As an athletic, 5’10” female, people expect you to be able to do certain things...like push-ups. When I was in high school I would DREAD gym class. Everyone would have to line up in rows and do warm-up exercises that included push-ups—ugh.
Sure, I hung out with the athletic girls, I was an athletic girl, but I could not do a push-up to save my life. My face would turn hot as I watched all my friends bust out these hard-body push-ups. There I was, on my knees, butt in the air doing the girly, old-people push-up.
I went through my entire life not being able to do a push-up. But even worse, I began to think my body was incapable. I have scoliosis and a bad shoulder, so I convinced myself that my shoulder joints were too weak to support my body weight. What else could it be? I was strong in every other aspect. I stuck to my planks and girly push-ups.
But then one day…I decided that I was going to do a full push-up no matter what. I was tired of my teenage boys teasing me about my lame push-ups. I remembered my mom telling me that she taught herself how to do push-ups back in her kick-butt military days. It was super hard for me to imagine my soft-spoken, 70-year-old mother cranking out push-ups, ever. But if she could do it, I could do it. I took her advice: start with one and take a break every other day.
I jumped up and down in front of the mirror, punching the air (think Rocky Balboa) and told myself out loud, “You’re about to do a push-up. Right now. You’re going to do it. You’re going to be someone who can do a push-up.” I know I sound crazy, I am kind of, but I was so charged up I felt like I could fight Apollo Creed in the ring.
I got into position and, BAM, I did a push-up—33 years old and it finally happened. Where was that 13-year-old girl? I needed to show her how cool grown up Ashley was. I was seriously so shocked, I had to do one more, while looking at the mirror, to make sure it was actually MY body doing a real push-up. I began adding one more every other day, making sure to do my Rocky Balboa ritual first. I really had to work on humbling myself. I was feeling quite superior that I could do two push-ups.
I worked my way up to 12 push-ups. I felt so much cooler than I did when I figured out how to fold a fitted sheet. I was unstoppable! When I showed my husband and kids what I could do, my husband said, “Oh my gosh, that’s a real push-up!”
I felt so empowered and capable. But let me tell you, it wasn’t really about the push-up. I’d like to say that I’m so cool because I can do a push-up, but people would laugh at me. What really makes me cool is that God gave me a brain and body that can do things I NEVER thought were possible.
God tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. I showed that push-up who is boss in my brain, then my body did the work.
I firmly believe that if we want to make big changes, it has to start with tiny goals. I could have decided that I was going to start going to the gym and follow a certain workout program. Oh yeah, and drink eight glass of water, stay away from sugar and carbs, get seven hours of sleep, be more patient with my kids, only say nice things, make dinner every night, and never say a cuss word again. But I would have failed because I can’t do all of this at once. It never works for me and I end up feeling like a big failure.
Keeping my mind focused on one teeny, tiny, itty-bitty thing and then being able to do it was mind-blowing. I literally think I can do anything I want and I have this hunger to see what else I can do. How far can I push myself? What am I capable of? The possibilities are so exciting! God tells us nothing is impossible when He gives us strength.
In the past, it has taken a crisis for me to make a major change. My life was falling apart so I finally read my Bible, front to back. My inflammatory disease caused me to swell up like the elephant man, so I finally cut out gluten and sugar. My husband almost left me, so I finally quit going to bars and kissing all my ex-boyfriends.
You don’t want to wait for a crisis to motivate change, trust me. It feels so much better knowing that we have it in us to live the healthy life that God has called us to live. We can actually prevent many disasters by being proactive. I know, crazy. Who would have thought?
Instead of giving you an unrealistic list of things to do to reach your goals, I’m going to give you one piece of advice.
Instead of looking at the big picture of where you want to be, decide what the next teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy step is: a mini goal if you will. But it has to be really mini. Like, so mini you’d be embarrassed to tell someone at the New Year’s party what it is (do it anyway). It’s tempting to jump head first into your resolution, but I promise, the thrill of accomplishment and seeing what you can do little by little will take you far. Slow and steady wins the race, right? We all saw what happened to that show-off hare.
Making these mini goals and sticking with them—because they are realistic and doable—will change your brain. Each time you take action in the direction of your goal, you are strengthening that neural connection. I actually like to visualize my brain and think of myself nurturing the area I want to be strong. If you continue to do a little bit each day, it will become easier.
Even if you forget, don’t beat yourself up. Remember my self-talk in the mirror? It all starts in the brain. You cannot talk mean to yourself. Take those thoughts captive and boot them to the curb. Remind yourself that God says YOU are His masterpiece created anew in Jesus Christ, so YOU can do good things He planned for YOU long ago. Just decide to take the next right action step. Great change does not happen overnight or all at once. It’s an accumulation of many itty-bitty changes.
Each day, decide to do one small thing toward reaching your goal and ask yourself, “Did I do something that will move me forward today?”
This year, my big picture resolution is to create more margin in my schedule so that...I’m not a crazy-explosive mom. Did you see how I did that? My real goal is to have less anger and be a sweet mom. I can’t tell you how many times this has been my New Year’s resolution, so I have to take a different approach.
If I know that being busy leads me to feeling ticked off (thank you FASTER Scale), then my mini goal needs to be about my schedule. I need to look at my calendar each day and ask myself, “What does not HAVE to be on here?” I will also ask myself questions before committing to anything, “Will saying yes to this bring me closer to or further from my goal?”
As you start the new year, what mini goals are you going to put in place to help you maintain forward motion in reaching your goal? What tiny, itty-bitty step are you going to take each day to create positive change in your life?
Make a plan. Keep it simple. Forward motion.
Ashley is the International Women's Groups Coordinator for Pure Desire. She oversees all Women Regional Groups Leaders (RGL'S) and is a member of the Pure Desire Speaking Team.