12/31/2014 03:04 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Whatever Moves the Project Along


I am not making any resolutions this year to change for the better. I have plenty of room for improvement but, like gender and sexuality, resolutions that are based in the binary of success/failure simply don't work for me. I have my own system for enhancements, discovered during a home renovation project.

About a dozen years ago, I bought a dilapidated Victorian house with my then-lover. We thought of it like rescuing a mangy dog, or finding a diamond in the rough, and we set out to polish the house back to its original 1860 beauty. We spent every weekend for the better part of a year working on the house; we tiled, scraped, painted, stripped and scrubbed. We were unrelenting and my son, then 10 years old, would shake his head at us, donning an expression of combined awe and pity.

Some Saturdays arrived after a long, hard workweek and it wasn't easy to motivate myself to take on the physical labor. But we had made a promise to the house, and, more importantly, to ourselves and I had to trudge on. One such morning, I stood in the upstairs hallway and defiantly announced my compromise: "I am willing to paint today but I will not climb a ladder. I will paint this hallway only as high as my arm can reach." After a short startled silence, my lover answered, "Whatever moves the project along!" and it became our rallying cry for the rest of that renovation and for our lives.

Whatever moves the project along. It means to aim high and far, but accept all steps in the right direction as success. It means that if you can't do it all, just do what you can.

The line also works for self-improvement. For example, I strongly believe that regularly moving and getting my heart rate up would improve my health. I publicly recommend exercise heartily. In my real life, however, I loathe gym culture, I detest athletic wear, and when it's winter in NYC, I never want to leave my house. When my beloved New York Times published a simple 7-minute workout last year, requiring only a chair and wall for equipment, I thought I had found my solution. At least, it cancelled out all my conscious excuses for not moving. I have spent hours praising those seven minutes and I downloaded several competing apps to use with it, but I have only actually completed the workout once. I'm not sure why I've rejected it, but my current theory is that the beginning turns me off: 30 seconds of jumping jacks. Jumping jacks make me feel foolish.

This Christmas, my current partner risked my Jewish bah-humbug wrath and bought me a 10-pound padded kettlebell (picture it like an old-fashioned, round, boy scout canteen with a handle on each side). Despite my curmudgeonly self, I took an immediate liking to it. It felt good in my hands and I liked swinging it around willy-nilly. It's also black, my urban color of choice. I asked him to tell me ONE thing I could do with it, as I had no intention of making a career out of the object. Gingerly, he told me about the single exercise that uses all muscle groups and builds cardio and strength at the same time. It's called.... get ready..... The Snatch. I giggled like an embarrassed schoolgirl, and I was hooked.

When I got home, I positioned the kettlebell en route between my coffee/computer and the bathroom and (so far) every morning I do The Snatch before I shower. Actually, I do multiple repetitions with each arm. Am I really exercising? Absolutely, although I know I "should" be doing this for 20 minutes, not 3. But, I am moving the project along and even this small gesture benefits my body. Without pressuring myself to do more, I found myself asking my partner to recommend a second exercise to add to my "routine." I now include a Russian Twist in my daily repertoire. I stumbled upon an "exercise" I like and if it keeps up, it may even grow into a "workout".

I offer up this story and rallying cry because it may just help you also get closer to the changes you would like to see in your own life this coming year. I know that exercising and losing weight are on nearly everyone's resolution lists and they are also the most commonly broken promises made to oneself and family. There may be a simple way around this annual promise/failure loop. Instead of completely quitting when the goal feels too far or the cold too biting, try moving the project along any (small) way you can. Do something good for yourself and be proud of whatever it is. I am pretty proud of my snatch.