Life’s a Game of Inches
New Year’s has come and gone. It is a time of new beginnings, fresh starts and of course, New Year's resolutions.
We usually set our New Year's resolutions too high and then fall short. It’s human nature to dream big and do big, but it's also human nature to not be able to live up to those dreams all the time . We all get inspired, moved and touched by things that make us want to change our ways, to do something new and different with our lives. The hardest part, once we get that sense of clarity, is keeping it strong in our minds and allowing it to drive us day in and day out.
So how can we change this pattern so we can actually accomplish things in 2019?
This question reminds me of one of my favorite movie monologues from “Any Given Sunday
Let me paint you the picture. Al Pacino is the coach of a football team that isn't doing so well. They lose their prized older quarterback due to an injury and in his place came a young, rowdy, creative and energetic new quarterback played by Jamie Foxx. They have a lot of issues because Al Pacino is an old school coach and Jamie Foxx is a fiery new quarterback who pushes Al Pacino’s buttons . The team goes through ups and downs during the season. When they are at a pinnacle moment, a make or break game of the season, Al Pacino needs to motivate his team during half time:
“You find out life’s this game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small -- I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch. We CLAW with our fingernails for that inch. ‘Cause we know when we add up all those inches that's going to make the difference between WINNING and LOSING, between LIVING and DYING. I'll tell you this in any fight: it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch. And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because I am still willing to fight, and die, for that inch because that is what LIVING is. The six inches in front of your face.”
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b7bgtu2O4E WARNING: Explicit language in video)
This concept of life being a game of inches is something that I have tried to use in my own life. His speech is powerful, but it is also offers very practical and amazing advice. If the team focuses on the whole field, they will never get there. However, what truly matters are the small battles on the field--so too with our lives. If we focus too big, we lose sight of the daily fight and struggle: the consistency that gets us to the finish line.
Now don't get me wrong, I 100% believe in dreaming big and looking at the big picture, but we can’t let that distract us from the fact that there are steps and building blocks that get us to that dream. Something that I have mentioned before in my videos is an idea that I was taught at a young age: the idea of the pie. If you have a pie and you want to eat it, you can't take the whole thing and shove it down your throat--you will most likely choke or throw it up. The key to eating the whole pie is to eat it piece by piece. Eventually, you'll get through the whole thing.
The issue that we often face in life is that our eyes tend to be “bigger than our stomachs.” The excitement and allure of big, showy goals gets our blood rushing to go do and achieve. Unfortunately though, that motivation and inspiration fades and doesn't last long enough for us to accomplish those dreams and goals. The more realistic way of approaching goal setting is choosing small, attainable goals. These are the goals, or habits, are the ones you do every day, week, and month that end up becoming big changes in your everyday life. But that's not exciting or sexy to do, so people don’t usually choose these as their primary goals.
Years ago I heard a great metaphor. It was about inspiration and how it can be used to help us, instead of fading and passing us by. Picture this: it’s pitch black and you are lost in this thick darkness. All of a sudden, a flash of lighting strikes on the horizon and it lights up the sky. This flash, this moment of clarity, helps you get your bearings and shows you what direction you need to head towards. That's how I view inspiration and big goals. The lightning is our inspiration. We get that one spark of lighting, but only just a split second, so it becomes up to us to find our way. The daily grind is the struggle through the darkness, but we have moments of excitement, accomplishments and clarity that help us sense the direction we are supposed to go. It helps us drive and motivates us to fight through darkness that can be distressing and frustrating.
To help give you a “flash of lightning,” I thought I’d go through some of the most common New Year's resolutions and ways you can actually accomplish them this year:
Many of us feel we are not at what we view as our “ideal weight.” So what do we do? We put ourselves on these extreme diets and fads that are impossible to stick with. Losing weight is not a “thing” you do, but a lifestyle change. This is quite literally about those inches and small battles every day. This is, in my mind, one of the toughest challenges people face. To start, the first thing you need to do is make an attainable and realistic weight you want to reach. It's not all about "losing x amount of pounds" but choosing one way to move your lifestyle in a healthier direction. . So now the challenge is how do you get there? Some examples could be incorporating veggies into one meal every day, doing "Sunday meal prep," or even just setting up a meeting with a dietitian. Make a plan and think about what small life changes you can make to actually get this done.
Get in Shape
A gym owner once told me that post-New Year’s is the most common time for people to sign up for a gym membership. But when I asked for how long people usually make the commitment to come daily or weekly, he said it usually lasts a month and then they stop coming. I’m not saying that you need to go to the gym every day for 1-2 hours. Most people don't have the time or energy to do that. The first, realistic step is definitely making the effort to sign up for the gym. But once you sign up for the gym, it’s important to go one step further in setting up a follow-up goal. For example, make a plan to go just once a week at first; maybe choose a class you really like or choose a day where your work/school day is a little lighter. Make it a set time every week and have a “no excuse” policy for those times. Make it consistent, because there are going to be days when you are tired, sore and just don't want to push yourself to go. If it becomes part of your schedule and routine, it will almost feel too weird to not go. If you need that little extra push, get a trainer or a workout buddy to help motivate you and keep you accountable.
I have had a lot of conversations with my wonderful wife about this (who happens to be a dietitian). She has mentioned that eating healthier isn't impossible, it just takes planning. If you set Sunday or one day a week to go shopping for more healthier foods (vegetables, fruit and healthy snacks), eating healthy (and therefore possibly achieving goal #1 of losing weight as a side effect) is a very attainable goal. Setting a goal to sit down on a Sunday and meal prep for the week is one small way to reach this goal; this gives you no excuse or way not to do it. Can this be annoying and challenging, YES! If it wasn't hard, everyone would be doing it always, and it wouldn’t make the top of the New Year’s resolution charts year after year. But, with the right mindset, commitment and structure to your schedule, it could be a resolution that actually gets resolved for you this year.
Learn a new skill or hobby
This resolution is admirable and a great way to start the new year. However, an important factor to take into account is: do you actually have the time to commit to learning a new hobby? Additionally, is this new hobby or skill something you’re taking on because you’ll actually enjoy it? When I was a kid I wanted to do so many things. I would start them all and finish none of them. One time, I wanted to play guitar so my parents got me a starter kit and a few lessons a month. Because I was so passionate about music and fell in love with it, it stuck with me and I still play guitar until this day (sometimes). Choosing something that is realistic for fitting with your schedule as well as something that you are passionate about are truly important in fulfilling this resolution.
Spend more time with family and friends
This is one of my favorites. I find this to be something so simple, but yet the most challenging. Why, you may ask? A simple text or quick phone call could qualify as “spending time” catching up with family and friends; we all have a few minutes in a week to text an old friend or family member. The hard part is making it consistent and keeping up with it. Putting a reminder in your phone to text or call that person you've wanted to reach out to is a great way to start. It's a commitment, which is the scariest part. But again, it's about those small moments and tiny decisions that can impact the big picture.
However, texting or calling is only the start. Relying on texting solely as the primary way of spending time with family or friends is a crutch that could end up hindering the relationship from progressing to its true potential. A text here and there or a phone call is only a small part of a real relationships. As human beings, we are social beings and need in-person and face to face contact to actually build and maintain relationships. Ways to help make sure you set the time for these in person “dates” could be setting up a brunch date, movie night, bowling outing or something as simple as going for a drink/tea/coffee to help continue and strengthen a relationship.
I love reading. Almost every week, I look at my bookshelf and think, “Oh my goodness, I have so many books to finish, how on earth am I ever going to finish all of them??.” To be honest, there have been long stretches of time where I have found absolutely no free time to read. But because I have made the commitment to finish the books on my shelf, I've learned a trick to help me reach this goal of reading more: I set a small goal of reading just 10-15 minutes at night or during my lunch break. Remember, small pieces of the pie. I've heard people say they are going to read one book a week or every two weeks. For some people that's possible, it all depends on your level of reading and speed of processing. But for most people finishing one book every month could be a realistic goal if you take 10 minutes a day to read a little bit. It's a decision you have to make to put down your phone, turn off the technology and spend some time reading.
(For book suggestions, reach out. I love talking about books)
Focus on me/ Self Care
Self care is truly the key to a healthy physical and mental self. The first step in achieving this goal is taking the time to think about 1-3 “activities” that help clear your head, get in touch with yourself, and/or help you relax. Once you’ve honed in on these 1-3 “activities,” try to incorporate them into your routine in a somewhat consistent timeframe. For some, this could mean getting a massage every other month or getting a mani-pedi every other week; for others it could be meditating for 2-5 minutes every morning or taking a bubble bath one night a week. No matter how big or small, choose something that fits within your schedule, budget, and most importantly something that you feel you will benefit from in the long run.
Save Money/Spend Less
Everything seems to be going up in price every day, and from the small (morning coffee) to the big purchases (clothes, shoes), it all adds up. For example, if you spend between $3-$6 each day on coffee, that starts to add up very quickly. Though I’m not suggesting everyone say goodbye to their favorite Starbucks barista, I definitely encourage those looking to spend less to become aware of these small expenses. An even better way to reach this goal? Sit down and set a monthly budget for yourself. Figure out how much you can buy or get for yourself each month without spending more than you’re bringing and stick to it. Remember, a game of inches!
This one, of course, largely depends on your financial situation, but there always long weekends when you can drive or bus somewhere locally to reach this goal even with a tight budget and limited vacation time. Google places near you to go on a long weekend or a Sunday and take someone with you to enjoy. Make the most out of the time off you have or small vacations. It doesn't have to be a big, showy or outlandish trip to make you happy. For bigger trips, plan ahead and find small ways to save up for that big trip (like cutting that morning coffee).
My wife and I love to travel. Every year we try to do something small or save up to do something big once a year. Last year, for both work and financial reasons, we couldn’t take a big trip so we drove to Newport, RI for a few days. Even though the trip was short and our location was relatively local, it was just so nice to get away and step out of our routine for a few days.
The key to checking off your New Year's resolutions are first conquering those small tasks and challenges to complete a greater goal. Knowing your “why”, the reason for those resolutions or changes you want to make in your life though, is the greatest driving force to help you stick to those goals. Think about it, write it down and put it somewhere you will see every day to remind yourself why and what you are fighting for. Now what happens if you mess up or slip up, do you give up and throw it all out? No! You move on and get back on that horse.
Embrace the small things--that’s how we accomplish the big goals in the end.
Are you willing to fight for those inches and claw your way to the top?
Have a great start to 2019!!