My inkling for change starts with a feeling that I should take a break from doing something, or seeing someone.
The “someone” breaks happen because I notice that my inner life becomes unpleasant. I don’t like my thoughts when I’m around the person. So I take a break and pay attention.
The “something” breaks happen because I ask myself the question… “where is this choice, repeated, likely to take me?” Eating habits and a couple daily beers would be examples from my life.
Anger, self pity, inaction in the face of adversity, getting really upset about external reality… other areas where “I should take a break”.
Politics, ethical lapses of others, the drama in your media feed… do you need more? So nice to dial it down.
Unfortunately, by the time I notice something is damaging me it’s already become a negative habit.
Do It Now => If take-a-break thoughts stick around then I don’t wait for lent, don’t wait for New Years, don’t wait until later.
I make a change for a month and pay attention.
A month will not create a habit but it is enough time to see if it might be worth the long-term effort that’s going to be required to change.
The sooner I start, the sooner it will get easier to live with the change.
After 500-days, my habits roll along, mostly on autopilot. My job (on the far side of change) is to not screw up the streak, and reduce life stress when old habits start to tempt me.
The Drain of Self-Justification => resist the urge to justify yourself with others. You are going to need that mojo for something useful!
Don’t say goodbye, don’t give a huge explanation, don’t burn bridges… Because…
First, and most importantly, I need all my energy to sort my own life out.
Second, I’m going to feel differently about this situation (and every situation!) later and don’t want to go on-the-record in my mind.
Finally, do what you need to do and be low-key about it.
Peers => pretty clear that you don’t want to hang around your dealer, anger-buddies or gluttony-appreciation crew. The “not do” is a whole lot easier to see.
As a guy who enjoys periodic isolation, it can be easy to think that the answer is walling myself off. Lasting change needs to happen in a way than enables me to live in the world, to connect with others.
What do I want more of?
More of the person who makes me want to improve => I married her.
More of the people who motivate me to set a better example => my kids.
More of the wisdom to see the difficulties I experience are coming from the pain of change NOT from anything to do with other people.
It is not about what we think it is about. All of my difficulties are arising inside of me.
Stress => as an elite athlete, the spring and summer would be spent with a focus on “doing.” Training stress would be high as I prepared for a race. Fall was a time for racing, then assessing. Winter was when I dropped stress down and addressed issues that had arisen during the high-stress period of the summer (or tried to put my life back together after six-months of ignoring most non-sport items).
Unfortunately, the lifecycle of a family doesn’t work on an annual basis!
As a father, I couldn’t just hold on until November…
Being newlyweds was an amazing time and I had my life dialed.
As we added, babies and financial stress => 2008-2015 => my “bad” habits started to return. Financial stress and toddlers are a potent combination if you’re prone to escapism.
I’m not sure if I realized what was happening but I noticed moments when I said to myself “I should probably take a break from this.”
In times of high-stress, keep it together as best you can. It’s going to be tough, for a while. I had a buddy advise, “just don’t get fat.” He’d gotten fat.
Once our youngest started kindergarten, I had the capacity to start making progress (back towards where I was in 2004!).
- 500 days to make a new habit.
- Don’t mess with a streak.
- Pay attention to your triggers => people, places, situations.
So if you are thinking about change… choose one thing, with a low bar and do it daily for 500 days.
Difficult games can be fun to play.
PS – As my friend, Doc Hellemans, says… “exercise is medicine” – picture above is from my 51st birthday lunch.