glow notes

Monday, November 14, 2005

just one thing

How often do you, as the saying goes, let the perfect be the enemy of the good?

If you worked on changing just one thing - one habit or activity - each month, how much more quickly would you get to your goals than if you try to transform your whole life at once, then fret over being inadequate?

Let's start with the assumption that you are, in essence, flawless. You don't have to change a thing about your Self-with-a-capital-S.

But maybe you have a few behaviors that don't support some of your goals. So you might try to change these behaviors.

Habit modification is difficult. The human animal likes homeostasis at root level - it feels safe. We know what it feels like, and even if it's not always ideal, it's known. This impulse to avoid change is a primal survival mechanism, for which reason life coach Martha Beck calls it the 'lizard brain.' She suggests naming your lizard and giving it a grape when it gets upset.

So, for instance, you may say to yourself: this New Year's I'm going to go to Bikhram Yoga class 6 times per week and eat only raw food (ok, you might only say that to yourself if you live in Southern California, but you might say something involving exercise and eating).

And so you start out doing these things, but it's hard. Because, really, you'd like to come home after a long day of work and read a good book, not sweat in a hot studio. And if you have to look at another sprout you're gonna scream. So you go back to your old ways of being and say to yourself "I guess I'm just not cut out for this thing I want."

How about taking it one step at a time? And I mean really break it down.

Humans are amazingly capable of complete transformation. And yes, this sometimes happens seemingly all at once (though likely there is more going on under the surface than that and/or you're thrown into an intense situation like boot camp or a life-threatening illness), but more often it's a gradual process.

So, how to break it down? Pick one thing and start out slow. For instance: this month I'm going to go to yoga class twice per week.

It takes about a month to create a habit. So try sticking with your change for one month. And if you want to do more, do it, but don't shift your goal. That is to say, keep the goal of doing yoga twice per week, but feel free to go four times. It's easier on your lizard brain.

Next month you might want to add an extra day of yoga, or you might want to try eating, say, one raw meal per day (I don't recommend a raw diet, by the way, I'm just being silly).

After a month or so, it gets easier because this new way of being becomes the norm that your inner lizard wants to hold onto.

Habits are like brushing your teeth - you just do them. They aren't so hard. You might not always feel like it, but you do it anyhow - because it's what you do.

Eventually, though, some (not all) habits can become part of your essence.

An example. I started lifting weights in 2001. It was soooo hard to get out of bed. I hated it. Within a month or so, it got easier, but it was still a discipline. For years it was this way.

But as some point that shifted. Lifting weights became a part of me. A meditation on movement. A deliberation on resolve. A full-body prayer to the spirit of physical revolution. A time in the day to be 100% me.

If I miss a day of weight lifting now, it's on purpose, because I need a rest or am doing something else (and I must note: by choice - I never say I have to do anything). I feel more at home on the weight room floor than anywhere else in the world.

Or, as I said to the gentleman who said hello to me on memorial day as I strode purposefully into the near-empty gym: welcome to my living room!

Welcome to your living room. Pick your furniture out deliberately and choose quality pieces, you're gonna be here awhile.

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