Sunday, December 28, 2008

Just One Thing

When thinking about making a ‘change for the better’ in our lives, we usually think about doing something MAJOR like: throwing away everything in the refrigerator and replacing it with all natural, organic, healthy foods; training for that marathon we’ve always dreamed of running; dropping 50 or 100 pounds; quitting that dead-end job and finally becoming an extremely successful entrepreneur; or selling everything we own and moving to another country to live among, and help the poor. Sometimes all of the above.

We think about that stuff and then we realize that the MAJOR change is too big a bite to chew, so we put it off for another day (or year, or decade or two). Before too long, the realization hits that we’ve spent our lifetime talking ourselves out of change because that thing is too insurmountable.

What if, like the advice given to Bob Wiley in the movie “What About Bob?”, we just tried to take ‘baby steps’? Instead of trying to run that marathon, we first decide to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park in a space far away from the store instead of as close as possible. Just for today. Instead of aiming to drop 50 pounds, we decide to forgo the white bread and mayo, or possibly the dessert; maybe we’d even consider the vegetarian dish at dinner instead of the steak. Just for today.

I have read that if you can do something new for 21 days, it can become a habit. I think that sometimes 21 days seems like an eternity when you are dealing with a battle involving ‘willpower’, but what if you trick that willpower? If your ‘willpower’ doesn’t know you are planning on making a drastic change, will the battle be as difficult?

I am my own ‘meanest’ coach…that nightmare, manipulative coach that says things to make their athletes try that little bit more, making them think they will be finished with the workout, and then gives them just one more thing after that.

When I am running (and I do use that term loosely – it is more like ‘trotting’ or stumbling forward, or something like that), sometimes I think that I just can’t run another step. “OK,” says my ‘inner coach’, “you can stop running once you reach that shady spot, under those trees up ahead.” I gage the distance between the shady spot and me. I think about how nice it will feel to get to that shady spot. I think about how thirsty I am, and how one of my shoes feels like it might need to be retied, and maybe I should stop and go to the bathroom, or go home and wash some dishes... I decide I can make it to that spot (my theoretical ‘baby step’). From time to time in the early days, my ‘inner coach’ let me stop there, in the shade; but lately I have found that the ‘inner coach’ is a liar. “See, you made it this far. What makes you think you can’t go any farther? KEEP GOING!” she says, and I do it, because I know she’s right. I know I can do it, sometimes I just don’t want to, but lately I’ve been wanting to more and more. I actually enjoy pushing myself physically now, and I see that carry over into other areas of my life. Coaches can be so influential.

I think it is important to coach ourselves. In the early days, it is a good idea to be an easy, but firm coach to establish trust. As the relationship develops we see how much better we feel, doing the things that we know that we know that we know are good for us; and then we need to ‘amp it up’ a bit – to get tougher. But it all starts with just one thing.

What one thing can you do differently, today? What one thing can you do differently, this hour?Is it something in the area of exercise (Taking the steps? Walking around the block? Yoga?)?Better food disciplines (Whole wheat instead of white? Skipping the gravy? Giving up soda?)?What about improving a relationship, or looking into learning a new skill? Just do one thing.

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