July 17th, 2010
I’ve been doing an experiment for the last month.
Before I go to bed, I figure out 3 things I want to accomplish the next day.
Just three things? Yep – you heard that right. And those 3 things have to meet these conditions.
- I can accomplish each one within a day;
- They are things I really want to do, not things I should do; and
- When I complete each thing, I will step back and notice what I’ve learned from doing it.
This has been so hard for me to do. Limiting myself to 3 things? Whaaaat? Commitment – ew, ew, ewwwww.
And what I’ve noticed is it totally works.
An example of this is spending one hour learning new software by 7PM. Notice I didn’t say mastering this software or that I would spend an indefinite amount of time doing this. I just committed to learning it to the best of my ability with a timer for one hour.
When I completed this, I noticed that I felt proud that I could learn a skill that I”m pretty resistant to.
It feels so un-sexy and un-ambitious to me to commit to just 3 things. AND when I look over the month, I realize that by taking things in baby steps I’ve gotten quite a few things knocked off my list.
So, as much as my inner critic kicks and screams and says that nothing will ultimately be accomplished by doing this, what I notice is that that inner critic is flat out wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
What I’ve learned from books on neurobiology is we are programmed to notice what’s going wrong. It’s a survival instinct that goes back to caveman days where we hunted and gathered our food, or went hungry.
The problem is – it’s so instinctual to notice what isn’t working, that it can be easy to overlook the things in our lives that do work. Like small simple steps. Like acknowledging ourselves and each other when things are working in our lives.
This “slow and steady wins the race” approach is exactly the way I suggest we approach our health. Noticing what feels good as we do it – whether that’s exercising, stretching or resting. And gently noticing what doesn’t feel so good – in the most compassionate way possible.
For example, I notice that when I type for more than 45 minutes, my hands ache. In particular, the tips of my fingers of my left hand and both wrists are particularly ache-y. What helps is taking a break, doing some stretches I’ve learned in Occupational Therapy and spending some time with a cold pack.
So, I take those small steps. I step away from the computer. I do my stretches. I have a coldpack nearby. And I come back to my work with less pain and take the next simple step.
And those small simple steps, impossible as it may seem, work every time and result in me getting more done, with less pain. The biggest thing I have to deal with is my own unwillingness to believe that yes, taking things slower and noticing what works can actually lead to getting more done and improving my health.