Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ignoring Good Advice

I read an article on this morning called 5 Pieces of Advice Everyone Ignores (but Shouldn't!) by Martha Beck. All of the advice is based in common sense and has been heard by most of us in some form or another throughout our lives. Yet, none of us follow the advice despite knowing its the best thing. What are the 5 pieces of advice, you ask?

1. What leaves you feeling bad, do less of. What leaves you feeling good, do more of.

Seems simple right? Then why don’t we incorporate them into our lives? Actually, let me not speak for you. Maybe you do all of these things. I, however, do not…at least not as well as I could. For example, I do not spend a lot of time criticizing myself and I do spend a lot of time affirming my ability to achieve my dreams. That said, I also eat junk food more than I should, I procrastinate constantly and I spend days on end working on projects that I am not passionate about. It doesn’t leave me feeling good but I persist in the name of earning a paycheck and/or comforting myself. In the end, I don’t feel good but the cycle continues.

Beck notes that we are born with the capacity for suffering and joy for a reason: so that we can navigate the world. Why I choose suffering sometimes is a mystery to me. Maybe it is because doing what would make me feel good seems so impossible at the moment. For instance, doing less of my job isn’t an option because I need a paycheck. There is a way, I suppose, to go deeper. If I can’t change my situation right away, I can at least spend more time figuring out how to live off of my passions. The thinking and planning leaves me feeling good even if it doesn’t bring an instant change to my life.

2. To achieve bigger goals, take smaller steps.

With this advice, Beck told a story about a client who’d been talking about going to the gym everyday but never got around to incorporating it into her life permanently. Her plan was too much to tackle so she ended up not going. Beck suggested that she “get up five minutes early, put on gym clothes, then have coffee—full stop.” The client doubted the effectiveness of such a plan but her “five minutes in gym clothes grew to ten, then to 15, then to a Zumba class she loved.”

The couch to 5K app for Android and iPhone works the same way. I think that is why it is so popular. Bite sized chunks seem to work. This piece of advice is one I am using to tackle the task of decluttering our house, decorating, losing weight and growing a business. It is a much easier way to live.

Cat nap w/ Storm.
3. Lie down and rest for a while.

Oh how I wish for time to lie down and rest…that’s a lie, well at least partially. I do have time to rest. I just don’t use it for rest. I use it for watching TV, working, reading, social engagements, date night, etc. The only time I lie down and rest is Saturday mornings if I don’t have anything to do until Saturday afternoon. This pattern leads to me zoning out during my commute, finding it hard to keep my eyes open mid-day, and occasional grumpiness. Just last night, I was tired and dozed off on the couch while watching TV. When I woke up, rather than going to bed, I sat up to try to revive myself and finish the show. I dozed off again and woke up with a cramp in my neck around 2:15 a.m. Ash was still awake editing his latest project. We dragged ourselves upstairs only for me to wake up feeling drained again today. Seriously, I was wolfing down pumpkin seeds on my gray, rainy, traffic-filled commute this morning just to stay awake. Not good. I am going to try to start going to bed earlier. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I’ve been saying that for years. Beck suggests yoga or the Alexander Technique. Maybe I’ll try that whole small step thing in #2. Watch one less DVR’ed show and just go to bed. Project Runway can wait until tomorrow.

4. When you don't know what to say, try the truth.

This advice is targeted towards honoring yourself and your feelings by not being afraid to say how you really feel. I am totally guilty of telling people I have a meeting or that I have to work late so I can get out of something and go home. Sometimes, I just want to veg out but if you tell people that, they tend to get offended. I have been practicing “no” a bit more lately. I have also been practicing not feeling guilty about it.

I’ve also been making a conscious effort to stand in my truth. For example, I have health issues and every day isn’t roses and rainbows. When people ask how I’m doing, I used to give a canned “I’m fine. How are you?” Now, I try to be truthful without making people feel awkward. I’ll say “I’m not feeling too great today but I’ll get through it. How are you?” Similarly, when I feel good, I’ll say “I’m wonderful. What about you?” People are usually taken more aback by the “wonderful” comment than the “I’m not well” comment and the look is usually a cross between “why” and “how.” It doesn’t matter. The point is just to stand in your truth for better or worse. “Be who you are and say what you feel because those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.”—Dr. Seuss

5. Free yourself from dysfunctional people by refusing to try to control them.

I removed toxic relationships from my life years ago. I know I can’t change people. Heck, I can barely change the things I don’t like about myself (read: that pesky procrastination habit and my affinity for clutter...ok, borderline hoarding—just without all the mold, random animals, and rotten food a la TLC’s Hoarders/Animal Hoarders). At the end of the day, my energy is better spent hanging out with people I love and having experiences that are fun because of the joy associated with them. My attitude towards the relationships I eliminated was I’m busy working on me. I don’t have the time or the right to try to fix you…and I won’t break my spirit trying. I’m much happier and better off for it.

I really like the article and can see how I need to do the work of being happy. Small steps.

If you want to read the whole article, you can find it here.

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