A wise friend once said to me:
“Mollie, you’d never buy a footlong sub and then tell yourself – ‘I better eat this all in one bite.'” At the time, I had a good laugh. And now, years later, I think of this all the time. Because when you put it that way, it makes so much sense – it’s crazy to set an expectation like that. You’d choke, you’d be sick, and you’d feel really terrible about that sandwich.
And yet – we do this to ourselves
We take things, both things we don’t want to do and things we enjoy, and we tell ourselves we need to do it all. Right now. And if we don’t – we’re doing it wrong. When we set resolutions, we don’t say “I’m going to eat one more vegetable a day” we say “I’m going to be healthier.” Now, being healthier is not a bad goal – not in the least. But what does it mean? How do we know we’re doing it? How many things do we have to do at one time to be able to say that we’re “being healthier”? How do we know where to start? The goal is too big, too much, too abstract.
And how many of us find that these big goals we set for ourselves in January are disappearing here at the end of February?
The answer lies not in our weaknesses, not in our failure to complete our goals, but in a misstep in trying to set them in the first place. It’s not that we’re bad at taking bites, it’s that we’re trying to choke down the whole sandwich.
Just One Thing…
To help us remember to take bites, wise folks like Dr. Richard Hanson have given us a way to approach change in a way that is manageable, sustainable, and simple: “Just One Thing.” Instead of focusing on everything you want to accomplish and how you can do it all right now, set your sights on just one thing at a time.
So – how do you do it?
Identify your goal
What are you hoping to do? What do you want to be different? This might be things like:
- I want to exercise more
- I want to eat better
- I want to take more time to relax
- I want to get on a better sleep schedule
Break it down
Ask yourself what exactly you could DO to work toward this goal?
Choose ONE to get you started
Here are some ideas:
- Start taking the stairs everywhere
- Set a reminder to get up and take a walk during your day
- Start with small time chunks – start going to the gym for just 20 minutes
- Drink more water
- Commit to eating one (more) vegetable or piece of fruit every day
- Start keeping a food log of what you eat and when
- Sit down at a table when you eat
- Put the screens away for an hour a day
- Take 10 minutes before bed to reflect and write about your day
- Take 10 minutes before bed to stop and talk to your partner/child about their day
- Make a commitment to not skip meals
- Set a consistent “winding down” time before bed – and keep it
- Pack yourself a healthy snack
Choose one. Pick something that makes sense for you, works in your life, and gets you started. It’s good to keep making sandwiches, but you don’t have to eat them all in one bite.
For more information on “Just One Thing,” see Dr. Hanson’s website (https://www.rickhanson.net/writings/just-one-thing/), or consider his book Just One Thing.