Although I’m a big believer in self-development and our individual capacity to change through real effort, I’ve always been a cynic about New Year’s Resolutions. In the past I have successfully made some big changes in my personal habits, but they’ve never coincided with the start of a new year. I guess I’ve never found the calendar to be an effective motivator. Plus, I hate the sudden and continuous stream of Nutrisystem and treadmill ads served up on my television and computer the minute New Year’s Day arrives. So I wasn’t expecting to find inspiration the first week in January.
But something surprising happened. I went to a spinning class with an instructor I’ve never met before. His name is Jon Malone, and he was the most inspiring guide! Toward the end of the ride, he stated that his theme for 2017 will be “100%.” (Cue my eye roll.) Then he went on to share what he means by that, as it applies in his own life.
The first thing that caught my attention was Jon’s decision to give 100% to making life better for his parents this year. I’d expected a well-worn lecture about giving your all during a workout. Here was something clearly different, not even related to exercise.
Jon’s parents retired and moved into a new house in New Hampshire on Dec. 23. Jon spent the Christmas holidays unpacking hundreds of boxes and helping them settle in. At one point he looked out the back door and noticed a nice wooded area behind the house. There was snow on the ground so he put on his snowshoes and went exploring. He wound up creating a 1.5 mile trail for them through the woods, with an additional loop up a hill if they felt up to more of a challenge sometimes. Then he went and bought them used snowshoes.
Jon anticipated correctly that his dad would grumble and make excuses about having nowhere to sit down outside to put the snowshoes on. So he went to the hardware store, bought lumber, came back and built them a bench. He showed us a pic he’d grabbed of them smooching on it. How cool is that?
I realized something then about myself. As he told his story, I assumed he’d maxed out his 100% by helping them unpack for a couple of days. I would have certainly given myself a pat on the back for the effort (and have felt very virtuous doing similar things in the past). But that wasn’t what Jon was talking about – that was his baseline effort. What he did next was spend a few days making something really delightful that gives his parents access to the beautiful outdoors and promotes their well-being.
I realized then that “100%” is not a fixed value. My 100% is probably equivalent to Jon’s 75%, or maybe even his 50%. This was a revelation. He was the dutiful son, but once he fulfilled his responsibility, that’s when he really got started. I loved his shared enthusiasm – his project reminds me a bit of the kind of projects I’d get really excited about as a child. Ones where we’d create a new space, whether it was a blanket fort inside, a snow fort outside, a treehouse or just a tent pitched in the backyard. (Yes, I was a tomboy.)
“100%” is really a mindset, one that I think is well worth considering as something to work toward this year. I plan to use it as a guiding principle. A remarkable thing about Jon’s project was the enthusiasm he felt sharing it with us. He obviously had a great time doing it – think of all the great feelings such an effort might produce. I’ve no doubt that Jon’s parents are in for lots more inventive and caring treats this year – lucky them. I plan to take more classes with him so that I can hear what he does next!
Jon chose to give his 100% to others, a very noble goal. But I think it’s also worthwhile to give that kind of imaginative effort to your own development. How can you get creative this year to make a positive difference in your own life? Are you worth 100% – your very best effort? (Be sure to use Jon’s standard, not mine!) Can you imagine that working on some aspect of yourself could be fun and so rewarding you’ll want to tell others about it?
Imagine how giving 100% (Jon-style) might benefit your relationship. Or help you meet a bunch of new people this year. Or get you back on the market after a breakup, feeling good about the future. Maybe it’s the way to kickstart a job search or pay off debt.
What is one thing you’d really like to commit to this year? How can you be creative and go way beyond baseline to reach a genuine 100% effort? Can you envision the greater rewards of truly going all in rather than making a “satisfactory” half-hearted effort? What is “good enough” for you in 2017?