Have you ever found yourself committing to some new health regime and the toll of the regime had you shelving it in one or two months? New Year’s resolutions and diets fall into this category. Your health stays the same or continues sliding down the slope of unhealthy. Yet, no one wants to be that person who finds themselves so out of shape and so sick it is too difficult to walk to the mailbox or too tired to leave the comfort of the living room.
“Because of our human conditioning, we all have a competitive instinct, which we can harness to compete, not against others, but with ourselves,” said Eknath Easwaran, a spiritual leader, author, and educator. “The question is not, ‘Can I be better than Harry,’ but ‘Can I be better tomorrow than I was yesterday?'”
When improving your health, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the hype and think you have to show rapid, dramatic success. When you look at all the diets, the exercise routines, and everything else that addresses health, people make it look easy. But it’s not. That makes it easy to get discouraged when hitting a bump in the road. When it comes to health, it can feel like you are the only one who can’t do it.
Empowering Your Health with Patience
What makes getting healthier so complicated? It was Saint Teresa who said, “Patience attains everything.” Most health, diet, and exercise programs are detailed instructions to attain your goal in the shortest amount of time. It’s not that these programs don’t have great information. It’s that you are overwhelmed by the program. So, it’s easy to stumble when your body, mind, or whatever has a revolt.
The Buddha says, “We learn patience by practicing it.” When changing your health habits, small, incremental steps can give you big gains. And why start with small changes? Because it’s easier to get long-term gains with minor modifications.
And all that sounds simple, but what is a small change? It’s the process of taking a complex expression and breaking it into parts to make it easier to understand. It’s a change that has you saying, “Well, that’s not a big deal. I can do that.”
Think about weight loss. Instead of saying I’m going to change everything and start with a new eating regime tomorrow, start by breaking down the new regime in steps.
If you want to eat fewer carbs, make your step specific and actionable. I wanted to reduce my carbs. I took that big goal and broke it down into steps. There were carbs that I was eating that were not good for me. By breaking the goal down into smaller and smaller pieces, I got specific and actionable items that I felt I could accomplish.
My first step? I decided to eliminate Coke-cola, the sugary caffeine high commonly consumed by non-coffee drinkers, to get an energy boost. Sounds easy, right? Well, it wasn’t. They call sugar a heron substitute for a reason. But, it was a clear step not mixed in with 15 other changes so I could focus and have a chance at success.
These small steps can take months. But suppose you can identify small incremental steps and incorporate one a month. In that case, your patience may allow you to integrate these changes into your life, making it a new daily habit.
What happens a year from now? You still have 12 new habits that an overwhelming lifestyle change could not give you. Patience gives you the time to be successful.
And what about black and white? These changes don’t have to be an all or nothing thing. Am I 100% off Coke Cola? No. But, it’s different now. I might have a Coke once every three months instead of one a day. I only have the small bottles out of Mexico that use sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. I’m cautious because sugary sodas have a weird addictive nature. The sugar turns on the craving lights in my brain.
This means I don’t beat myself up when I come home from a stressful day and want to feel the buzz of Coke in my body. Patience gives you the flexibility and confidence to live in shades of gray.
Big challenges can be attainable through small changes. Little changes accomplished in your daily life can add up to that one big goal. Something as simple as saying no to soda can be your first step in achieving that big change.
How to Incorporate Patience with Simplicity
|Break down a big goal. Take your goal and break it up into different categories. The categories need only make sense to you. You don’t have to please the rest of the world. Don’t worry if someone doesn’t understand your categories. They are not the ones walking this path.|
|Make it simple. Simple is one item with one task. Take one of those categories and brainstorm the different things you could do to accomplish that category. Now you can take one of those things and break it down even further until you’ve identified the specific ingredient that you can change. One ingredient that is specific. |
|Practice patience. Choose your change and start. For me, it was Coke. For you, it might be setting your alarm for 8 AM. Practice patience by giving yourself time and letting life happen in shades of grey. Take however long you need to feel comfortable with the new change. For me, giving up Cokes took about three months. By allowing myself to live in the greys, I didn’t beat myself up if I had a Coke once every three months.|
|Compete against yourself. The world is full of noise. Eknath Easwaran found that if you can work at cutting out the noise and focus on yourself, not only can you be more successful, you will be happier. Let yourself explore if you can be better tomorrow than you were yesterday.|