Make One Small Change This Year
The new year is upon us, with all its hopes and dreams and resolutions. It reminds me of a pop song that came out last year, called “Have It All” by Jason Mraz. My kids love it, so I’ve heard it a few hundred thousand times. It’s quirky and fun, with lines like, “May you be as fascinating as a slap bracelet,” and generously positive with, “May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows.” I can’t help sing along, when my girls have it cranked up in the car: “If you believe it, then anything can happen… you can have it all.”
Except, I don’t actually believe you can have it all, especially not all at the same time.
We’ve been sold the idea that we can and should have ALL of the following five things ALL of the time, and if we don’t, something is seriously wrong:
- A flourishing career. You can and should be absolutely killing it at work. You are well respected in your field (or at least, your office). You are constantly moving up the corporate ladder. And you make gobs of money—which, of course, you invest wisely, share generously, and still have piles of lying around to play with.
- A fan club. You can and should be surrounded by people who sing your praises because you give them everything they want and need. You are always available for your kids, your partner, your parents, your coworkers, and your friends. You’re ready with just the right word of encouragement or advice, a smile, a casserole, a glass of wine, whatever it takes. You always give your family, friends, and coworkers your full attention and are never crabby or impatient.
- A perfect home. You can and should have a nicely decorated, spotlessly clean home with lots of neato stuff (but not too much). It’s comfortable and cozy and well-organized. You’re the poster child for the life-changing magic of tidying up.
- Excellent physical health. You can and should have a flawless body. You alternate strength training and cardio training every morning with bonus yoga routines at night. You eat healthy home-cooked meals and practice intermittent fasting. You look and feel amazing. And of course, everyone notices.
- Happiness. You can and should feel positive. All the time. You’re not stressed (even though we secretly like to wear our stress on our sleeves to prove how hard we’re working on all the other things). You go with the flow, yet paradoxically also have everything under control. You always look on the bright side because you are above and beyond all that anger and anxiety nonsense that everyone else is drowning in.
Sounds just like you, doesn’t it? Oh, wait… You don’t have it all? Really? Well, that’s a relief, because here’s a secret: I don’t either. While I had a solid first year in business, there’s so much room for growth it’s almost comical… I am (or can be) short-tempered, distracted, messy, disorganized, overly emotional, and anxious… AND my jeans don’t fit as well as they used to. Where’d that muffin top come from?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a flourishing career, strong relationships, a comfortable home, and good physical and mental health. These are all good things. I want them, too. And I’m all for taking time to reflect throughout the year (including at the beginning) on what’s working and what’s not, and coming up with a plan to change.
I am NOT a fan of unrealistic expectations and perfectionism. You’re never going to have it all at the same time. Life will never be perfect. You’ll never be perfect.
You do need to give some attention to all those things continuously—career, relationships, home environment, physical health, and mental health. But sometimes your energy will be disproportionately focused on one area. Life has its seasons, just like the year does. And that’s okay.
New Year’s resolutions fail (supposedly, by February, 80% of our resolutions have been thrown out the window) partly because there are too many big changes all at once. You look at your life, see all the things you don’t like, then look at the perfect life you want, and decide you’re going to GET IT THIS YEAR. You’re going to have it all.
How about, instead of trying to have it all, you try for less? Instead of making grand plans for change, come up with some little adjustments you can make and sustain throughout the year. Just nudge your life forward a little bit in a healthy direction. Take baby steps. And then hold that ground.
I know it’s not as sexy as a whole new life and a whole new you. Who wants to take baby steps?? How lame and boring is that? What will you brag about on social media? Screw that!
I hear you. But twelve months from now you’ll be much more likely to be actually living a new life if you make little changes you can keep up. See if this year, you can just tip the scale a little toward the things you want more of.
My hope for you this year is that you will tip the scale a little toward personal presence, strong communication, and healthy relationships. Here are several little things you can incorporate into your life. Choose one or two. If you practice them all year, you’ll notice the little things add up to big changes.
- Pay attention to how you speak to yourself. When you notice you’re being mean, stop.
- Discover what it feels like to take a full, deep breath. Build a daily reminder into your routine.
- Begin a gratitude practice: say thank you, tip generously, send thank you cards, keep a gratitude journal, share one thing you’re grateful for every night at the dinner table… or come up with your own idea.
- Practice standing and sitting up to your full height. Make it a habit.
- Keep your phone out of sight when you’re in the presence of other people. Yes, even when you’re by yourself in a crowd. Start by trying this once a week. You’ll increase your ability to connect with others.
- Choose one filler word or softener (like, um, you know, right?, is that okay?, it feels like…) to kick out of your vocabulary.
Choose one thing. One that feels accessible. Maybe two. And then practice. Don’t go for perfection, just practice.
I hope you will make one small change this year. I hope you will make one new good habit or break one bad habit—a change that is small enough to be doable, but important enough to make you feel better, stronger, healthier. Instead of a revolutionary change to your lifestyle, choose a small thing that you can keep up for the rest of your life.
This year, I hope you move the needle. I hope you step forward. You can’t have it all, but you can have a beautiful, wonderful, mostly healthful, sometimes messy life.