Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Do What's Good for You
I saw a patient yesterday who explained her very reasonable diet and exercise goals to me. She also told me she has had these goals for many months now, and has yet to start on them. She knows what to do, where to go to do it, and how. But she just can't seem to follow through. Why don't we do what we know is good for us? I think there are a lot of reasons why we procrastinate, avoid and ignore what's in our best interests. Fear of failure would be up there at the top, I think. If I never try, I can't fail, or so the thought process goes. This can hold us back in so many ways, from our health goals to work aspirations to personal growth. People stay in jobs they hate because they might not get the promotion if they try for it. Others stay in lousy relationships because they might not find anyone else. So, the devil you know is safer in their thinking. Fear is a big obstacle for most of us, and there isn't a simple answer to get over it. The guidance of a counselor or coach can help us move forward, even when it's scary. Maybe next on the list is the myth of no time. We can talk ourselves into believing there is not one more minute in the day for another activity. Some days, that may be true, but most of the time things can be shifted, Facebook can be logged off, and the TV reruns can wait. Right? I went to a meditation workshop last weekend, and the teacher asked us straight out "You can commit to meditating for just 10 minutes each day, right?" It sounded so completely reasonable and manageable, we all were nodding and agreeing with him. I planned to sit every morning, yet the next day passed without me getting on my cushion. Finally, as I went up to bed, I remembered his query, and sat down for those 10 minutes. It wasn't at the time I had planned, it pushed back my bedtime, but it felt great. I've been able to find those 10 minutes a day since then. Another roadblock is the fear of commitment. Like my meditation practice, a lot of what's good for us requires daily upkeep. We have to eat right every day, exercise regularly, keep up with our continuing education credits, the list goes on and on. If I start something new, it's one more daily obligation, something I'm forced to do. If I start off thinking that way, of course it will feel like a chore. If I instead focus on the benefits, I can spin this into a positive. Thank goodness I get to exercise every day because it keeps me feeling great! That sounds a lot better. The best answer to why we avoid what's good for us is that we're human. We have a thinking mind that can come with an excuse for anything at all. But, the mind can be trained. My patient and I broke down her goals into bite-sized portions and chose one to start with. Something small and manageable as a first step to prove she doesn't need to be afraid of the change, she indeed does have the time, and the commitment will become a daily habit in no time. I will check in with her in a couple of months, but in the meantime I will work through my own excuses to avoid meditation. I'm so glad I get to start each day in silence, it really helps me stay peaceful throught the day. I think that may work!