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“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.” ~ W.C. Fields
Joyous belated Quitter’s Day!
On the third Sunday in January, so many of us drop our New Year’s resolutions that it’s actually a thing: Quitter’s Day.
I get it.
This past weekend it was freezing outside up here in the north and dark way too early. Instead of heading out and doing what we’d planned, a fire was lit, movie cued up, and popcorn popped. Our oven, warming our favorite flourless chocolate delights, wafted a scent like a mouthwatering welcome mat home. The house felt and smelled amazing.
My resolution for 2020 may have been to continue my path of wellness by making better choices, but I sabotaged any healthy thoughts whiff by whiff while sinking further into the sofa. My children and I should have been movin’ and groovin’ out and about. Instead, we sat, salivated, and relented.
When January 1st hit, some of us may not have begun anything new at all, let alone quit something by now. School children were still home, family was still visiting, and our tired eyes didn’t care that our trees were still up. Is it ever too late?
Whatever was at the root of our thoughts for bettering the world or ourselves in the new decade, still needs us. Perhaps, now is a better time to begin or pick back up where we left off. According to statistics on New Year’s resolutions, we all hold eight similar hopes and dreams. I bet you can guess at least half:
>> Manage finances better
>> Eat healthier
>> Be more active
>> Lose weight
>> Improve mental well-being
>> Improve social connections
>> Learn a new skill
>> Be more eco-friendly
No big surprises there. All of those eight could be continuous resolutions for the rest of our days.
So, that ball dropped already and even Chinese New Year’s passed, but it doesn’t mean we need to drop the ball on ourselves. Even if the same resolutions were uttered in the past, why not try again? No one is a failure year after year—until they tell themselves they are.
A helpful technique to get back on track, or to begin a resolution, is to look at ourselves from the lens of our last days on Earth. Bronnie Ware shared in her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, that a common regret is, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” How would your choices this year, this day, this moment feel to you later in life? Would getting a grip on our finances, health, or love life be of benefit? Would the risk of trying a new skill be something remembered, whether it was a hit or a flop? Is our effort worth it in the end?
Another piece of wisdom is to look up and around for signs. The sage ones say they are all around us, guiding our way on our paths. I was a skeptic of this psychic woo-woo talk until I actually began to notice them. Mine were so obvious recently, it was like a grand piano fell on my head while listening to the honk of a Mack truck.
Overtired and drained, even after a night’s rest, I woke ready to roll over, tuck myself back under the covers, and blow off any thoughts of ridiculous resolutions. This would not have been an ideal move on my path of making better choices, like practicing morning meditations. Instead, I managed to motivate up, out, and over to drench my thoughts of giving up with ones of renewal.
Afterward, I reset my gaze, and the pink book, Simple Abundance caught my eye. I’d read it over a decade ago but pulled it from a shelf and planned to reread it throughout the new year. It looked lovely on my nightstand, even if I hadn’t cracked it open. That morning, I opened it. January 21st read:
“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” ~ Agatha Christie
The rest of the page challenged illusions of unworthiness. The words felt like a rejuvenating hug: “Suspend disbelief. Experiment with a loving, supportive Universe that embraces even skeptics.”
Then, I dusted off the bright, yellow box of Pema Chödrön’s “Compassion Cards” that had been resting on the book. We’re meant to choose a card at random and practice its message for the day. I shuffled them, and one fell out. Number 21, a message for the exact day, fell into my lap. It read, “Always maintain only a joyful mind.” The backside continued, “Constantly apply cheerfulness, if for no other reason than because you are on this spiritual path. Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.”
If all those signs weren’t enough to give myself some grace and keep going, I opened an email after breakfast for a challenge that I forgot I had I signed up for at the beginning of the month. It was kicking off that day—a Radical Compassion Challenge. Enclosed was a “Thank you for joining us” note, an interview for becoming an “Architect of Change” with Maria Shriver, and the actual challenge.
Day one read: “Pause and Breathe: take three deep breaths when you find yourself becoming upset or preoccupied about something.”
When we feel down and like quitting on ourselves, support from others is essential. Psychologist Mhaly Csikszentmihalyi shares in the national bestselling book, Flow: “We need external goals, external stimulation, external feedback to keep attention directed. And when external input is lacking, attention begins to wander, and thoughts become chaotic—resulting in a state we have called ‘psychic entropy.’” In other words, this quitting stuff is inevitable unless we connect with others. Accountability matters.
Following those who are thriving already, who are embarking on new journeys too, or who are skilled in the areas where we desire to grow, magically enhances our chances of raising the bar for our resolutions. Community saves us. Otherwise, as Flow shares, our psychic entropy will stunt us with “pain, fear, rage, anxiety, or jealousy.” Those feelings for many of us translate into procrastination or giving up entirely. Someone holding our hand, cheering, or setting a deadline helps our chances of success. We are less likely to throw in the towel together.
Weeks ago, my writing group from the Elephant Academy and I decided to resurrect our challenge of submitting an article to Elephant Journal. We had set the goal before the holidays even began, which only one of us met. Our group consists of those who have already been published here and elsewhere; a recent winner of a writing competition; and others who have yet to post their words on our private group’s page.
We set a time and date, and four of us were cheerfully on board to try again. I ended my free write that day with these words and meant them, “Who needs Jan 1? I’m shooting for 1/28” and sealed them with a smiley face emoji.
The truth? I write every day for others and myself. This article was originally written to go out before Quitter’s Day, then revamped for two days later after MLK’s day. However, I let my mind and life wander during the short break from my group. Some things called me away that were important. Others? Well, those distractions were tasty and fun like popcorn, brownies, and a movie with my children. I could have laid this Google document to rest in the graveyard of other stale pieces, but I made a pinky promise to my group—and to myself.
In honor of blowing off Quitter’s Day, pause, breathe, and playback the reasons behind any resolutions.
Reach out to others trying too.
Then, perhaps, try, try again.
And no matter the date, Happy New Year! Your 365 starts now…or now…or now.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
~ John Greenleaf Whittier. Read the full poem here.
Have more to share about resolutions, quitters, or the mindful life? Submit your voice to Elephant. Our community would like to hear from you.