We did it.  We made it to 2021.

notebookBy: Heather Bell, MPH, RD, LDN

We did it.  

We made it to 2021.

Usually, at this time of the year, we’d be focusing on new beginnings and our goals for the year ahead.  But while lots of us are more than eager to draw a line through 2020 and move forward, we’re also struggling with a sense of profound depletion.  

So many aspects of what used to be normal life are still fraught with uncertainty and disruption. We’re being told that a meaningful return to the lives we used to live is probably months away.

That is hard to hear.  So much uncertainty can make it really tough to connect with a sense of possibility.  We struggle to imagine creating something different and better for ourselves, doubting our ability to believe in those positive outcomes, and doubting in our motivation to even attempt to take action.

We think, “How can I possibly be more consistent with self-care/ join that book group/ apply for that new job I want, when I feel this way?”

And yet…

The truth is that we CAN take action and create outcomes that we care about even when we’re feeling awful.  The key is in realizing that we don’t have to show up perfectly to get the life that we want.

I’ve been hearing from lots of folks about how hard it’s been to stay on track with goals and commitments this year:

  • Struggling to be consistent
  • Being filled with self-doubt about how well they’re “performing” when they do follow through
  • Feeling lots of resistance, resentment, or frustration about the goal or commitment
  • Dealing with lots of thoughts along the lines of, “This shouldn’t feel so hard,” or “If I was really meant to be successful with this, it would feel easier.”

And inevitably, the more they leaned into these totally normal thoughts and feelings, the harder it got to believe in the growth they wanted to create, and the harder it got to stay in action.  

That’s because our brains are built to avoid feeling awful, in the same way that they’re built to get us to run away from dangerous predators.  If engaging with a goal or commitment brings up discomfort (and powerful, meaningful goals always do!), our brains will interpret this as a threat, and unconsciously, encourage us to avoid that engagement.  

We’ll find ourselves procrastinating, coming up with reason after reason why it’s more important to do something else, or why we can get started on our goal tomorrow, or why we’re never going to succeed anyway so why bother trying?

Here’s what’s great, however: even though these folks got sucked into some of these thoughts and feelings, and even though they showed up inconsistently and imperfectly, they kept showing up.  

And the truly amazing thing: Because they kept showing up, however imperfectly, they created the outcomes they’d been hoping for.

I’m going to say it again: Even though it felt hard and messy and imperfect (and sometimes, frankly, unrewarding) they created the outcome that they’d wanted because they were willing to show up anyway. 

This is such good news for anyone who is doubting their capacity for follow-through in the New Year.  

We can acknowledge everything we’re feeling—all the burnout, the anxiety, the self-doubt, the resistance—and NOT make it mean anything about our ability to take action.  

If we don’t have to show up perfectly in our thoughts, our feelings, or our actions in order to make progress, then there’s a lot less baggage to hold us back.  As long as we don’t quit on our dreams completely, as long as we stay engaged and we keep trying, we can achieve the outcomes we want—

  • While feeling like a hot mess.
  • While thinking we’re not “doing it right.”
  • Even though we’re inconsistent.
  • Even when we’re sure “it’s not working.”

Having “high vibes” is not a prerequisite for moving into 2021 with a sense of possibility and a belief in our own capacity for growth and change.  We can do it while being the tired, cranky, anxious, completely real human beings we actually are.

And thank heavens for that.  

Welcome to 2021, and all the good stuff we’re going to create!