Blue Mondays, Peace Pilgrims, and three day resolutions

I wanted to cover this yesterday, given that it was actually Blue Monday. But since it was Inauguration Day and even a national holiday, I decided to save it for Self-Help Tuesday, today.

Apparently Blue Monday is the most depressing day of the year. Actually, until last week, I’d never heard of it.  Someone I was talking to mentioned the term and when I asked her what “Blue Monday” was she said, “It’s the day when most people bail on their New Year’s resolutions.”

The fact that people quit on making positive changes after three weeks is telling. First, resolutions by their nature are doomed to failure. Second, Americans have grown addicted to quick fixes, short cuts, and then, when they don’t work, blaming someone for their own lack of success. I’d say this is one of the main reasons why we’re languishing as a country, but I’ll leave that up to the cultural critics to hash out.

I think one reason people fail at following through on their resolutions is that there are no consequences for not staying the course. Another reason is that people set the bar too high, or even take their eyes off their goal, losing focus in the process.

I don’t make resolutions. I’m interested in a lifestyle of reinvention. Because the journey is ongoing, I don’t get to the end of the year and decide it’s time to do something new.

I do use the end of the year as a line of demarcation and often look at what worked the previous 12 months and what didn’t. Then, I’ll make small adjustments, or decide to move in a different direction, using the first of the year as a cairn, so to speak.

Since we’re on the topic of failed resolutions, let me point you towards the story of one Daryl Watson. It’s a long, convoluted story that you can pursue in greater detail at This American Life, which featured Daryl’s failed journey on their January 4th broadcast (scroll down to Act I).

Basically, Daryl was a guy experiencing an existential crisis of faith, or something like that. I mean, who doesn’t experience one of these almost daily. Thinking that he needed a cause a bit bigger than his current life, he decided to emulate the Peace Pilgrim and walk from Delaware to California. This was back in August, 2009. The Peace Pilgrim logged some 25,000 miles over the course of walking to and fro across the country for nearly 30 years.

Daryl decided to become today’s Mildred Norman. He bought a blue t-shirt and spray-painted “Peace Pilgrim” across the front and “Walking Coast to Coast for Peace” on the back. Then after shaving his hair and his beard, he cleared out his bank accounts and cut up his credit cards. He put his money into an envelope, and planned to give it to charity. Lastly, he tore up his driver’s license.

Only 10 days after hatching the idea, Daryl was on a bus to Delaware. That night, from his motel, he sent out what became his “infamous mass email.” Then he scrubbed his computer clean of his files, which included all the plays he’d written over the last eight years (he was a playwright). He then left all his belongings in the motel room, with a note for the cleaning staff to keep them. The next morning, August 30, Daryl started his walk.

After three days on the road, Daryl Watson ended his walk. It was too hard.

I’ve never set out to walk across America like Daryl Watson. I’d like to think I’d last more than three days. I do know someone who actually completed a walk of this magnitude. My son did it in 81 days, walking from Tybee Island, off the coast of Savannah, to Santa Monica, California.

I asked Mark how he did it. “I put one foot in front of the other one. I did it again and again.” Good answer.

Why to people quit on change and/or resolutions?

  • Change is hard
  • Change requires commitment, not emotion
  • Change is all about mindset
  • Obstacles always come, but they didn’t factor this in
  • They lack clarity about their goals and reasons for the change

I’m now in my third week of going to the gym. Monday I was exhausted after driving back from Providence on Sunday and then working ‘til midnight at my part-time job. Four hours sleep is not enough sleep for me anymore.

I had a million excuses for not going to the gym.

I had work to do in the morning, but when the clock rolled past noon and then 1:00, I decided to head out to the gym and get in a workout.

When I got there, it was overcrowded and an entirely different group than my early morning fraternity I’ve grown fond of. The vibe wasn’t welcoming, the machines were backed up and there was little to enjoy about my 75 minutes of grunting and sweating. I got it done, however.

 Sometimes life is like that; putting one foot in front of the other, and then doing it again, and then again, (and then again…).