I started this “Ask Fieldpoppy” feature last year, but haven’t written a column since June for various reasons (My mother died, I got covid, I got a new job — <vague handwaving at the world>). But here I am again, ready to answer all of your questions about movement and life and life in movement. Ask a question for next month in the comments!
It’s the start of the year and people are making commitments and taking up challenges all over the place. But something is bugging me — how do we strike a balance between making commitments to yourself about things that matter and having that be a force for good in your life, without having it end up in a sad puddle of shame and self blame if you fail as we all occasionally do? I got into this conversation with a friend about how to motivate yourself with challenges — but how do you know when a thing isn’t the right sort of goal for a challenge– e.g., two date nights a week!–or that it’s not a good time in your life for challenges, sick kids and busy at work.
And — when is a challenge too small? I like the idea of scaling back but have a friend doing damp January. No drinking on weekdays. Another friend doing Veganuary on weekdays only. What do you think of this kinds of scaling back? I guffawed about damp January but maybe given where this person is that’s a huge challenge.
When is goal setting a meaningful thing?
The answer is buried in your question — “things that matter.” I believe that life is most meaningful (and survivable!) when we are in touch with the things that matter to us. Truly in touch that with the things that matter to each of us, individually.
Because January is so full of challenge this, resolution that, hashtag this, it can be easy to get swept along in commitments because other people are doing them, and they seem like a good idea. And most of the challenges that have flicked past me are hard to argue with in terms of their inherent goodness — I’m sure not going to suggest that going outside for 23 minutes every day or having a centring word to focus on is a bad idea. (In fact, I wrote a pretty impassioned post a little while ago about how the idea of having a drishti — focusing point — that helps us balance is as important in life as it is on the yoga mat).
BUT. To make any of these things meaningful — and to set yourself up for success – you need to know what “meaningful” means to you.
In my work as a coach, one of the most powerful foundations for clients is to really examine their own values, and to begin to connect it to a sense of purpose. What truly matters most to you? When do you feel most yourself, most in flow, most like you matter (even a little bit), most connected with a sense that your presence on this earth is a little bit sacred, has meaning beyond yourself, is truly alive? Go deep — what words are unique to YOU to describe that?
When you capture that, even a whiff of it — roll it around on your tongue. Find words or images that have meaning for you. And structure your challenges or commitments around that. Who do you most want to be? What version of you do you want to live into the most? What sense of yourself do you want to bring to your relationships, your work, your community, the quiet moments alone with your own head? How do you want to BE in your life? What commitments will help feed that?
One of the most memorable moments in my life was when a massage therapist said to me, on my 50th birthday— “you’re so strong — what are you going to do with that strength?” That’s what challenges should be about strength to give you the capacity to do things that matter.
For me, challenges aren’t about flawless completion (despite my reputation as a completist) — they are about creating a reflective experience of what it feels like to do that thing. What are you learning about yourself? What might you learn by “dampening” your relationship with booze or shifting your relationship with meat, just trying to be a bit more intentional? How do you incorporate that learning into your sense of self and how you make decisions?
I’m doing a few of the more external challenges, because I like to have a framework to structure my movement around. But my relationship with movement? What I make of it? That’s the real purpose. How does my body feel, in early January 2023? What makes me tired, what makes me feel alive, what is happening in my lungs and heart and guts? Riding my spin bike through fake Italia is a means to that understanding — not the purpose in and of itself.
I need to let some shit go. Close the door. I’m struggling with the last push and the latch. How can I get there?
I feel the anguish here — and how hard you’re working to get here. So… take a breath for a moment. Drink a glass of water and sit down wherever you yoga or meditate or look outside at the sky. Imagine it’s two years from now, and you are free of this. Who are you? What are you doing? What is making you feel alive? What is making you laugh? Don’t define your future in relation to the latched door — not “I am free of this thing” — but what is fully present around this freedom? How are you relating to yourself? To other people? What colours are in your world and what air is in your lungs?
Don’t try to close the door — leave it open, it’s part of you. But move away from it and toward that future self. Give yourself a few habits and decisions that will help you feed the you of two years from now. Let the door get further behind you and matter less.
Big light to you, Latched. Happy new year.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede (she/they), who lives and works on the land we currently call Toronto, the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and is covered by Treaty 13, signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit. Cate is a coach, auntie, educator, consultant and general thinker about relationships, meaning making and bodies. Here they are meditating on their own future six years ago almost to the day in Laos.