(First written the day after Thanksgiving 2016)
At lunch today I had leftover Thanksgiving food.
So good. So satisfying. So filling.
Then I ate a piece of pie and a slice of tart.
Why? For heaven’s sake, WHY?
Was I hungry? No.
Was I craving sweets? No.
Was it going to go to waste? No.
Was the person who brought it to Thanksgiving dinner watching me out of the corner of their eye, making sure I ate and enjoyed their contribution enough to justify having purchased it at the fancy grocery store? No.
I ate it because I could. Because it was there, because it was tasty enough, because it was rare in my home, because the kids were napping and I could ACTUALLY ENJOY IT, because I was trying to fill that hole in my soul caused by the general nature of the human condition with something.
There was no reason. I just ate it. No wait, I didn’t just eat it. First, I skooshed a giant ball of whip cream on top of the slices, then sat down on the couch with a cup of coffee, put my feet up, and commenced the ingestion of these treats.
Why do I hate myself for this? Because it makes me feel out of control. I do things every single day that follow the path of least resistance and end up hating myself for it. Kind of like Paul in the Bible, this seems to have been an issue for most humans for most of history: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15.
So I need help. Specifically, I need your help. Because you are the one reading this. I want change in my life. Technically, I want a few dozen changes and…
I have been slowly convinced over the course of the last ten years that I will never be in the right frame of mind/place/stage of child-rearing/you name it to fully accomplish everything I want to accomplish. And you know exactly what train is coming to town in about a month, after all the feel-good holidays….The New Year’s Resolution Guilt Train!!!
Should I make a resolution, only to break it? Am I setting myself up for failure? Should I just not bother? I truly hate this part of the holidays, even though I am a constant goal-setter. The reality is I cannot let my dreams die, not even the small ones. I am relentlessly hopeful and optimistic. I completely exhaust and overwhelm myself, but I cannot let go of that which pulls me forward.
There is some very twisted part of me that feels it truly is possible to be less crabby, more prepared for my week, a little slimmer, a lot stronger, more zen, more efficient so I have time for the projects I want to do, yada yada yada. I want to move the needle forward, and every previous attempt at major life change has failed, so I am finally willing to make life change incrementally.
Gah! I hate the fact that I even typed the word. Incrementally. It is a slow word, a boring word, an adult word, and it means the changes I want to make are going to take for-ev-er.
But I have been convinced that this is the way it must be. The Nutrition Diva (totally awesome, data-backed, quick podcasts about food, dieting, health) did an episode about calorie cycling. My takeaway, though not the point of the piece, was that fad dieting will hurt me more in the end and that small changes made over time are better. The other podcast was from the guys at Freakonomics. They did a great piece on incrementalism that talked about British cycling teams in the late nineties. They made very tiny changes in a lot of areas, that added up to a big difference in their performance. I like the concept of little changes, though they don’t satisfy the part of my psyche that loves massive, life changing transformations.
I have read for years about the neuroscience behind willpower and why we just can’t motivate ourselves into success in all things, but I have just sat on that information. There is just too freaking much I want to do all the time and nothing makes the cut but school lunches, laundry, errands, etc. So I give up. No more dramatic life overhauls and brand new schedules and new timers to beep me into submission to a choreographed plan. Life always gets in the way (see also: I have a million excuses).
So here is the plan for boring, incremental, achievable growth:
- Get a deck of cards.
- Write one tiny, incremental, bit of life change on each card.
- Draw one new card each week and focus intensely that week on trying to make that one, tiny change.
- Daily (or as often as you have time) flip through the cards from the past weeks and see if you are keeping up with those previous changes. Or make yourself a sticker chart so you can tick a box every day. :D
- Do this for about a year and 9 months.
- Experience the total bliss that comes with having accomplished something of value.
Yeah, you read that correctly. A YEAR AND 9 MONTHS! Insane.
I hear you thinking, “But it only takes 21 days to form a habit.
The actual research about habit formation was misleading, and newer research has shown that it takes around 66 days (9+ weeks!) to form a habit. Technically, the people in the study took from 18-254 days to form a habit, so to be thorough, you must keep going for 36 weeks and 2 days from the last card. Want some good news? Messing up does NOT seem to impact the habit formation. Which is awesome, because this is “Watch Mom Try,” not “Watch Mom Be Perfect and Awesome.”
So let’s do this. Let’s write a few miniscule changes on some cards (who cares what kind…index cards, old business cards, grocery receipts…) and look back after a year at all the progress!
I need your help. If I am accountable to no one, I will not do any of this. I am only doing this now because someone told me I must. Want to join me? I hope you do, or this is going to be a very boring year and 9 months. I will be starting on January 1st. Why not? It is a Sunday, the start of the work week here in Dubai, the first box on most calendar pages, so there is really no excuse even if you are really OCD about things like boxes on calendars (I am).
AND GET THIS: You already helped me. I was totally going to re-do my pie eating extravaganza from lunch today after finishing dinner and clean-up, even though I was not hungry, etc. But I didn’t!!!! I wrote this instead!!! Granted, I missed my bedtime and I will be crabby tomorrow, but getting to bed at a reasonable hour will be turned into tiny changes to help me get there eventually.
So join me.
- Like the Watch Mom Try Facebook page, because I will not flood my normal newsfeed with my progress (and inevitable embarrassing failures).
- Choose your desired level of following (see first, default, unfollow).
- I will start posting ideas for cards soon, along with help for your first steps might be if you have no clue where to start.
I love a particular quote from Dr. Martin Luther King’s at times like this: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” I have faith in you, and your ability to grow and change into the woman (or man) you want to be. Have faith in me too, and let’s grow together. :D
PS. Since I wrote this, I have developed a fear of actually publishing this, which is why it is now December 12 (not the day after Thanksgiving when I wrote this), and it has turned into an acute addiction to microwaved popcorn. Help me! I no longer fit into 2 of my 33 items of clothing.