Friday, January 05, 2007

The No-No's

I want to say this carefully, as I was set in motion by another blogger whom I want to reference and whom I do NOT want to insult or hurt. Let me make that clear right up front.

Mala posted something in her blog that started my brain turning, and I wanted to address it here on my own little soapbox. This is resolution season, after all, and I've been reading many people listing what they want to do or want to not do. Mala's list struck me because her list has "no" in it, very prominently (her list has "do this" in it, too). She wants to cut things out, stop doing things. She's made a good list, an ambitious list of activities and goals that will all have positive results. She's a strong willed woman, and she can do (or not do) all the things she wants.

It's those "no"s that grabbed me. I can't do "no".

Lemme 'splain. Over the years, I've made myself a lot of promises that involved the word "no". No more of this, no more of that. Every damn time, I rebeled against my self declared ultimatums. I'm just contrarian, I guess. I find being denied intolerable, even if I set the rules.

That's why I did the vague goals thing. Casual though they may seem, it's all about not setting off my inner 5-year-old, and I put a lot of thought into them. First, I made them all things I could do -- just a little. Something specific, something small. Now, the fact that I want to lose 75 pounds this year, get into either an MFA program or a BA for English Literature somewhere, try to publish -- those aren't important. They are what I would like as an outcome, of course, but they are too big to mentally grasp, too likely to make me sit on my ass and refuse, or crawl under the bed and give up. So, I pick something smaller.

My goals are actually a lot like Mala's. I want to move more so I'm trying to make ways for that to happen via the gym and walking with my husband (now I REALLY miss my dog). I want to reduce my TV time (I don't actually watch TV so much as keep it on) and my online-surfing-for-nothing time, so I'm setting goals to read particular books. I need to get more sleep, so I'm trying to get into bed about 1/2 hour earlier, even if just to read. But if I said to myself "no more TV" or "no more staying up past 11", I'd fail. With my best intentions in hand, something would happen and I'd fail.

I no longer buy the "sufficient willpower" thing -- the idea that if only you have enough willpower, are a good enough person, strong enough, want it enough, you can do whatever it takes to get what you want. Too many of us start out with a good effort and yet fail at whatever it is we are trying. Yep, sure, there ARE people of amazing willpower to attain one thing or another. But there are a lot more -- a significant amount of more -- people who manage to go to work, raise children, keep a clean house and pay taxes and yet still fail at something they wanted to do, be it to stop smoking, lose weight, find a relationship, work for charity, or you name it. Even people who achieve great things demonstrating willpower will have a failure of some kind right along side it. So I'm not buying into that. That is an automatic defeat.

I'm doing the little things, the positive things, and I'm trying to keep "no" out of my life. Rather than saying "no" to things, I'm trying to say "yes" to other things. Rather than saying "no" to sugar, for instance, I'm trying to say "yes" to fruits and vegies a little more often than I say "yes" to chocolate. Instead of saying "no" to hours on the computer, I'm saying "yes" to the gym and the piles of books on my shelves more often. Saying "no" will just make me think about whatever I can't have or can't do even more. Putting a "no" on something makes it too important in my mind. I have to pay attention to it in order to avoid it, which makes whatever it is -- TV, chocolate, my comfy chair -- loom too large. Eventually it will take over everything and I'll violate the "no". If I don't have a "no", then I don't have an auto-fail. Ok, so I have a piece of chocolate today. Then I need to have more vegies and fruits. I need to balance this in my head so that chocolate doesn't take over, that it exists along side those apples and bananas as a potential "yes". If I keep it all in balance, I'll do better. One less piece of candy, one more piece of fruit every day.

I had not put all this together until I read Mala's post. She made me think about what I'm doing. I had not analyzed it quite this way before. So she gets a "thank you" because she helped me and I appreciate it.

I suspect that she has "yes" as an unspoken guide in her list, too. Maybe it is as simple as some people respond to "no" and some people respond to "yes". We have to find what works, as this is not a one size fits all world.

I think I'm going to say "yes" to an apple now.

No comments: