This weekend marks a moment of both excess and reflection. The celebration of a year’s end, and the beginning of something new. It’s our human habit to hope for better. What makes each of us different is our willingness to put in the work to make wishes come about. Prayer, for some, is enough.
However, it’s not enough to pray if we want substantive, deep change in our lives.
Mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health are hard-won, all too easily lost, and hard to get back again.
The most common resolutions (and I’ve made plenty of these myself) are to go on a diet, start an exercise program and get the most out of life/ get organized.
Depending on which article you read, most of us fall by the wayside sometime in February. As a dedicated gym rat for 45 years I see it annually. What defines success in these endeavors is a combination of extraordinary patience, a vast dose of humor and a powerful support network. Anyone who has ever dumped a lot of weight and then is met at the family reunion with a platter of warm, homemade chocolate chip cookies knows whereof I speak.
There are huge forces at work to keep us as we are. Not only internal forces, but those around us who are comfortable with our average-ness. Our failures.
Our failures secretly make them feel good. Superior. Comfortable. When we start to rise, they’re threatened.
When I lived in Australia in the 1980s, I learned about what’s called the Tall Poppy Syndrome. It’s a feature of Aussie life. If one poppy in a field grows too tall, the rest will work to cut that poppy off at the base. Society in Australia was, at the time, and I think still is, obsessed with making sure “Jack’s as good as his master.” If someone yearned to be a doctor, all their friends would work extra hard to dissuade this person of such lofty ideals. After all, you wouldn’t want to be better than your mates, would you? When we all head down to the local hotel pub to get drunk, where are you going to be?
Who the hell do you think you are, wanting to be better than us?
A husband fearful of losing his wife will ply her with hot, warm bread and butter every day she works diligently to lose a few more ounces. I watched my father do that very thing with my mother, all the while vilifying her for her girth. It was his way of ensuring that she had no confidence and wouldn’t leave him.
Fear of losing a friend, a spouse, a lover makes us do ridiculously stupid and selfish things. Like working hard to undermine someone’s dreams. Their hopes. Their goals. This is the great resisting force of Average.
Those who achieve their goals of fifty pounds lost, a business started and succeeding, a healthy exercise program begun and maintained over time find out swiftly who their real friends are. They cheer us on, celebrate every step gained, and who love us for our efforts. They also support us when we fail, for failure is inevitable along any path taken, and bolster our confidence to get up and keep going.
Our true friends don’t sabotage us. Instead, they are the first to hand us water when we finish a race, brag about us to others, and feel pride in our accomplishments. Why? Because they were invested in helping us get there.
One of the reasons that Rudy is one of my favorite movies is because the hero is constantly bombarded with messages about how he’s going to fail if he wants to play for Notre Dame. Everyone from his father to his girlfriend to his teachers and coaches tell him he’ll fail. His one fan, his best friend, believes in him. When that young man dies in a work accident, Rudy Ruettiger finally heads to Notre Dame.
His four-year journey was full of failures. But Rudy finally did get on the field and play for Notre Dame. At barely 5’6″, and 150 lbs. soaking wet, he did it. Part of how was the people who supported him, his academics, and his dreams. He had to isolate himself from the nay-sayers and the “aim low” mockers in his own family.
After he graduated, many more in Rudy’s big family went on to get college degrees.
The world is full of average poppies. There’s nothing wrong with being one. However, as we face down our hopes and wishes this weekend, and set yet again to defining what we truly wish to become, I would offer a challenge.
Who will help you get there?
Alternatively, whose hopes and dreams will you support? As one of my favorite fellow speakers once said,
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Jim Rohn
Are you are consistently undermined, devalued, belittled or mocked by people who say they love you?
Then your first resolution might be to change your inner circle.
People who are more comfortable with your failures because it makes them feel better or superior have no investment in your rising to the heights that are your unique birthright.
I’ve had to do this. Sometimes it’s supremely difficult. But it works.
This weekend, once the parties are over and it’s time for sober contemplation of the state of your life and where you truly wish to be in a year, I hope that you also seriously consider who is there to support your best and greatest self.
It takes a dedicated community for us to reach our highest goals. You deserve that. We all do.
This year, consider who you want on Team You. The people who will urge, cheer, clap, pick you up by the bootstraps, and remind you of who you really are: deserving of success. Return the favor by being there for others’ goals and dreams.
Then by next New Year’s Eve, there will really be a lot to celebrate.
Happy New Year!