Have you ever fallen off the wagon? Whatever you decided to do, with the best intentions, falls by the wayside? Ever left a project started and half-finished? I have, and it’s a struggle/a lifetime lesson for me to keep moving forward.
I suffer from too much enthusiasm. I LOVE starting new projects, planning new things, making lists, experimenting. But staying consistent enough to see actual change, see actual results – that’s the hard part.
Mostly it’s my own fault- I think I can do more than I can actually handle, and I don’t have respect for my own personal limits. I see that so-and-so CEO wakes up every day at 4:30 to exercise, meditate, make and organic green juice, and bust out a 1000-word think piece. If she can do it, so can I, right?
But what I have been learning is that trying to establish habits or daily practices based on someone else’s ability is a guaranteed way to fail. You have to learn what YOU are capable of, what YOU can handle. Sometimes you don’t know what’s in your wheelhouse until you are in the thick of it, so that’s when I recommend starting off small.
I remember my first DIY project. I found some chairs on craigslist I wanted to paint and recover the cushions in the new fabric. Sounds easy enough right? In theory, yes it is. You sand the chairs so the paint will grip, slap on a couple coats of spray paint, unscrew the cushions from the base, staple on some new fabric. Bam- that can be done in a weekend, right? Maybe if you have superhuman diligence and a free schedule…
My chairs, they sat (not so) lovingly under the porch for a good six months before I was shamed into action. And when I finally did get the gumption to work on them, it way more than one weekend to get it all done. The first weekend I sanded the chairs- that was all I had the stamina for. The second weekend I put down a coat of spray paint. Oh wait, in humid NC it takes a minute to dry. That weekend was toast. Make that two weekends of putting down a coat of spray paint. (Not pro tip- if you are going from a dark wood stain to white, you’ll probably need three coats). Three weekends of putting on spray paint. Ok, finally painted. Now the cushions.
The cushions, bless their heart, were stapled on with the most industrial strength staples in the world. Some blah looking dining set may come from target, but those industrial grade fasteners are meant to hold. Removing the staples from the old fabric took another weekend itself (and more grip strength than I had used in some time!) then the final quick job of stapling on the new fabric.
Six months + SIX WEEKENDS. That’s what this “quick” DIY project took me. I had no idea it would be so much work! But therein lies my folly- I looked at the steps on pinterest, figured it would be easy, and dove in the deep end without checking for sharks.
Now for some, taking on a project that gives them more than they can handle is just what they need to rise to the occasion. They are the type of people who when someone tells them they can’t, they say, “oh yes I can,” and blast through their limitations. I aspire to be like those people. I am not those people.
I, for better or for worse, only like to stretch a minimal amount. I can move past my limitations, but I can’t leap over them. If someone tells me I can’t, I usually agree. I wish I was different, but here I am, and I am trying to be more honest with who I am, and not try to make myself something I am not.
So what does a lesson on DIY have to do with falling off the wagon? What I have learned, and what I am slowly implementing in all facets of my life, is to move more slowly toward whatever goal I want, and while I am moving, being totally and completely honest with myself about what my progress has been thus far, so I can learn and adapt in a way that will help me accomplish my goal without burning out.
If I want to eat out less, I don’t assume that I have done so based on how I feel at the end of the week. I get on Mint and I look at where my money has gone- oh yeah, I forgot about that panic snack I bought at the office on Tuesday. Oh yeah, we did go get Mexican on Thursday when I was too tired to cook. Hm. Maybe date night on Friday should be dinner in.
And then I look back at triggers- why did I have to get a panic snack on Tuesday? Oh that’s right, I went to bed late on Monday, woke up late on Tuesday, and left the baggie of almonds I packed on the counter in my rush to get out the door. Why was I too tired to cook on Thrusday? Oh yeah, it’s because I didn’t have a plan, didn’t have groceries, and didn’t have the brain space to put something together.
When you can honestly assess what your performance has been, and what your triggers have been, you can put a plan in place to account for those triggers and slowly improve your performance.
For me, falling off the wagon is a lesson in humility. If I get excited about a project, and then two weeks later it lies untouched, I realize that I approached it in the wrong way, set too lofty of goals for myself, was unrealistic about what I could actually accomplish. By looking back and assessing what happened, why I lost my oomph, I learn more for the next time, and I learn how to achieve what I am striving for.