Sunday, August 14, 2016

8/15/16—Making One Better Decision

Almost exactly a year ago, I found myself in a rut. This was back when I still felt the overwhelming exhaustion that would eventually lead to my asthma diagnosis. So I had no energy. I was feeling lackluster. Life was just meh. I knew I needed a change, but the life force just wasn't in me to do it. Then I was sparked with an inspiration.

It came to me while I was meditating one night on finding an answer—make just one better decision each day. Make one decision that moves you forward. 

It's really kind of simple, but I'll bet most people have never consciously set out to do it. It can't be a decision you make every day. So if your goal is to live healthier and you already drink enough water each day, you can't make that today's decision. It has to be a better—or differentdecision than the one you're used to making or want to make...not the BEST decision, just one you think is more in the direction of where you want to be. And if going for a walk is your better decision today, that doesn't mean you have to go for a walk tomorrow. You can choose a different "better" decision each day. 

What I found was that it had a near immediate effect on my well-being. Within a couple of days, my lackluster and meh lifted. I found myself having fun with it—thinking up all sorts of ideas to try and overachieving by trying more than one each day. 

I also started realizing a little more profoundly how everything we do is a decision. Not just a choice, but a decision. I'm spelling that out, because choices feel less permanent than decisions to me. There is also a greater sense of personal responsibility attached to a decision. Because what we do with many little actions in our lives is we make them more or less permanent. They become automatic. I feed the dogs before I brush my teeth every morning. It's a part of my routine. I don't think about it. But if self care is one of my goals, then I need to create a new routine where I care for myself first. I need to decide to see the behavior, recognize it and seek a new way of moving forward.

For example, somewhere along the line, I decided Crystal Light Decaf Iced Tea was delicious and a tasty alternative to water. It became my drink. Screw water! So I went for a couple of years with that just being a given in my life. What I didn't realize at the time was that it had aspartame, which is unhealthy and addictive. So in looking at the decisions I made about my health each day that could stand improvement—my lack of exercise, my love of chocolate, my Crystal Light, eating fatty foods, etc.—I saw a number of places to make better decisions, one by one, just for a day. At that point in my life, I couldn't handle tackling all of it at once.

So I started by replacing one glass of Crystal Light with a glass of water each day. I started making infused waters, too. This little one-day decision turned into a mission for me. Since I was doing that daily, I started tackling other things, one decision at a time, one day at a time. Within a couple of weeks I had quit the Crystal Light entirely. It was completely painless for me. And the more decisions I recognized that I was making each day, the more I saw all the aspects of my life I had placed on auto pilot, and the more I realized I had abdicated my control over my life to all these automatic, everyday behaviors that kept me from moving forward

What I find happens for me is that I do this plan, then I get happy, then I drop the plan. Then, a while later, I feel stuck, depressed, in a rut, whatever, and I start back up doing this again. The past couple of months I've been pretty down and this came to mind the other day and I've started doing it again, and, again, I'm feeling better. Ideally, though, it would be a good practice to incorporate into your life every day, good or bad.

So the plan is really simple. What is your goal? Where's a place in your life you're feeling stuck or meh? What choices and decisions are you making that are keeping you from moving forward to a better place? And how can you interrupt the pattern of one of those things, even in a small way, today?

Even if it's an emotional issue you can, for example, decide that you can only think about it twice today, for 15 minutes each time. Then after that, you have to stop yourself from thinking about it each time you find it in your mind. Or maybe you decide to do something crafty today to take your mind off it. Or maybe you go out for a jog or to work in the garden. Or you decide to try to meditate tonight. Or you look into joining a new club. The goal is not to CURE it today. It's to chip away at challenge the notion that you are powerless over it. Then, once you see your power, you can take larger healing steps. 

The beautiful thing about this strategy is that, when we're feeling stuck, or when we have no energy, we tend not to resist the status quo. It takes too much energy to change. So we wait for things to pass or improve, or we wait for ourselves to be inspired to dig out. I've told myself that I have to hit a certain bottom in my sadness, stuckness or dissatisfaction before I'll be inspired to dig out. But that's really not the case. I can do one little thing different today. And tomorrow I can do another. And little by little I start feeling better. And that builds momentum and energy so that, some days, I can make bigger or more decisions. And then other days I can only make only one. And that's OK, because that's all you have to do. .

There are times in life where we move forward by bounding leaps. Then there are times we inch forward with all we have. Anyone with a chronic disease or emotional/chemical imbalances knows the latter all too well. But either way, through the effort alone, you get further along your path than you would had you just kept waiting to hit bottom. All it takes to start clearing the energy in your life is just one, small, better decision.