We tend to want to make big and permanent changes.
It’s a new year so I’ll start exercising or give up smoking or be nice to others or . . . We look up and it’s about half past January and we’re back doing whatever we resolved to give up.
I like a more pragmatic approach. In Reiki, for example, you don’t promise that you will change anything forever. You wake up each day and say “Just for today do not worry. Just for today, do not anger.”
And what happens when around lunch time you find yourself furious with someone? You shrug. You notice your anger. But you’ve only lost today. Tomorrow you start fresh and say “Just for today . . .”
Suppose you’ve given up meat for Lent and without thinking you are half way through a corned beef sandwich on Ash Wednesday. First day of Lent and there you are enjoying the very thing you gave up. Have you blown the entire lenten promise? Do you finish your sandwich? When do you start back up again?
What if instead, you had resolved to become a vegetarian for the rest of your life? What then when you find yourself halfway through that sandwich?
Dean Ornish claims it is easier to make bigger changes. He writes that it is easier to give up meat entirely than to reduce the amount you eat. He and others also write about the time it takes to make a permanent change. But health clubs survive because of the memberships they sell to people who only use their facilities for a short time.
John Webster used a thirty minute strategy for giving up many of his addictions. He quit smoking and lost a great deal of weight with a simple thirty minute rule. If he wanted something – a cigarette, a bag of chips, whatever he was trying to reduce – he would look at his watch. If he still wanted it in thirty minutes he would have it.
He was able to eliminate those things that were fleeting fancies. He wasn’t denying himself anything he wanted. He was taking time to confirm that he really wanted what had popped into his head.
Think of the power of managing time at both ends: forgiving ourselves and starting fresh each day and slowing down our response to stimuli.
I’m not sure I could do either. Just for today, I’m going to try.