anyway now, I'm almost 40 years old!
Why do we let ourselves be controlled by the opinions of those around us? What happened to the gung-ho attitude we had on January 1? WHY DO WE EVEN CARE WHAT THE PEOPLE AROUND US THINK?
There is a sad truth involved, and it is this: a lot of people don't like to see those around them get better. Because it makes them see all of the things that they could be doing differently, and they don't want to do it. It scares them. Because change is scary. And when you start comparing yourself with the people around you and see that you're starting to lag behind a little bit, it's easy to get down on yourself. It's a little bit of human nature. Admit it, you've done it. So have I. We all have. Ever been the last of your siblings to be in a relationship at a family gathering at your grandmother's house? Or the last of your circle of friends to have a baby? Or have you ever been around a few people who have all recently made advances in their careers, only to respond "oh, I'm still doing the same thing I was before" when the conversation turns to you?
It's uncomfortable as hell, isn't it?
But what some people realize, whether it be consciously or unconsciously, is that it's easier to bring other people down to your level than it is to raise yourself up. You see it a lot in the media when you hear about some celebrity who seems like they have it all, but suddenly their life has taken a huge downward turn. And some people cheer for it a little. Why? Because it makes them feel better about themselves.
And if you set a goal, I'm sorry to say the odds are pretty good you're going to experience this first-hand. I have already had a good dozen of our clients ask me, "so what do I say to people when they start asking me why I won't drink with them? Or why I'm eating out of containers instead of going out to lunch? Don't you get a bit sick of it after a while?"
Yes, it sucks. There is no easy answer. I have found it valuable to only share with those who are closest to you, who have a bit of a "need to know" position in your life. Especially when everything is still so fresh and you haven't built up your confidence levels yet. Keep people in the dark if you need to. Answer only to you. Don't let someone else guilt you into giving up – it's your life, not theirs.
Find people with similar aspirations. Do you know somebody in your life who's already gone through a big change? Talk to them about it. What were their struggles? How did they get through the hardest parts? Did those around them ever make them feel guilty for it? They might be willing to help support you during your own personal change. I have found that those who share the same experience would love nothing more than to help you get through it. Trainers, support group leaders, AA sponsors, Big Brothers and Sisters… somewhere there will be somebody who will want to help. Find them and use them if you can.
And if you ever find yourself on the other side of the conversation? Be supportive. Don't tear people down. Don't question their goals just because you don't understand. And if you don't have anything good to say? Maybe consider shutting your mouth.