If you want a six-pack and are willing to do burpees in your living room until you throw up, I recommend buying a bucket.
As the new year approaches, people start scurrying and scanning their minds for potential New Year’s resolutions. Mental notes are reviewed, receipts are calculated, calories are counted, and promises that were broken in a moment are revisited. This is motivated by the belief and tradition that by incorporating a new behaviour we will improve our lives. This could be a behaviour that we want to stop doing or something new and completely outrageous like learning how to ride mountain goats in Idaho.
Resolutions are harmless commitments we make that allows us to make small talk with a receptionist or a cashier at a store, have discussions with our colleagues around the water cooler, or have our friends and family peer-pressure us into eating angel food cake that we resolved not to eat. If we failed the resolution, we could just toss it into another pile of inconsequential broken promises that we didn’t really care about to begin with because we know that a life without angel food cake is not a life worth living at all. Resolutions aren’t that serious and if we fail to uphold them, we aren’t fragile enough that we will fall apart.
Through the ether of the Internet and our new interconnectedness, a “Be Kind” to yourself movement has emerged and has since done some wonderful things. We have started communicating and creating awareness around our collective woes and have begun removing the stigma around issues that we historically believed we had to fight through on our own. We have created a virtual support system where we can feel part of a community and share content and inspiring messages that can resonate with someone at exactly the right moment. Whatever your position is, I am sure we can all agree that being kinder to ourselves will lead to more positive outcomes.
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions or how to deal with the day to day of living through a pandemic, the messaging of the movement has been that you don’t need to set New Year’s resolutions and that during a pandemic, just making it to the other side is enough.
The message regarding New Year’s resolutions goes something like this. It doesn’t make sense to use an arbitrary day in the calendar to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Similarly, we were reminded that during a pandemic, we don’t have to turn into productivity junkies. We are in a scary situation that none of us have ever dealt with, and no one we know has ever dealt with it either. We are reminded that we don’t have to have a glistening six-pack, write a book, take courses, or turn our living rooms into personal development fortresses.
On the flip side, the movement also has its perils. There are subtle undertones of the “Be Kind” movement’s message which can be misinterpreted, and that’s concerning. In some cases, there is a note of presumptive failure that the person setting the resolution will fail and therefore experience suffering. If they are going to suffer, it is best to hold off on making any commitments at all. This is a dangerous precedent to set because learning how to suffer is an extremely important life skill and is something we should work towards being better at enduring rather than avoiding all together. Here is another important point. It doesn’t matter if we fail or not. In fact, to deploy true kindness and self-compassion, the best time to exercise it is when we have failed because that is generally when we need it most. It is okay to fail, and it really doesn’t matter if we do. In fact, most of the things we attempt in life, we will fail at, at some point; the odds just aren’t in our favor.
The way I see it, what the “Be Kind” movement is saying, is that the best way to be kind to ourselves is not to compare ourselves or our resolutions to anyone else’s. If we want to do burpees at home until we throw up because we want a six-pack more than anything else in the world, I think it’s time to make a trip to the dollar store and buy a bucket. If you don’t want to work out because you are not able to feel motivated at home and you know that your lounge isn’t designed to re-create the full F45 workout class experience, don’t feel bad about it.
The pandemic gave us a temporary license to go and wild out at Bulk Barn and turn Netflixing into a sport, but if we decide to have a healthier 2021, we could start off by working out two to three days a week and a few of us might get a taste for it. Maybe we won’t drop twenty pounds, but maybe we will drop two and have generally better cardiovascular health. The silver lining is that if you do swing and miss, no one will give a fuck and you won’t really be worse off than you were previously. In fact, nothing would have changed, so it is all good.
Now regarding what you should or shouldn’t do, I am not an authority on this. For those of us out there who do feel a sense of pressure to be doing something productive, here is a reminder: the world doesn’t require us to do anything. We aren’t required to take care of our health, read a book, take a course, go for a walk, call a loved one, meditate, or anything else. These are choices, but they are important choices and it is necessary to remember that we are responsible for ours.
At the beginning of the pandemic, my uncle contracted COVID-19 and was on a ventilator for seventy days. We couldn’t see or talk to him, and there were many days and nights that we didn’t think he was going to make it. My uncle is much better now and making strides in his recovery. Unfortunately, not everyone has been as lucky as our family and my uncle. Currently as I write this, the death toll is 1.88 million worldwide. That’s 1.88 million people who weren’t as lucky and if you calculate that there are 10 people who loved each one and are still grieving their loss (I am sure there are more), we know the world is hurting.
I am lucky enough to say that I have not lost a loved one, I have not lost my job, and besides the sizable scare with my uncle, things are groovy. If you are in a similar situation to me in that you have not been impacted by this the way a lot of people have, it is possible that our choices may give us the strength to be there for someone we love who might need our support, financially, emotionally, or spiritually. We are not required to take on this responsibility but if we do, that’s pretty fucking cool.
Unfortunately, it does seem like 2021 is going to look more like 2020 than we would like it to. If the year doesn’t look much different, all we can do to make it different is to take control of our choices. It is true that we don’t know anyone who has experienced a pandemic like this, but we know that people did back in 1918 when the Spanish Flu killed one third of the world’s population. That was 50 million people. Holy fucking hell! If they made it through, I am sure we will as well because we are resilient and committed to our survival and evolution.
Imagine if someone told Nelson Mandela or Malcolm X that it was okay not to do anything once they were in prison. No one would hate on them, blame them, or pass judgement. I don’t think they would get a bad rap for it (no pun intended), but they chose to turn their prison into their universities and their offices. It would be fine if they didn’t, but the world is a better and kinder place because they did. So set a resolution, break the resolution, don’t make the resolution, do whatever the fuck you want, but know that if you do fall short on it, that is the time to be kind, because that’s when its hardest and you need it the most.