Every journey begins with a single step. Small changes add up to a big difference. We’ve all heard the sayings but be honest do you really believe you have the ability to change your life for the better? Because if you do then what’s stopping you?
A lack of self belief and fear of change are obvious culprits in this scenario but another reason is that change can seem so damn daunting. Where to start? How many of us have made lists of new year’s resolutions as long as our arm and then wondered why we ended up abandoning most of them after a couple of weeks.
The bigger the scale of the challenge, the more formidable it all becomes and so it’s easier to to just not bother or we go into it not actually believing that things will change. If you spend most of your time feeling overwhelmed, stressed and anxious, the reality is that you can’t just wave a magic wand or take a magic pill to make everything better over night. It takes work - consistent, solid, hard work. Of course that sounds as about as appealing a trek up to Ben Nevis in the nude in the middle of winter so no wonder most of give up be fore we even start.
The Dalai Lama manages to meditate for around 5 hours every single day, but you know, he’s the Dalai Lama! I would be happy if I could manage half an hour every day, sometimes I do, but most days it’s closer to 10-15 minutes in the mornings because of my other commitments. I try not to beat myself up about the fact that I don’t mediate for longer so that I become despondent and think, “What’s the point?”, and give up. I’m actually really proud of the fact that I have managed to incorporate meditation into my daily routine so that now it’s as natural as brushing my teeth.
When I started I set myself the goal of trying to meditate for just 5 minutes and even that was a challenge to begin with. At the very beginning of my Yoga journey I was the sort of person who couldn’t see the point of relaxation at the end of the physical practice, in fact I used to get so bored and frustrated with it that it actually made me more stressed! So trying to sit still even for just a few minutes every day took real commitment. But it would have been a hell of a lot more challenging if I’d started with the aim of meditating for 30 minutes, there’s literally no way I could have done it, it would have felt like torture.
I experienced the same challenge when I began running. The first few times I tried, my attempts were pretty pitiful to be frank, I got out of breath after about two minutes. While Downward Dog comes pretty easily to me, running? Not so much. My progress felt non existent for ages, then I had the coronavirus last year which knocked my for six and left me with fatigue for 10 weeks. In that time running was out of the question. When I finally felt able to run again, it was like going back to the very beginning and of course it was so tempting to just not bother. But, I persevered and now while I have no intention of running a marathon or even a 10k (for now) I can now run for 30 minutes without stopping. For me this a huge achievement as when I started this felt like a pipe dream.
My point is that I know from my own personal experiences how hard it can be to try and make lasting changes to your lifestyle. There are no short cuts, no quick fixes, no magic bullets. No one can do the hard work for you. But if you start with realistic goals and really stick to them, you really can transform your way of life, one day at a time.
In her recent book “How to do the work”, Dr Nicole Le Pera challenges her readers to initiate real and lasting change in their lives by making one small promise to themselves and keeping it for 30 days. She cites the example of a client with multiple sclerosis who was told by doctors that she would probably never walk again. This woman made a promise to herself to drink a glass of water after her morning coffee every day for a month. Sounds pretty easy right? We could all probably manage that even if we were borderline hydrophobic. But how can just drinking a glass of water a day make a significant difference to your quality of life? By sticking to her promise, this gave the woman in question the courage and determination to start making other promises to herself. Eventually over time she completely overhauled her lifestyle and even managed to start running, something she had been told she couldn’t do. It didn’t happen over night, it happened gradually and it all started with that single glass of water because we all have to start somewhere.
So instead of focusing on the summit of that metaphorical mountain, try just focusing on each step, one step at a time, taking things day by day. Maybe you won’t transform your life by the end of the week, perhaps not even by the end of the year, but maybe in 5 years, or 10 years, in fact as long as it takes, you’ll look back on that first promise you made to yourself and be amazed at just how far you have come.