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  • Writer's pictureErin

Where accountability meets gentleness

Each new year brings the age-old tradition of resolutions - it's a time to start anew and rekindle the relationship to our longer-term goals. Maybe in the last year, we've fallen off or lost sight of what we originally wanted for ourselves. We've lost sight of the "why" in the midst of a wild summer, busy fall, dark winter...whatever. Now is the time to fix it! This is the time to get back on track. We constantly receive messaging reminding us to do so, promoting the better feelings we'll experience once we pick ourselves up again and keep moving forward. The motivation from outside sources practically stares us in the face.

So why do we always seem to fail in the first few weeks - right about now?

There are many reasons, I believe. First, the idea of resolutions strictly for the new year is bullshit. Don't get me wrong, I do think this is a beautiful time of year for planting personal seeds and reflecting on what may need to change in our lives. We have just recently passed the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, and now we can slowly begin looking forward to brightness again. Enacting new or forgotten habits during this time is not the problem. It's choosing this time as the only time to do so. Goals, habits, resolutions - whatever you want to call them - are a process. We cannot simply show up one day, declare them, and expect ourselves to keep up with them all year long and forevermore. We must find a system to do so that we can reliably and sustainably come back to. For me, this is where the idea of physical charts become so appealing.

Of course, this isn't new. People who are serious about accomplishing their goals almost always have a way of charting their progress, but even that doesn't seem to be enough if we want it all to last. We have to actually remember to come back to it, which is, admittedly, the hardest part for me. There are many ways to do this, but many involve strategies that may be more harmful than helpful in the long run. In my case, that would be setting copious alarms and reminders, forcing the activities, or enacting self-punishment to some degree if not everything gets done...if you've been following along with my journey for a while, you know I have a tough time doing ANYTHING halfway. It's not good enough. I've been conditioned for two decades to believe that just about everything in life is all-or-nothing. Only recently have I begun to unlearn that, and realize how few rules there truly are, especially when it comes to things I do for MYSELF.

My new podcast dropped on January 1st of this year, which felt so incredibly special not only for its timing on the calendar, but for where life has me focusing right now. I feel creatively driven and ready to expand. The feminine desire to chat all day long about passions and dreams, explore pleasure, and bond with new people and their stories is lighting me up at the moment. But in order to bring that out to its fullest extent, it must be matched with structure. That's where the 75 Soft comes in.

I introduced this during my second podcast episode, but as I began talking about the 75 Soft as a concept, I realized I had really only heard about it as it was passed down through a friend group; its true origins and values were a mystery. So, in short, here it is according to Women's Health:

"75 Soft Challenge incorporates four rules and, as the name suggests, is far more accessible than its predecessor, the 75 Hard Challenge. For the 75 Soft Challenge, the rules are as follows:
  1. Eat well and only drink on social occasions

  2. Train for 45 minutes everyday for 75 days. One day a week is to be active recovery.

  3. Drink three liters of water a day.

  4. Read 10 pages of any book a day."

Though the rules are fairly simple as stated here, my friends and I customized our "rules" and added in things that were more important to us to incorporate for 75 days, starting in August of 2022 and ending in October. My list included things like practicing the four Brahma Viharas, doing my AM and PM hygiene routines, and of course, not hitting snooze when I woke up each day. Most importantly, throughout the 75 days, we committed to sharing our progress on a group spreadsheet. This helped us to hold ourselves and each other accountable. We could track our own progress, strive to do a little more each day, and on the flipside, NOT feel immensely let-down when we could see that none of us were doing every single thing on our lists, every single day.

Admittedly during this first trial run, we stopped adding to the spreadsheet as a collective at some point. That said, it only took about three weeks for me to actively develop and continue the habits I had just set up. This 75 Soft/accountability method works best for me because, so long as I'm motivated and backed up by friends or loved ones, it only takes a short amount of time for the tasks to feel like a normal part of the day. Even better, it is organized in a way that there is no discouragement. Not checking everything off in a day just means I will try to do more tomorrow. It has never made me feel like giving up. The picture below is incredibly old and cliche, but the process feels a lot more like the person on the left than the one on the right:

This is why I have begun yet another 75 Soft challenge for 2023 - I'm a few days in now, and it will go until the day before my 26th birthday, which again feels SO aligned and special. The difference this time is that I'm doing it alone. My partner and close friends know about it, and I hope they help me stay accountable where it's needed, but I feel much more confident going into it than I did the first time, knowing that that first time still has a lasting effect on me. Just the same as my friends' charts, I've added in a few additional tasks and it looks mostly the same as the challenge I created over the summer. The only new practice is presence.

Currently, I go in and out of it. if it's quiet and calm and I'm alone, it's really easy for me to drop in and actually feel what's going on inside my body: how I am feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. When I first started meditating, when I first started getting more into these spiritual avenues and learning about how to do this, I didn't realize that I had never in my life actually felt my body. I had never taken the time to concentrate on the tips of my fingers and notice that there's energy there. I had never taken the time to sit still and figure out where there is discomfort, pain, stress, or even any desire to give attention to those parts of myself. Over time, I was able to do this fairly quickly when I could be alone and fully unbothered. That said, it is incredibly difficult to harness this ability the second that anybody else is in the room, if there's any noise, if, let alone, if I'm in public. I don't know how to do that. Therefore, the main thing that I want to work on this year is being able to take stock of what's going on no matter where I am.

Here's a look at my chart in action, after the first few days have passed by (you'll see that presence is capitalized and underlined for EXTRA emphasis 😎):

As you can clearly see, not even close to everything is checked off. Would I like to get closer? Absolutely! But is there any punishment for not achieving it all? Absolutely the fuck not.

Perhaps the simplest thing to do in moving away from "resolution talk" is to retrain our brains away from punitive strategies in achieving our goals, as well. I suppose I don't like the idea of New Years resolutions anymore because, linguistically, a "resolution" is an ending. With something more flexible, there doesn't have to be an ending. Instead, there is a light at the end of the tunnel - a promise that if we work at it, we can become the healthier, happier version of ourselves. We can break it up into smaller, more attainable pieces, so no matter how badly a day or even a week may take a turn, we can still check off a few items. We can still make ourselves proud.

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