Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Practice of Lifestyle Change

I just read an incredible post over at Get Fit Slowly about why it is so difficult for many of us to change our habits and be successful at this whole “lifestyle change” thing.

The guest poster, geenman2001, discusses this issue in relation to George Leonard’s book, Mastery:

“…Leonard’s argument is very simple: to achieve mastery, you must practice
a new skill patiently, diligently, and consistently
. It doesn’t take an aptitude, genius, natural ability, or luck: it simply requires practice.

American culture is particularly opposed to the process of mastery. Our consumer culture teaches us from a young age that satisfaction can be achieved through purchase. Our advertising culture shows us only the end-product of work — the new car, the baked cake, the toned body — but never the work itself. And nothing in our culture reinforces the process of perseverance in the face of failure, which is the essence of mastery: practice despite failure, discouragement, the loss of motivation, the absence of reward…

…He has many practical suggestions for maintaining the energy of one’s effort through setbacks and the discouragement of slow (or no) progress. He talks about common pitfalls and how to avoid them. But his main message is about loving one’s practice: patient, diligent, consistent practice, practice without any expectation of reward. (Although reward inevitably follows practice.)”

This is the ultimate mind shift that I realize is fundamental to success. To really achieve change, I need to approach my lifestyle changes like a yoga or mediation practice. I need to let go of my expectations of a certain outcome and just practice the habits that I know will lead me down the road to better health. If I focus too much on what I want to happen – the reward or goal – I will easily get bogged down. This is precisely why a “bad weigh-in” (a gain or maintain, depending on the goal) can be so devastating. If I let go of what I want to achieve, those numbers don’t really matter. If I focus on the day to day actions, I WILL see results. That’s the irony. I think I finally understand this concept – it’s what I’ve been moving toward over the past few weeks. But having it articulated like this has helped tremendously.


Anonymous said...

I do believe my setting specific dates for reaching goal and lifetime are exacerbating my scale angst! Though it's good for me -- a diehard procrastinator -- to have "end dates," this post helps me to look at the bigger picture. By practicing this new lifestyle of feeding my body the amount of healthy foods it needs and moving it so it may continue to move, I will eventually succeed. My dates may need adjustment, but that's okay. Thanks, Amelia!!!! Just what I needed to be reminded of today :-). Mama D BJ


That's an awesome point, BJ! I am a procratinator, too, so I understand the impulse to set goal dates, etc. But I've noticed that particularly for weight loss, they don't seem to help. That puts my focus in the future, not in the present. By trying to keep my focus in the moment and making the best possible choice for me "now", I wind up getting to that end result more quickly.

Thanks for posting your comment!!!!

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