Choosing Your Spot: Making Small Changes for Big Results

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When I was doing errands yesterday, I did something ground breaking.  I parked by a handicap spot.

Now, for most people, that would not be ground breaking news.  It certainly wouldn’t be something to write a blog about.  But, for me, that is a pretty big deal.

My first car was a jalopy.  I got into an accident less than a month after getting my license.  I would drive that thing for 7 years with only one working door and one side mirror.  Whenever I’d park, I’d always pick a spot far away from everyone else and pull through.  I was always paranoid that someone would park too close to my one working door (which opened wide and needed extra room).  Rightly so, as people still would park next to my door.

I’d replace that car with one that had TWO working doors, but the power steering would not always work right away.  So, I still needed room to get out of my spot.

Last year, I made a move into adulthood and bought myself a new car. It’s shiny, blue, and has FOUR working doors.  Count them, FOUR DOORS!!!  And it has power steering that works ALL THE TIME!

It’s been 13 months now and I’m still parking in tumbleweed territory.  Why?  I certainly don’t need to anymore.

Simple.  It’s habit.

I started parking that way for a reason.  Then, I kept doing that because that’s what I do.  I did even when the reason no longer existed.

How many things do we do simply because that’s what we always do?  For those of us who are seeking change in our lives, it is a fact that our habits aren’t working for us.

Breaking habits is hard.  First, you have to be aware that you are even doing something.  There are a hidden set of rules we have created in our lives by habits.  I naturally ignored spots close to the store because they didn’t fit into the process I had created for picking a spot.

Then, yesterday, I thought “Why don’t I just park here?”  I had no concrete reason to not park there.  Only vague feelings of it not being right.

Trying new things is a skill.  It’s a muscle that you haven’t used much.  It takes practice and it won’t come naturally at first.

One of the reasons creating change in our lives is so difficult is because we haven’t developed this skill.  We haven’t found the map of the hidden rules of habit.

If you are having trouble changing yourself, start smaller.  Question something you have always done.  Why are you doing it?  Do you need to do it that way?

Try doing something small differently.  Park in a different spot. Take a different route to work. Do your morning routine in a different order.

Practice with small changes in your life so that you can be skilled enough to make the big ones.

Achievements come in all sizes and all of them help you to succeed.  Freeing yourself from unnecessary habits can be very liberating. Learning what barriers are of your own creation is a giant step into reaching your goals.

What will you do different today?

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Life Lessons from Frogger: Obstacles are Fun!

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I’ve seen too many times where people raise a possible problem then give up on the project all together.  They act like they created a wall when all they did was highlight an obstacle on the course of success.  These people need to take a lesson from my favorite childhood video game: Frogger.

In Frogger, you play a frog that is trying to get to the safety of its home.  Unfortunately, you are on the other side of a busy road full of traffic that inexplicably alternates directions with each lane. (How does one pass on such a crazy road, I will never know.) After you get pass the busy road, you land on a stretch of grass that’s home to moving snakes that will kill you. Now, you just have to traverse a crazy river of hazards just waiting to end your worthless existence.  Apparently, the water itself contains a chemical that kills frogs and only frogs as turtles and crocodiles swim around in it just fine.  Be careful not to land in a crocodile’s jaws or stay on a turtle that dives underwater, though.  And heaven forbid you travel to the edge of the game, apparently there are giant nets that will push you off whatever you are riding.

Still, if you pay attention and avoid all the obstacles, you make it safe to your home (assuming a crocodile doesn’t sneak in and kill you first).  You might even pick up a sweet little hunny on the way!  What’s your reward for making it to safety?  Having to do it all over again with even harder obstacles!

Why do we even bother when the entire game is clearly set up to get us killed?

Um, BECAUSE IT IS FUN!!!!

We do it because it is a challenge.  We do it to see just how far we can go.  Even though we know that we will eventually die and the game will end, we do it because the game itself is fun.

The obstacles are there to show us what to do.  Imagine if your jerk brother threw a ball at the TV and cracked the screen so badly that you couldn’t see the road or the river.  It wouldn’t be much fun then, would it?  You’re just blindly moving the frog around, hoping to get to the end without dying.

Having problems with your project is a blessing: they tell you what you need to do to reach your goal.  If you have no problems, you are working in the dark.  The problems are still there, you just don’t know where they are.

Thinking of obstacles as challenges or puzzles to solve will get you a lot further and have more fun  than just giving up and walking away.

Good luck and enjoy your problems!

Perfection is an Illusion

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Today, I was thinking about a lesson from an art class I took once.  The professor asked us what color an apple was.  When we responded that it was red, she asked if a picture of a red apple looked realistic.  The answer, of course, was no.  An apple isn’t just red.  It’s black, yellow, brown, white, green, and probably many other colors.

When we say that an apple is red, we make a generalization.  Generalizations and categories make life easier for us.  If I said that this apple is black, brown, green, red, yellow, and white and that apple was black, brown, green, red, yellow, and white, they would sound like the same apple.  That’s why we say one apple is red and the another is green in order to distinguish them.

The problem is, that life doesn’t fit nicely into categories.  The world is a mushy, complex thing that doesn’t understand nor care about our crisp, clean categories.  That’s why a painting of a red apple doesn’t look realistic.  It’s a creation of our imagination.  There are no red apples.  Apples are more complex that that.

Perfection is like that apple.  Perfection is a creation of our imagination.  It is how things should  be.  It is something we create because it is easier to understand than reality.  But don’t mistake it for reality.  It is no different than that picture of a red apple.  It is a shadow of the truth.  It is false.  It lacks the complexity of life.

We are not the masters of the universe, only citizens: we don’t have the power to create perfection.

Stop trying to be so gosh darn perfect, it’s never going to happen.  You’re playing the game with the wrong set of rules!  Learn to appreciate complexity.  You are a combination of so many colors.  Study those colors, understand their complexity.  Then use them to make the beautiful picture you’ve always wanted.

Stop selling yourself short by trying to live up to your own illusion of perfection!

Forgiving Myself

Not long ago, I stepped on the scale and saw something that I thought I’d never see again.  It was a number. A very meaningful number.  It once was a source of pride and now… now it is a dagger in the gut.

You see,  five and a half years ago, I stepped on a different scale and saw that same number.  11 months later, I had lost 55lbs.

Never again, I had thought.

But that would not be the case.

What happened?

I could give you a long explanation, but it comes down to grief, stress, anxiety, and anger.  Even more simply, negative emotions.

That’s what I do, and that’s what I think most of us do.  I eat for my emotions.  It’s like I’m pregnant and I’m eating for two.

“I’ll take a number 9 and add a milkshake for my stress baby please.”

The only problem is, I’m not going to lose the weight at 9 months.  It just hangs out and makes itself at home.

Food has this alluring quality of being something completely in my control and also able to make me feel good.  When I feel like terrible things are happening and there is nothing I can do about it, I buy a candy bar.  I know it’s bad for me, but I don’t care.  Actually, I do care, that’s why I eat it.  I’m saying that I get to choose to do this and no one can stop me.  The rebellion feels good, the chocolate feels good, and I feel good.  At least for the moment.

So here’s the question: how do you lose the weight that you gained from negative emotions when the weight itself is the source of a negative emotion (shame)?

That is where I am right now.  I know the answer to the question.  It’s pretty obvious.  Remove the negative emotion: forgive myself.

Forgiveness means having the freedom to move on.

It hasn’t always been so obvious to me.  I’ve been talking about losing weight for months but never seem to commit.  I was afraid.  Afraid that I’ll fall off the wagon again.

It has taken a long time for me to understand that the past can never change.  I will always have done what I did.  What can change is how I allow it to affect me.   Focusing on the negative has only caused me to be stuck in the same place.  I’ve chosen to instead turn it into a positive and try to learn from it.

My main weight loss goal for the present is to focus on ways of dealing with negative emotions other than overeating.

Keep an eye out for future posts where I review the self help books I’ve selected to help me with this goal.