New Years Resolutions

"The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, 'In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!'"

John F. Kennedy

Almost every newsletter or blog I have read since new year’s day has talked about the same sort of stuff:  goal setting, new year’s resolutions and making big changes. These themes dominate popular literature in the aftermath of the silly season. At every turn, we are instructed to make massive changes and encouraged to totally transform ourselves into higher functioning people. We are supposed to get fitter, lose a tonne of weight, make more money and lose all our bad habits by simple virtue of the New Year rolling over.

Most of us know through experience that simply deciding to make changes is not enough to actualise it. If it were; every gym membership that was taken out in January would make a swag of buff, six packed, muscle bound, cardio kings in a matter of months. But for those who have gym memberships, you and I both know that a few months into the New Year the same faces that were there in December are all that’s left. Only the dedicated, true achievers occupy the machines bars and bikes once the January hype has subsided.

Am I dissing making a start? Of coarse not. Starting is the first step in any endeavour. I guess what I am trying to say is why wait until new year’s day to do it and why go a million mile an hour when it can’t be sustained. Achievement of any sort is a day-by-day process that has to be paced to a manageable level. Nearly everything that is worth achieving takes a long time. Look at the martial arts, for example. How long does it take to be a great martial artist? Five years, ten years, twenty years? Who knows the exact time frame, but either way, it’s years. You can’t decide to be a martial artist on Wednesday and expect to be a world-beater by Friday. It just doesn’t happen. Yes, there are freaks of nature who get really good, really quickly. But for most of us, progress is a matter of showing up week after week, year after year.

If you want to be a better martial artist, train a little more not a lot more. If you go from training twice a week to six times a week you will burn yourself out (believe me I have been there many times). Start going three times a week for a little while and then up it to four if that’s do-able for you. If you’re trying to lose weight just eat a little less crap food than normal. Going from your normal diet to carrot sticks and water overnight is doomed to failure. If you’re trying to get fit get that gym membership but take it slowly.  I think you are starting to get the picture. For me, it’s all about getting clear about what you want, taking small steps to make it happen and never giving up.

And this stuff is hard folks. We live in an era where fast is better. If we don’t get what we want in five minutes there is something wrong with the process or something wrong with us. And gees I am no saint. I am just as guilty as most of you. I work hard and expect instant results and I train hard and expect to be instantly better. The further down the road of life I travel, the more I realise that if you consistently do everything you can to take yourself closer to your goals you will get there. It will probably be a lot harder than you expect - and will probably take you a little longer than you expect - but if you pace yourself and never give up you will get there. Life and achievement are a marathon - not a sprint. Happy new year.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.”

Colin Powell