"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." These words have been attributed to Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin and Mark Twain -- and used by me, usually when giving my adult children advice they never requested. But only recently did I see whom those words were really meant for: Me.
That epiphany came on a walk just before my 51st birthday in mid May. In my mind I was ranting about how someone I knew kept doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I was perched high on my soapbox, having a good ol' internal harangue and feeling quite smug, when I heard that still, small voice that thinks it knows everything (because, sigh, it does): "Annie, isn't that what you do? Do the same thing over and over and expect a different result?"
Prior to thinking about how this other person should do life, I had been thinking about my upcoming birthday and goals for my next year of life. I was in the plotting stages of what I was calling, "100 Days of GREATNESS." For 100 days I planned to write, do yoga and eat clean. I had mentally gotten out the magic markers and sketched out a big poster with 100 calendar-like boxes. After each day of achieving my goals, I would give myself a big smiley face.
And then the epiphany swooped in: "Here you go, Annie, doing life the same way and expecting a different result. ... Insanity!"
My mind flashed to all the posters, all the schemes, all the plots and plans I had created over the years to reach this goal or that. Usually it was about losing weight. A close second: writing a book. Once I have my plan, I resolve to launch it on New Year's Day ... or a Monday ... or the first day of the month ... or the day after my birthday. And usually within a couple of weeks I would have forgotten all about it.
In other words, this has never, ever, ever worked for me. So why do it again?
Because I do have goals I want to reach. While I'm no longer trying to look great in a bikini, I do want a body that is fit and strong and flexible to carry me through the rest of my life. And I want to finish this book -- and move on to another and another.
"So how have you accomplished goals before -- because you HAVE accomplished goals before?" asked the voice.
And I have: a college degree; a stable of clients for my freelance business; a three-day, 60-mile breast cancer walk; Reiki master/teacher certification--and hundreds of pages of essays. How did I do it?
I showed up -- in little and big ways -- again and again.
In college I went to class and I went to the library and stayed up late many a night writing papers and studying for tests. For that cancer walk, I walked one mile, and then two, and then eight, 10 and 12 and finally 17 -- all before I showed up for the actual event. As a freelance writer, I meet deadline after deadline and, as a result, have robust business."
So show up. Don't make any big elaborate production out of it. Just show up -- today, tomorrow and the next day.
Brilliant -- and simple! And do-able. Each morning I get up about 6:15 a.m., ignoring the other, slightly louder voice that says, "Forget about it! Don't get up! It's nice and comfy cozy in here!" For an hour, I write, and then I walk the dogs. Back home, I lay out my yoga mat and for the next 20 or 30 minutes, I do yoga and take sips of coffee (odd combination, I know, but I'm not judging). After that my girlfriend and I sit on the deck, talk, finish our coffee and take time to enjoy the beauty that is our backyard. Then I make a smoothie out of kale and carrots and fruit and other good stuff and drink it while I do my freelance work.
Slowly, but surely, my book is taking shape -- and so is my body. I'm starting to see muscle definition in my arms and legs and I'm no longer achy when I go from sitting to standing.
Small steps. Consistent action. That's what moves us forward. That's what gets us where we want to go. At least it's working for me.
This article first appeared in Radish Magazine.