One Foot in Front of the Other

Do you ever feel like there are just too many things on your plate?

Like all of a sudden, you’re expected to be a fully-functioning adult who takes care of their own utilities, mortgage, medical expenses, vehicle maintenance, home improvement projects, and still has to fit in a social life and a full-time job? When did that happen?!

I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve entered a season of chaos, one that seems exponentially harder than the last, when it feels like everything is changing all at once, and you’re being pulled and stretched in a dozen different directions.

So how do you do it? How do you do all of those things? And how do you not go completely batty in the process?

One thing that’s been helping me is reminding myself to tackle one thing at a time. When I have a laundry list of tasks in front of me, it feels daunting and impossible. But if I focus on just the first thing, just the one thing I know I can do right now, then it doesn’t seem so scary. And when I do that thing, I feel more capable of doing one more thing. I tackle my to-do list one step at a time.

I love to-do lists because they keep me organized. But they also create a sense of anxiety when I feel like I have too much to do, especially when the items on the to-do list are particularly difficult or new in and of themselves. But again, if I focus on one at a time and remind myself that I am capable of accomplishing just one task, I can complete it and work my way toward finishing the entire list (or at least most of it).

I’ve begun approaching my work tasks in that manner– making a list of what needs to be done because I’m type-A like that and fear that I will forget things if I don’t write them all down, and then focusing on one of them at a time.

And I’m slowly starting to apply the same philosophy to the rest of my life. Big tasks are more manageable when I break them down into smaller parts. Thinking about moving is insanely stressful when I look at the whole picture. But if I tell myself that today I can pack up the contents of this one kitchen cupboard, that one drawer, and bag up our pile of things for Goodwill, then it doesn’t seem so bad.

If I spread out the work, I know I can get it all done without losing my mind. It’s only when I try to bite off more than I can chew that I begin to worry, wasting time frozen in panic, wondering how in the world I’m ever going to get an entire apartment packed, cleaned, loaded into the trailer, and unpacked in the span of less than a week.

Today I’m choosing to focus on one task at a time instead of fretting over a lengthy to-do list. That’s what’s keeping me sane. That’s what’s allowing me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, continually moving forward, even if it’s only by baby steps. What’s working for you today?

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Focus on the Journey

“It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

We say this about life in general, but we neglect it when making our New Year’s resolutions. We focus on attaining specific goals within the course of the year, often paying little attention to what happens along the way. I didn’t think about that concept until this post by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy opened my eyes to its truth.

We focus so much on making S.M.A.R.T. goals that we lose track of any progress we might make if we fall short of our final goals in the end. If we’re only measuring the end product, we’re more likely to be disappointed in ourselves because we neglect the steps we took in the right direction, even if we didn’t get as far as we initially wanted.

Every step in the right direction counts, even if there are backward steps thrown in. We can have big dreams and goals for ourselves, but if we don’t learn to appreciate small growth toward them and enjoy the journey, we’re likely to get burned out and give up, thinking we’ll never accomplish what we’ve set out to achieve.

After all, getting to the goal is not all that exists. Sometimes, the trip is just as great as the destination. If vacation was only composed of the arrival at a destination and getting back home, what rest would it give? Vacation is about the trip, and work can be the same, if we choose to find meaning in the process rather than just the product.
-Michael Mahan, Relevant Magazine

I’ve seen this to be true when I set out to do something big and plow right through to the end in order to check it off my to-do list. For instance, I have a bad habit of reading books so quickly that I don’t retain any of what I’ve read. I certainly don’t enjoy them as much when I don’t let myself slow down and savor them. But when I do intentionally consume them at a more relaxed pace, I find myself craving book after book every time I finish one. Approaching my goal to read more from this perspective– to go slowly enough to truly enjoy each one– is more likely to motivate me to read more than setting a numerical goal that I feel pressured to reach as soon as possible by reading as many as I possibly can, as fast as I can.

Today, as Gold’s Gym declares a fitness cliff and abandonment of New Year’s resolutions, I am committing myself to pursuing healthier, slower, more intentional lifestyle changes instead of resolutions that feel like obligatory tasks to check off a list. I don’t have a definitive goal in mind or specific metric for gauging my progress this far, but I want to challenge myself to continually be growing in strength, push myself outside of my comfort zone, try new things, improve my eating habits, and ultimately find rest.

As I strive to achieve these things, I believe I will see positive results. I don’t know exactly what they will look like, but that’s kind of exciting, thinking there will be little surprises for me along the way that I would otherwise have passed right by on my way to the finish line. And I know I will enjoy the journey.

Just Keep Moving

It’s been hard for me to figure out how to exercise the way I want to as the weather continues to get colder. I love running outside, but I seem to have a particularly low threshold for cold weather this winter, leaving me unable to bear the temperatures outside.

Honestly, that was a hard blow to my heart, since I enjoy running so much, but it forced me to think outside the box and search for new fitness options. It also opened my eyes to the high value I had placed on running in terms of fitness.

I did enjoy running, but it wasn’t always my main motivator, and sometimes I had a really bad attitude about it as I reluctantly walked out the door into the cold, as if running had become an unenjoyable form of personal punishment once the weather got too cold.

“The best way to avoid this type of self-sabotage is to view your runs themselves as rewards rather than as chores to be gotten through and rewarded…

[Y]ou should do whatever you need to do to enhance your enjoyment of running. Studies have shown that when people manipulate their workouts in ways that make them more fun, they are more likely to stick with their programs. If you enjoy running with music, run with music. If you prefer running with a friend or group, do that. If you like running in the park, run in the park. There’s really no wrong way to run for weight loss if you’re having fun.” – myfitnesspal article

While there is by no means anything inherently bad about making fitness, exercise, or running a big par of one’s life, it isn’t the only way to exercise. This winter has challenged me to rethink my approach to fitness, just like I’m doing with nutrition. I want to live a healthy lifestyle, not one that feels confined or treats fitness like an obligation or punishment. I want to really enjoy what I’m doing, and running in the bitterly cold weather just doesn’t fit into that.

Instead, I’ve upped my strength training. I’ve been doing some strength training for a long time now, but I’ve been incorporating more HIIT and regular cardio into the routines and extending the length of time of my workouts as I get more into them and build endurance. While this option seemed second-best to running initially, I’ve grown to like it for this season. I have a wide variety of video workouts to choose from that keep me continually challenged and never bored.

When I consider long-term goals and motivation, I don’t seek to be able to lift a certain weight or run at a certain pace. Instead, I just want to keep moving. This idea dawned on me while I was watching a video by FitnessBlender, one of my favorite workout channels. The couple who hosts the videos regularly reminds viewers to take breaks when necessary, but to always keep moving. It’s not as important to complete the full HIIT or cardio or strength workout as it is to respect your limits, and you’re still reaping great benefits as long as you keep moving.

That is exactly what I want to do: grow stronger, continually challenging myself to move forward toward new heights, recognizing and respecting my limits as necessary for preventing injuries that would cause setbacks, but being willing to try new things and push myself outside of my comfort zone to avoid getting stuck in a rut, making sure I enjoy what I’m doing.

And oddly enough, this concept is true for the rest of life as well. No matter what comes my way, trips me up, distracts me, demands my attention, threatens to steal my joy, or hinders me from reaching my goals, I want to just keep moving. Even if it’s just one little baby step at a time, I will keep moving, keep striving for new heights, trying to figure out what works for me, and refusing to give up. Because I believe greater things like ahead than any I can leave behind.