Water Under the Bridge – Balance & Practice

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IMG_4171  Michaela Ortega
The new year brings so many opportunities for fresh starts. But I have a little problem… turning those fresh starts into year long pursuits.

In writing down and figuring out my goals this year, I realized I needed to find a way to make sure these really stuck. I didn’t want my goals to be something I thought about every other month and never really applied myself too. I wanted some way to bring the pursuit of my goals into my every day and every week life.

So with the help of some thinking, some writing, and some inspiration through reading, I put some ideas together. Nothing mind blowing, nothing revolutionary, just simple ideas. Which I think is why liked them so much; because they were simple and things I could easily do. I thought a lot about two things: the idea of balance in life, and the idea of practice.

So, first up: balance.

I’d consider myself a pretty balanced person. I actively try to split my time among my work, my training, and my personal life. I make sure I get enough sleep at night, I attempt to eat as nutritiously as possible, I spend time with friends every week, and I get outside every day. Sometimes I think I’m too balanced. And please, I don’t mean this in a pretentious way. I mean I feel like I’m unable to focus all my energies on one goal the way some people can. The way some people can gut and pour their soul into something. I envy those people; I do. Because there is something inside me that always pulls me back to center, back to balance without having gone 200%. Maybe I’m the only one that feels this way but I doubt it.

Anyways, admitting that I can be very balanced by no means indicates there aren’t bad days or bad weeks or sometimes even bad months. When shit just sucks, you feel out of wack, like life is spiraling downward quickly. Hopefully we pull ourselves out of these funks and find that equilibrium again. Sometimes this happens easily and sometimes it doesn’t. But what it comes down to is the simple decision that you don’t want to feel that way anymore. You’ll never come back up for air because someone else did it for you. In the end, its you who needs that balance back.

So balance to me will most likely look different than balance to you. But regardless of how this looks, I think it’s critical to strive for balance in whatever way works best.

Okay, now what am I trying to balance? Well this is where goals (if you so choose to call them, lifestyle changes, whatever) come in. In writing down my goals this year, obviously there were tangible things I wanted to accomplish. But there were also goals oriented toward who I wanted to be as a person. How I could be the best me possible. I think this is what we are trying to balance. This idea, these goals, these things we really really care about – we want to make them all happen, we want to make all our dreams come true right? We want to attack these things we love (not in a crazy ex-girlfriend way but you know what I mean).

I think the first step is figuring out what you love, what your goals are and writing them down. Then you can think about balancing all your ideas. And by balancing, I mean, giving each of these things the time and effort that they deserve in order to see them through. If we only have one singular goal, well then focusing all our energies on that makes it pretty easy to balance. But chances are, like me, most of us have more than one goal we want to accomplish this year – and hopefully they’re ones we really care about and love. Having multiple goals is great, but finding balance in crossing them off the list is important too.

This brings me to the second idea I’ve been thinking about: practice.

It’s the new year, (or any time of year, really, you don’t have to wait until January 1 to write down and smash goals) you’ve got your goals and now you have to tackle them. This is where everyone seems to get tripped up, including myself. It’s full force in January and then we kind of sputter, sputter, come to a halting stop by February. Lack of balance comes into play here as we start out engines roaring then peter out at the end. Kind of like going way too hard in the beginning of a workout and then dying at the end of it; we didn’t pace ourselves. So I think this is what happens with goals a lot. We start out hot in the beginning and then fizzle.

Here is where I insert, 1. Balance, and now, 2. Practice.

I think the idea, or maybe mindset, of accomplishing a goal through practice can really put a goal in motion throughout the year. So this idea of practice may seem self-explanatory, but I’m going to explain what I think of it anyways.

When I think about how to be good at something I really care about it, I understand you have to practice…all the time, every day, as much as you can. Easy example: sports.

Pick any sport, and those who are the best at what they do have probably been at it for a long time and have been relentless at getting to the top. They put in a ton of work to get good at what they’re great at. And how did they do it? They practiced every day.

Heres another example: math. You want to be great at math, well, you’re going to have to practice a lot of math problems. And you’re probably going to have to practice them every day and every week so you stay fresh and don’t forget how to do certain problems.

Or maybe you want to be really great at writing. Well writing once a month is great, but putting pen to paper only twelve times throughout the year is not going to be as effective to get you to your goal than say, writing every week (52 practice times a year) or every day (365 practice times a year).

So, to me it seems simple. Anything in life that you are good at or want to be good at takes a lot of time and practice. And it’s the simple things too, things we don’t even think about, like how we talk, how we react to certain types of people, how we wake up in the morning, how we drive, etc. All these things, all these “habits”, we have them and do them every day because we practice them (mostly unconsciously) every day. Maybe our goal is to have a better morning routine after we wake up or a better nighttime routine before we go to bed. Well break it down and make it simple. Write down your goals – what do you want to accomplish when you wake up or what do you want to do differently at night before bed? Write it down. And then the practice comes in. Just the same way you want to be a great basketball player and you practice every day to do that, you have to practice your new routine every day in order change that habit and reach that goal.

Okay, here’s another example. Maybe a goal is to react better to someone you don’t like. Everyone knows somebody that just bothers them; they just get under your skin and irritate you. So your goal is to react better to that person (or people) and treat them better. A good goal but totally useless unless you put it into action and (you guessed it) practice. And because you are probably in the habit of reacting to this person in a certain way because that’s what you’ve always done, then its going to take a lot of practice. And, just like with a lost football game, its not always going to go as planned. Maybe you’re having a bad day and react and let your emotions get the best of you. That’s okay, but next time practice the new way. And just like a novice swimmer who isn’t great at it in the beginning, the more you consciously practice these things (especially when trying to change old, long standing habits) the better and better you get at them until you become an expert. Ah, but this takes time! So, I have a little sentence, a little mantra to enter 2016 with that tie these two ideas together…

Balance what you love and practice every day (or every week).

This is what I mean…

I sought these ideas because I didn’t want my 2016 goals to fade away. So aside from choosing ones that are important to me, I also decided I wanted to balance my time among them AND make them stick by practicing every day or every week. To figure out how to do this I made two columns, one labeled every day, and one labeled every week. I flipped back to the page with my goals on them and one by one went through and placed how I could practice them either in the every day column or the every week column.

Again, I wanted to make this stuff stick, I wanted to create new habits, and so I needed to shift how I spent my every day and every week time to incorporate these things. Now some things are easy to do every day. One of my goals is to read and write more. Okay, I can do that every day – even if it is only 5 or 10 minutes of each, it still counts, I still practiced. Some days might be more, like 30-60 minutes which is great, I fit in what I can and accomplish my daily goal. Other things might not be able to be done every day but they can certainly be done every week. If it helps, schedule it into your day or your week. Absolutely make time for these things – they are YOUR goals!

One thing I wanted to keep in mind is that this is about making a change and forming a new habit so it will require some shifting of priorities, some sacrificing things that weren’t serving me before and just taking up time in my day to day life. Goals that I felt I couldn’t accomplish every day, I wrote in the every week column.

Every goal is unique and maybe its hard to pinpoint exactly what you can do to work towards it but this is where you break it down into manageable pieces that you can do every week. Maybe you want to buy a car or a house. Well I think its safe to say, this can’t be done well in a weeks time. But there are so many little tasks that can be done each week that can lead you, by the end of the year, to accomplishing your goal. This could include everything from researching to driving around to look at cars or areas to talking with people who have already been through it for advice to making lists of wants and needs, etc. Adding up all these little things make the big thing come true. And you took the time to “practice” each week to reach your goal.

To me, this made my goals much more simple and easy to grasp and last throughout the year. I think what stands out to me as the most important aspect of this is choosing goals you really care about. If they are things you don’t really want, or they are things other people want for you, or they are things you think you need to do because that is how you picture life is supposed to go, well you might hit that sputter, sputter, stop, before the end of the year is up. So, what turned into a long piece is actually pretty simple…

Balance what you love and practice every day (or every week).

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