One of my inner circle people is a man named Jon. Jon and I have known each other for 15+ years. We didn't know it from the start, but Jon and I were always meant to be each other's chosen family. One of the things that that makes us us is that we have some pretty deep conversations on a fairly regular basis.
Jon and I are both on our own roads towards self improvement. Often, we are implementing new strategies to try and grow towards the people we'd like to be. We both have a similar problem of being able to make progress as long as there's a plan, and being more than a little lax with ourselves in the absence of a plan.
Whenever I get to talking about my next plan or idea for self improvement, Jon often reminds me that, "the best plan is the one you'll actually do."
This sentence is basically a reminder that a) no matter how perfect a plan I come up with it won't mean squat if I don't follow through and b) to choose personally achievable and sustainable goals. This does not mean easy to do. This does mean that I have to be honest with myself about what I will actually do.
I may decide that meat is murder or that refined sugar is poison and want to cut those things from my life, but will I actually do it? Are my feelings about it strong enough to give me the fortitude to see it through? Have I taken into consideration all the other stressors in my life that I'm dealing with, and what the opportunity cost of making this lifestyle change is?
A while back Jon decided that he was going to hike twice a week. Ever since then, Jon has hiked twice a week (barring injury or illness.) Sometimes he wants to make his goal to hike more than twice a week, but he doesn't. He'll go ahead and hike more than twice a week when he's up for it, but his goal remains hike twice a week because it's the plan he KNOWS that he will do.
Achieving that goal gives him a feeling of accomplishment and progress. It allows him to grow. It strengthens him physically and mentally.
Making plans that are personally unachievable or unsustainable is the same thing as setting myself up for failure. It makes me feel bad about myself and slowly but surely builds evidence for mean brain to use against me the next time I want to try to make change.
Last month I made a goal to focus on my self care. I made the goal a month long and decided to evaluate my progress at the end to help develop future goals. It was the experiment and observation stage. I made wonderful progress on my self care. I exercised 13 out of 14 days in a cycle and watched what I ate 75% of the time. (Those were the goals I had set.) I also got much better about being routine with my hygiene.
At the end of the month, I hit a depression cycle. I know that this was triggered by the fact that I was making all the progress I wanted to be making in my self care, but that it wasn't sustainable. I was deeply disappointed that I had tried to make it as easy as possible for myself, and that even on the easy setting, too many non-self care items were falling by the wayside. I was hit with the knowledge that even if it was "easy," it wasn't balanced.
I need to balance my health, my work, my home, my creative, and my social needs in order to feel personally successful, and any time I try to focus on getting better at one aspect, the others suffer.
I am still trying to figure out how to do all 5 to my satisfaction. I'm trying not to get bogged down in the failures, and I am trying to make a plan that I'll actually do. I know that it is the key to my success.