Alli Rainey: Stepping Stones
Stepping Stones: Creating a Path to a (More) Effective Diet, Fitness, Training and/or Lifestyle Plan
Part 1: Origins – Should I Make Changes? How to Decide Whether to Change Anything
“Far more is accomplished when we want to do something than when we think we should.” ~ “Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System,” by Anodea Judith
Wow – what a huge topic, you say. I know, right? How can I possibly cover such a deep and vast subject in the scope of a few Life entries?
And yet, maybe it is that simple, in its own way. Maybe you don’t need to put your body and being through a tortuous, grueling and frankly, not-fun process of upheaval in order to attain the ultimate results you’re after in terms of improved physical fitness, a better diet, or even a change in goals or careers – whether your aim is to climb (or run or bike or whatever) harder, to lose weight, to start gaining some fitness and doing some sort of physical activity regularly, or to change your career or another aspect of your life. Maybe there’s a less-tumultuous path to feeling better, stronger and fitter in your body, and/or more psyched to wake up and face each day – both of which (I can almost guarantee) will lead you to feeling better, stronger and fitter mentally and emotionally as well.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean that it will be easy to implement any of these types of changes. I simply mean that often in life, it’s the overwhelming complexity of any major task at hand that keeps people (myself included) from ever starting life-changing projects, much less seeing them through to the finish once they’re started – because they seem overwhelming and also at times, like they may lead to failure no matter how hard we try.
This habitual pattern of stagnation despite wanting or wishing for change/transformation becomes especially true if changes have been attempted and met with failure, such as failed efforts to lose weight, engage in regular physical activity, improve at a particular sport or activity or pursue a new career path. We’re smart, us humans, and we learn from experience. If our learning experiences repeatedly dish out messages of failure, this makes us feel badly about ourselves to our very cores (so often fragile as they are, despite how strong we try to appear to the outside world) – and these repeated experiences that we regard as failures can often keep us from pursuing our desires for success in these (or other) areas.
If we don’t try, we don’t fail.
But we also don’t succeed, either.
So let me ask you this, to start with. This question goes back to the start of this entry, to the quote, and the question is, “Do you want to change, or do you just think you should change?”
The difference between these two feelings can be very subtle, actually. People often mistake wanting the results of making changes with actually wanting to make those changes. This can be true with diet plans, exercise routines, changing professions or trying to improve at one’s chosen sport/profession/hobby. It can get a bit complicated here, because some of the changes needed to reach the end results you desire might involve things you don’t want to do in the moment, but that you feel you should do (or will simply have to do) in order to achieve the results you desire. In this case, the want of the result has to exceed the painful, expensive, time-consuming, boring or otherwise unpleasant aspects required to reach that result, whether we’re talking about going back to school, particular parts of a workout plan, dietary modifications and so forth.
Before you attempt to change anything, first, you should take 10 minutes after dinner one night to make a list of your priorities. You might ask yourself the following questions to help guide this process more thoroughly:
1. What areas, if any, are most important for you to change in your world right now?
2. Are lifestyle changes (i.e. a change in career, relationship status, location, living situation, etc.) more important than modifying your diet or exercise routine right now?
3. Do you sincerely want to make these changes, or are you content (or content enough) with all as it is right now?
4. What is the top area or what are the top areas that you would like to make changes in first
5. Is it sensible for you, given your particular set of life circumstances right now, to tackle more than one of these areas – or any of these areas – at the same time?
6. Where is the desire for change coming from? Is it from external pressures, or is it from within you?
7. Do you feel willing or able to make any changes right now?
8. Are the aspects of yourself or your lifestyle that you’re contemplating changing truthfully realistic for you to change, from both a short-term and a long-term perspective?
9. Are these changes likely to enhance and improve your quality of life?
10. Are the changes sustainable over the long-term, and do they need to be in order to be successful?
After you make this list, check in with yourself, with your inner being, for the next few days or weeks, to see if your answers change from day to day or from week to week. Meditate on this topic before you initiate any life-altering changes. Be honest with this assessment. Sit with it for a few days or weeks – however long it takes – to make sure you have your list of priorities in order. Acknowledge that it’s okay if these priorities shift and change as you make changes, too. In fact, this often seems like an inevitable result of making significant lifestyle changes in one area; those changes reverberate throughout your personal being and world, usually positively if the lifestyle change was in line with the “want to change” part of your world.
Answering these questions honestly and taking the time to really look inward can help you start to create an outline for making positive changes, from the most immediate to the most grandiose and long-term, that you might like to start contemplating making in your life.
~ Alli Rainey, prAna Ambassador
Next Installment: “How and When to Start Making Changes, One Small Step at a Time: The One-Thing-at-a-Time Principle of Making Permanent Changes.”
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