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  • Writer's pictureDelphia Simmons

Here We Are Again

Back when vinyl records were the way to listen to music, nothing was worse than a scratched record or album. The needle would get stuck in a groove other than the one it was made for, and the scratch would repeat over and over until someone manually moved it forward. 

Sometimes we would use a cotton ball with alcohol to fix the scratch, but it didn’t always work. Our stereo was the largest and most important piece of furniture in the living room. The proof was the fact that the walls were painted red to match the red velvety fabric in the speaker windows. 


Making up dance routines to our favorite songs was one of a short list of things that could keep my five sisters and me indoors. We would spend hours creating and practicing our moves and just listening to ensure that the moves matched the music and flowed. One of our memorable routines came while listening to the 70s hit album Black Byrd by Donald Byrd, and his song, Flight Time. Forty-fives were good but when we slowed down to take in the entire album, the title, cover, and content usually revealed something more. 


As we approach the end of the first quarter of this new year, I’m  reminded of the difference between these experiences. I think most of us begin the new year much like listening to a 45. In our zeal, we tend to overestimate what we can get done in one year. We quickly get stuck or discouraged. I wonder how many of us are already at that point. I wonder also how much happier we’d feel by taking the long view. Like listening to a good album, the benefits are many. The analogy just came to me recently, but over the years, the practice of looking at a longer view and a few years further has taught me a few things.


For instance, we tend to underestimate what we can accomplish in three years. A longer view helps me to make connections and provides context to what I want to accomplish. Taking a longer view also helps bring the future into the present by revealing opportunities that I would have not considered if I only planned for the shorter term. 

Before I learned to love the longer view, I would face each new year with a mixture of guilt and determination to do better than I had the previous year. Often with the same goals. 


But with the start of Spring, here we are at a perfect moment to look and be honest. Is the old way working? Have you had success or failure in meeting your goals, or are you like the scratched record, waiting to be unstuck? I find that barriers and hindrances to getting to where one wants to be, achieving goals, etc., pretty much always come from within.


We’ve all been there. Author Steven Pressfield calls it “the resistance  and writer Kathleen Norris calls it “Acedia.” They each liken it to being addicted to doing nothing. Whatever it’s called, I have dealt with it most of my adult life. Whenever I set a goal or make a plan, the mind starts giving me all of the reasons why and suggestions for doing something that takes me away from what I want by offering something else that I want but that takes me away from what I deeply want. It sucks up my time, energy, and focus. As we know, energy flows where attention goes. 


For years, I set physical exercise goals with the expectation that I would jump in with both feet. Every year I failed. Sometimes before I could even start. The key word here is “expectation.” Mine were too much of a challenge to make it past my mind’s resistance.


I started with creating and developing micro habits. I found that  two minutes of planking, one minute of deep knee bends, and the micro habit of just sitting on my exercise bike--all before going downstairs for breakfast and coffee--worked well for me. I had to stop thinking that I had to exercise in a gym or for longer to have positive results. (Oh, I also stand on one foot while brushing my teeth to maintain balance.) Planking not only strengthens my core but also keeps me able to get up off the floor with ease. Putting on my favorite music playlist while sitting on my exercise bike and pedaling until I get tired gives me a routine minus any real resistance. The key is to make it so easy or small in the beginning that the mind and body won’t fight to pull you in another direction.

I reached my ideal weight after years of up-and-down weight loss. The reality that my quality of life in this second half was going to be informed by what I do to this body now was a big motivator for having success. Timed eating worked for me. I wanted to lose 40 pounds and I did so over about 18 months. I eat breakfast every morning, but I rarely eat lunch. Dinner is usually at about 4 pm and I don’t eat anything after 5 pm. This practice has maintained the weight loss. I have also found Exercise Snacking a helpful practice. Sometimes I hop on my bike during commercials if I’m watching TV.


If you’re still reading, that probably means you also believe there’s still time to learn a better way. The example of a three-year focus can help us consider the opportunities of each day and use all of our senses. Over three years, you learn exactly where the scratches are without having to give up on your goals. The long view also gives you time to be more aware of--and intentional about--the automatic narratives in your mind. This helps to determine whether the goals you set come from society or your true self. 


With more time, we can learn to see January as a starting point for some goals and the seasonal calendar--starting with Spring--for others. These days, I look at March as a check-in point, and here we are. Let’s March on.

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