with equal parts compassion & hilarity

The first bit will be difficult, so be gentle

Have you reached the end of your patience when it comes to reading about New Year’s resolutions or rhythms or goals or words?

I think I have, but I still somehow can’t help myself from reading that post entitled “Choosing rhythms over resolutions” or “Why you should select one word to focus on all year”. Now, I already know how I like to handle my resolutions and goals, but I’m still such a sucker for a good article on how goal setting or resolutions work for someone else.

If you’re not like me and actually have truly reached your limit, could you maybe just hang on for 923 words longer? I think these words might help you. 

In the beginning of January, we were getting blasted by messages from every direction with opinionated people offering their own slightly unique perspective on approaching the new year, the new decade. We heard the shouts of yes to New Years resolutions, yes to picking a word of the year, yes to goals, yes to mindfulfulness, yes to new daily rituals, yes to practicing rhythms, and more. It was a lot.

Wherever you fit in with those yeses (or don’t), I don’t really care. I mean, yes, I want you to take care of your mind, body, and soul. In regard to how you do that, whatever. Honestly, do what works best for you. The same approach isn’t going to work for everyone, so it’s important you figure out what works best for you. 

Now, as we sneak up on four weeks into the new year, we’re not hearing messages 24/7 anymore about “My 6-Step Goal Setting Ritual That You Can Implement Today” and the like. Instead, we’re sort of in the thick of implementing our small steps towards the change we want to see. And, I’m realizing that even though we all have varying approaches to the new year, the one consistency everyone experiences together is the painful stretching. 

In reality, the first bit will be difficult. Almost always. For everyone. No matter which approach you take. What you’re trying to do is different than what you’ve been doing and that’s difficult.

In the midst of mapping out my personal goals for 2020, I decided to show up daily to a piece of paper for 30 minutes to practice writing. I do a lot of writing already, obviously, with my one woman writing services shop, Goods of a Soul. However, I want to explore creative writing and putting physical pen to physical paper is so grounding for me. 

As I was thinking about this particular goal, I questioned my level of commitment to it. Would I really be able to make this goal happen every single day? Then, as the first week of my 30 minute daily writing practice unfolded, I got my answer. No. No, I wasn’t able to make this goal happen every single day. It turns out this goal is not as easy as I thought it would be. As a result, I’ve missed days here and there. 

At the time of this writing, I am no longer keeping track of the missed days because tallying the number of days I showed up or didn’t show up doesn’t actually motivate me. Instead, it makes me feel like a failure, constantly trying to earn my way back to good standing. Because I missed more than one day, I will literally never catch back up again. I’m hard enough on myself, you know?

In pursuit of cutting myself a break, I considered other goals I’ve set and struggled with in the beginning of making changes. Hint: every single goal. Running stuck out more than the rest though. Last summer I set a goal of running 10 miles per weekend. I wanted to get to 10 miles because I love how running makes me feel strong mentally and physically. 10 miles is the point where I’m still able to function well afterwards and maintain a healthy emotional balance (ask me about training for a marathon and I’ll tell you all about my emotional imbalance).

When I set this 10 mile goal, I hadn’t been running consistently for months and I knew from prior experience that the first bit would be difficult. In fact, I expected that the first month or even two would be downright nauseating. I knew this as I know a guarantee. In light of that guarantee, I made a promise to be far gentler with myself than I typically am and talk more positively to myself because I knew how hard it would be. 

Sure enough, when I started running again last April, it was rough. I was rough and uneven and my form was awkward. I struggled through 15 or 20 minute runs barely breathing through my thick throat and fire-roasted lungs. I started small, told myself “good job, Alexis”, and patted myself on the back (literally) after shorter, un-fun runs.

I’m glad I did because I eventually worked my way up to 10 miles without stopping. I didn’t get to 10 miles by degrading myself or shaming myself or through tough love. I got there through kind words, graceful expectations, and a keeping on attitude. It was a foreign and incredibly refreshing change from how I normally speak to myself. That is what made it glorious in every sense of the word and maybe part of the reason why I love running so much today. Running continually teaches me how to be more gentle with myself.

Today, as I consider my 30 minutes of daily old fashioned writing, I realize that I need to be gentle and talk positively to myself like I did when I started running again last April. The first bit of implementing a new change will be difficult. Almost always. For everyone. 

For me, adjusting my mindset and speaking softly to myself has been enormously helpful in how I carry myself and carry out the work of change. I know and understand that starting something new isn’t supposed to be easy. On the contrary, it’s pretty challenging no matter how big or small the goal is. That’s okay because I know that it’s worth it to take care of my whole self and to do so with sweet love. That is what makes the change and the process of changing glorious.

So, now I’m curious how the first month is going for you. Are you changing something? How is the first bit going? How are you speaking to yourself?

4 Responses to “The first bit will be difficult, so be gentle”

  1. Carol Gregerson

    Love the article! At the beginning of the year, I decided I would set a goal to read the Bible in a year. Now, I am a person who likes to study the Bible, but not necessarily by subscribing to a particular program. I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me about not letting this goal be a check-off system, which would make the entire purpose meaningless, but to embrace the very reason for this particular goal. Thanks 😊


    • goodsofasoul

      Thanks for reading, Carol! It’s easy for me to fall into that too – checking off what I read that day – but you’re right, I’d completely miss the point if I did that. Happy reading, happy embracing! 🙂


  2. In regard to 2021 | ALEXIS SWENSON

    […] and surprisingly telling for me. However, it felt important to share because it is easy to get caught up in the hustle of another new year, this one arriving on the coattails of an especially bizarre year. It matters to share this because […]



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