I’m over-the-moon excited to present this week’s Wisdom Wednesday post. The author, W.S. Marble from the blog Speculative Paradigm Shifts, is none other than my amazing husband. You might remember him as the dude who bought me a hooded hair dryer for our first Valentine’s Day!
W.S. is a man of many pleasant surprises. He’s intelligent, cultured, and very well-read. He loves creature comforts, cats, and has a penchant for Cheetos. He knows the words to old show tunes and cleans up after dinner every, single night. He’s full of so much goodness and love that I could go on and on about him. He’s also very modest and would prefer that I not write an introduction for him at all. So, without further adieu, I give you W.S. Marble (aka my pookie bunny).
What a lofty notion “wisdom” is. I surely do not have it; but I do strive…do continue to learn each day. What I can share is that one trick that definitely seems to work best, at least for me, is to work incrementally. Think “baby steps,” or even smaller.
Let’s take a notion that is near and dear to so many readers: what we eat. Long ago, about September of 1997, I decided to start eating healthier than I had grown accustomed. This is no mean task for a forty one year old baby, used to “beer, steak, and a salad made of—scratch that last, and add more beer instead.”
Had I stuck with that plan, I would surely have had my first few heart attacks by now…the ones I plan on never having. So I read all about food groups and calorie counting and the unknown world of green vegetables. But the transition was so uncomfortable, so unsatisfying. Readjusting, I learned instead to simply cut out the offenders. Stocking up on the healthy foods was all well and good, until they had to be thrown out, ignored. I learned a great truth…
Acts of omission are far easier than acts of commission.
It is far easier to simply not do something, than to purposefully, resolutely do something else. It was easier to not buy steak, than to buy steak and fish, and try to eat the fish first. I’m sure most readers already knew this; but I was breaking new ground, learning things the hard way (as I always do).
What an eye opener this was for me! It wasn’t just about food—I could apply this “theory” to other things as well. I knew from previous forays into the self-help shelves that it takes approximately 28 days to form a habit (all the more memorable for being the same time it takes concrete to cure properly). But the forming of habits, habits of doing things, never really seemed to take—they were abandoned long before 28 days had passed. The habit of skipping something for 28 days though—that was far easier.
(I once asked my mom if I could give up “prayer,” for Lent. A hint of changes to come, for sure…but also a story for another day.)
Best of all, you can “back into” the action, by skipping the opposite. I skip the elevator at work, and find that we do in fact have a gym in the building…well, we have the Stairmaster built in, at least. I skip the nearest, most hotly-contested parking places, and find that I was able to take a walk, after all!
All remarkably trivial, and completely obvious to others, to be sure. But new to me. And the best revelation was yet to come. With a minor conversion, simply backing into a more grandiose or more distasteful task could be just as easy. Getting out of bed or out of a deliciously warm shower to face a brutal day flowed automatically from just starting to move your foot towards the floor or simply turning off the shower. You do not really have to say the whole distasteful sentence: “Geez, I’ve got to stop daydreaming and get dressed…” You simply have to trick yourself into it, by turning the water off. You can’t stand there naked all day, for no reason. Well, you actually can, in some parts of our state…but this isn’t about them.
From there, it was a short journey to break amazingly distasteful tasks into tiny, automatic ones. I got my elusive master’s degree, finally passed my impossibly difficult professional engineer exam, and actually finished what I started, writing. Entire books completed themselves. Promotions at work were won. My doctor actually asked me if I work out!
Now, that last one was about five years ago. I have fallen off the Stairmaster far too many of these days, of late. I have to rediscover that. The problem with habits is that they can be derailed…rationalized into the corner. The beauty of blogging is that it brings you full circle. An entire community of friends and family stand by to assist you in your quest to find answers. To fill a page with truth.
The beauty of answering your lovely wife’s request to provide a “Wisdom Wednesday” post is that it makes you see if you have any…or can recapture it.
***If you would like to participate in Wisdom Wednesdays, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to read stories of how life’s situations have helped you gain personal wisdom. I welcome writers of all ages and experiences.******