Manda Maggs

Manda Maggs, Penticton BC

A Firmness of Purpose, or a dog holding its own leash?

Happy New Year! 

Is anyone else feeling like 2015 gained a lot of momentum towards its end? I feel like December took on a life of its own; as if a charging, steaming locomotive hit me and now I'm waking up on this side of the 2016 tracks without a clue how I got here. 

As every January rolls by, one starts to think about what the new year will bring: Resolutions. To be resolute.  Resolve. A 'firmness of purpose'. It occurs to me that this is what I've been attempting to nail down over the last 4 months. Studies have shown that if you wants to achieve a goal, you will be more likely to succeed if you make your goal public and then share your progress. Sharing is especially effective for things like breaking bad habits (eating junk food, smoking, picking). This effect is due to a number of reasons, one is accountability: others may be watching you to see how you are doing (this is a double-edged sword for me - sometimes when I think people are keeping an eye on me I find myself deliberately doing the opposite of what they expect to see from me. This takes the form of insolent behaviour: If someone is watching me eyeing up a plate of doughnuts who knows I am trying to lose weight, I will shove one in my mouth just to prove to them that I don't care if they disapprove. I am aware that this make me a petulant idiot and doesn't help me very much at all.). 

 A perfect illustration. 

A perfect illustration. 

Another reason why this usually works is that you can then have positive reinforcement, a cheering squad to help you along. This is also something I fight back against, for no good reason. Mike is especially good at giving  positive reinforcement and feedback (You look really good today, you're so much stronger on our hikes, etc), and he's often bewildered when I get all moody and grumpy and refuse to take the compliment. What's wrong with me? Well, what's happening in my head (on a snowshoeing trek, for example) goes something like this:

Me (in my head): Oh god this is going to kill me. (huff huff) Try to breathe. (huff, huff). Not too loudly - don't want people to think I am struggling. (huff huff) Where are we going anyways? I did not prepare at all for a four hour trek...(huff huff) where are we? Why does everyone else look like they're taking a casual stroll and I can barely breathe?? (huff huff). My legs are killing me. This is so embarrassing. Never again... (huff huff)...and so on. 

Me (out loud): No you go ahead, I like to walk me a chance to take pictures...

Others <in discussion, as I catch up to the group>: This is great! Do you think we have time to take the big loop around the park? Will there be enough light? Yeah! let's go! it's so nice out! 

Me (in my head): Oh god no oh god no oh god no I will die out here (huff huff) and they will have to carry my (huff huff) weakling body back to the car with their apparently inexhaustible muscles.(huff huff)

Me (out loud): I think the sun is going down...maybe we should head back... 

<trekking continues>

Me (in my head): Yep, gonna die. (huff huff). Come on - one foot in front of the other. (huff huff) Why on earth did I agree to this? (huff huff) Stupid traitorous legs, work better! (huff huff) I'm sorry legs, you're doing the best you can. It's my fault for getting us into this mess. (huff huff) Just take me home... (huff huff)

Mike (circling back to find me): Hey! Are you having fun?

Me (holding my breath so I don't betray how hard I am breathing): Sure...

Mike: You're doing really well! What a nice day! I'm having lots of fun - so's the dog. Did you see me run up that hill and drop snow all over Holly? It was awesome. We should do this more often. Are you sure you don't want a pair of snowshoes for Christmas? 

Me:  ....   (still holding my breath, lungs burning, legs wobbly, watching everyone else trot around throwing snowballs and horsing around) ....

Mike: It's good exercise. I really notice a difference in how you're doing. 

Me (giving in to frustration, takes huge breath with aching lungs): (HUFF HUFF) SNOWSHOEING IS STUPID. (HUFF HUFF) WHO THOUGHT THIS IDIOTIC EXERCISE WAS FUN? (HUFF HUFF) Why not just WALK like normal people? I am NEVER doing this ever again. (starts crying) DONT LOOK AT ME!!!

(storms off)

Mike: ...what just happened? 

Basically, I'm setting myself up to be completely unable to take a compliment, let alone admit to myself that I am actually doing better than the last time I tried it. Which bring me back to RESOLUTIONS. I obviously have some things to work on: 

  • Design a pair of motorized snowshoes (just kidding...though not the worst idea, amiright?)
  • Cut myself some slack. It's okay to be the slowest, the weakest, the least fit sometimes. What counts is that I am out there, trying my best, and having fun. Perhaps I would be less focussed on how miserable I feel if I focus on enjoying the experience.  
  • Take the compliments. Compliments are hard to come by and when they are given freely they should be considered a gift. 

This list is HOW I am going to help myself achieve my resolutions - not the resolutions themselves. My actual resolutions are the typical get-in-shape, take-charge-of-my-career, kind of stuff. I hope that by taking my own advice the following resolutions will take form for me in 2016:  

  1. Lose the extra pounds. My plan is to reach a BMI of 20. Be healthy and strong. 
  2. Learn the difference between embarrassment and anger (as illustrated by the snowshoeing example - this is something that will obviously be good for everyone around me).
  3. Schedule creative time for myself that's not about business or work or developing my skills as an artist - just let myself enjoy the ride of creative play.
  4. Leave work at the office. I find myself in the evenings rehearsing programs, making to-do lists, checking emails, and working through my lunch break every single day. No more. 

Wish me luck! I also wish you all the luck in the world for achieving your own new year's resolutions - feel free to share them, too! I will be sharing my progress as the year marches on. May 2016 see us all happier, healthier, and kinder.