One Simple Secret to Help You Live a Better Life


Did you make a New Year's resolution?  Many of us do, with plans to improve life in some way:  better sleep, better diet, more exercise, more reading, more prayer, less alcohol, less complaining... or something else!  It seems to be human nature to continually try to improve.  Maybe that's why it's so easy for us to get caught up in the shiny promises of "progress," even before we think things through and imagine all of the potential consequences.


But that's another subject.  In the meantime, you and I and most people I know are feeling energized about a new year and those all-important resolutions to do better and be better.



light to the future



Here's the bad news.


Studies show that we fail at those resolutions.  Discouragingly, most of us don't make it past the end of January before breaking all of our glittering promises.  In fact, the fitness app Strava, which has analyzed millions of uploaded exercise activities, has dubbed the second Friday in January as "Quitter's Day."


That's tomorrow.


Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink,
and swore his last oath.  Today, we are a pious and exemplary
community.  Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation
to the winds....  We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how
we did the same old thing last year about this time.

Mark Twain, in a letter, 1 January 1863


It's not because we lack the desire.  We really do want the change we anticipate.  What we don't do such a good job of imagining is how long that change might take, how hard it will be, how many temptations we'll face, and how tired and discouraged we'll feel when we mess up again.


And then we drift away from our resolution, no matter how much we wish otherwise.  We may say, "I tried, it didn't work, and that's that."  The end.




Don't lose hope.


Here's something else that's part of human nature:  It's hard for us to be motivated by a wish that we had on a late December evening.  We're more likely to act on what's happening right now, the same way our ancestors reacted to the saber-toothed tiger that was chasing them or the flash flood pounding down.  But once the threat is past, it's all too easy to retreat into old habits.  Most of us adapt when we have to, but as a species we're pretty change-resistant.


I don't know any way around these ebbs and flows, ups and downs of desire and motivation.  But I know one secret that makes it possible to hope for a better life.




The secret may surprise you.


light through the trees
You've probably never seen it on a magazine cover, and it may never have been featured on a TV talk show.  But it can change how you think about your potential for a healthier life.


Come back.

 

When you notice your habits are slipping, or you aren't feeling your best, come back to your resolutions.


Don't spend even one moment chastising yourself for failure or inconsistency, simply come back.  Come back as often as it takes.


If you're wondering how I know about this simple secret, it's because I practice it all the time.  This is one of those times.  I'm simply coming back to what I know is best for me, even though I don't always do it.


Because I've come back so often, I'm getting better at doing it without blame, guilt, apology, or even explanation.  If you follow my example, you may start to notice more quickly when your habits are becoming less than optimal and make a course correction more efficiently.  You can bypass hours or days of self-recrimination and get right back to your best practices.  Negative self-talk and self-doubt only holds you up, so you can say "no thank you" to all of that.




What do you want to come back to?


hope is the thing with feathers
What better choice do you want to make?  Maybe it's:


  • less or no sugar (me too)
  • earlier bedtimes for easier mornings
  • less or no alcohol
  • more fruits and veggies
  • less complaining
  • more exercise
  • a no-shopping challenge
  • more prayer or meditation
  • less time online

or something else.


When you come back, you say yes to hope.  Hope eases fear.  It reduces feelings of helplessness.  Hope opens your eyes to opportunity and lets you look forward to the future.


Don't say, "I tried, it didn't work, and that's that."  Come back today.


Comments

  1. it is nice to be kind to yourself

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Eema. Don't you think we should be as kind to ourselves as we would be to a friend who asked for advice? But so often we aren't.

      Delete
  2. This is the best thing I've read in a long time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I heartily agree with you! Thanks for the inspiration!

      Delete

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