Do you ever set up personal challenges? A short-term goal?
I find that some things are easier to accomplish when you view them as impermanent. If you ask yourself to “improve,” you typically imagine that you start a positive habit or behavior and continue for the rest of your life, getting better and better. Life is never linear however, and things don’t happen as we expect. So with that in mind, I prefer to dabble in self-improvement. Here are a few examples that I have done:
After watching one too many food documentaries on Netflix, I felt increasing doubt about the health and safety of our meat industry – out of them all, I recommend Food Inc. Netflix | Amazon Prime if you want a starting point. Steak quickly ceased to look delicious and I started to compare our food with the rest of our industries, cutting corners and cheapening quality as much as possible. Despite these thoughts, I wasn’t prepared to suddenly become a vegetarian. So, I challenged myself to go one week without red meat.
After some anguish of choice, and rude awakening to how many meal options tend to include meat, I was kind of frustrated, but felt very accomplished at the end of the week. It was difficult, and I managed. So, I posed to myself, what’s the harm in trying to go for two weeks without meat? That slipped into a month, and into three, and now I’ve been vegetarian for two years without ever really setting out to become one.
The beauty of these reasonable, short-term challenges is that I’m not setting myself up for a life-long goal or expectation. Recently, I tried to take my vegetarianism to the next level, and I made it three days of complete veganism, but a small portion of seafood on the weekend, and lunch with co-workers quickly derailed me. I’m okay with that. Maybe I’ll try again some other time. Challenge failed.
One-Week No Beer
The important caveat here is: alcohol is okay, beer isn’t. I felt like I had gotten into the habit of drinking beer every day at lunch, and then in plenty throughout the weekend. I feared for my gut, and felt increasingly guilty about sucking down all this liquid bread. So, I decided to challenge myself to stop drinking beer for one week. I can happily say I’ve just finished that week without a single drop of beer! I’ve had some wine, delicious rum punch, margaritas, and gin and tonics along the way… but my goal was no beer, and I stuck to that. I understand that fancy cocktails have quite a few sugars in them too, and maybe I’ll start to cut down on those. We’ll see.
The lesson for all of these is this: moderation.
There’s no need or reason to go cold-turkey – unless you’re suddenly pregnant and a smoker or something like that. So, if you have something you’d like to try or be, then why not set up a small window of time and simple BE (or do) it? If you fail, then you fail. Try again later. If you succeed with your week (or whatever you choose), then ask yourself if you’d like to try and go double-or-nothing. It just might be worth it. I for one, am personally very glad that I ended up becoming a long-term vegetarian, and probably never would have if I was asked to or thought I needed to do that for the rest of my life. The exercise of actually doing something, seeing that it isn’t as hard as expected, or even seeing that it’s hard, but you’re more perserverant than expected is really gratifying.