New year new me, right? That’s an idea fitness organizations and self help literature preach every year leading up to New Year’s Day. It’s an inviting and welcoming idea that permeates multitudes every year. The new year, new me movement is alluring; it gives everybody the same chance to hit the reset button at the same time. That’s powerful.
However, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself asking “How did this happen again?” around January 7th or so. I was ready to turn the page on some habits and actions that had built up over the past year(s), yet here I am repeating the same behavior. Behavior modification is a grueling, time consuming task that takes a significant amount of time (lifetimes) to change. Expecting to flip the reasons we do what we do as easily as changing a calendar doesn’t compute.
I believe that actions are the results of habits built up over time. Habits can be both outward actions or inward actions. For example, making excuses and blaming others for my actions can develop a mental block toward taking responsibility. Physically, taking batting practice every day for years develops muscle memory that my body will learn to draw upon when I have to swing a bat. The actions we do, and the thoughts we think are the products of our habits.
To change our behavior, or to break a habit, requires constant attention. Humans are mostly reactive creatures, constantly being “on” and actively thinking about our every step is exhausting. That’s why recognizing our habits (step one) and developing better ones (step two – 100) is imperative to changing who we are. Breaking habits involves identifying what causes a reaction, then installing a different course of action. It requires constant attention and awareness. It’s immeasurably hard to change who we are – switching a calendar doesn’t change who we are, but identifying habits and modifying our reactions is a good start.
For the past few months I’ve worked to broaden my perspectives, specifically how I view others and myself. The actions I do are a reflection of who I truly am. My words and thoughts are often manifestations of whom I aspire to be, but my actions are a true measuring tool for who I currently am. When I realized this, a flip switched in the way I saw others in relation to myself.
I’ve struggled with an elitist mindset my entire life and this realization sobered me. I always compared the actions of others against the best version of myself – namely, the Zach that resided in my mind. It never occurred I was measuring the outward actions and words of others against the outward and inward version of myself. It’s easy to see where elitism can thrive in this situation; comparing the current version of others against the best version of me is hardly fair.
There’s a disconnect between my inward thought process and my outward expression of those thoughts. The closer I get to aligning those is a measure of my maturation as a person. Recognizing this hurtful habit of subconsciously judging others and comparing them against the best version of me had allowed elitism to become the norm for me. After recognizing that, I’ve tried to take steps to not inwardly and occasionally outwardly down others. I’ve learned to see my own faults and struggles and not to judge others so harshly on their own. I’m not where I want to be. I have years of work ahead of me, yet I’m learning to lean in on loving others for who they are instead of judging them for who they aren’t. Reminding myself it never was a competition, and it’s all a learning experience has tremendously helped me. Being supported by my wonderful wife and loved ones who I trust enough to hold me spiritually accountable has been the greatest blessing.