Plateaus and Planning

Five years ago I was in a different place. A much more unhealthy place, physically, mentally and in all the other ways that matter. This was not new. This was normal. As such things come to be after a lifetime of less-than-ideal interlocking habits, patterns and choices. So a couple years before age 40, I decided to change some things. Quit smoking, drink less, eat better, get a proper amount of sleep, exercise, journal, meditate. All the baseline activities that I wasn’t doing before. These changes did not come about all at once. It took years, mental effort, willpower, backsliding, self-compassion, continually retrying, external support and a goal of hiking the John Muir Trail to really pull it all together.

I am now 43. That hike was done two years ago. I am maintaining these habits (with varying degrees of effectiveness), but maintenance is not the same as growth or improvement. In many ways, I feel like I have plateaued. Like the easy wins and low hanging fruit have all been gathered up and I am now just marking time. This is a problem for me, because if you aren’t growing you’re dying. At least to my way of thinking. So I’m troubled. I’m at a local maximum and I have that feeling once more that there is more to life than this. I have been frustrated at being this version of myself for too long.

At the same time, I feel a sort of energy. As if I’m poised at the start of something and ready to begin. It is entirely possible that this is just my imagination. Even if it is, I can use that. This year is coming to a close. I don’t usually do resolutions for the new year but it is one of those natural times to reflect and ask questions (birthdays being another such time).

So what does next year hold? What do I want it to hold? For the good habits and patterns to continue. To maintain my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Naturally, but that’s just the starting point. That’s saying that where I am is good enough. Maybe it is, but I like journey and creation metaphors better than static ones. Time to plan. To take the personal retrospective, the questions, the imagination, the energy and think about where to go next. Life gives us no map for the future. All we have is the ability to create our own compass, to see the possibilities before us, and to decide a direction.

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