Friday, December 25, 2009

The Power of Habits

In the last week of December each year, I find myself thinking about what I may want to do different with my life in the coming year. Last year at this time, I decided I wanted to get my weight under control. On January 1st, I began a program of mindful eating and increased my amount of exercise. By changing some habits I had gradually developed over the past 20 years, I lost 30 pounds.

At first, the change in my habits seemed challenging, but I didn't give up. I persisted with making mindful choices about eating, counted my calories and gradually increased my amount of cardio minutes weekly. Before long, the habits that were challenging at first became the norm. I was rewarded with feeling not only great physically, but also more empowered.

It was a great lesson for me, not only about how to live a healthier lifestyle, but also in the power of habits.

So, as I draw on my experience of learning how powerful habits can be, I am now looking at what I want to change in the coming year. One habit has come to mind so far, but it doesn't pertain to my physical health. It is more about me growing up.

You see, I have a habit of asking for help before I even try to do something on my own, or, at best, after a weak effort. My very sweet and caring husband likes to know I need him and is always willing to step in. My business partner, David, also kindly comes to my aid. In addition, I have several friends that are extremely helpful in various areas of need.

What I realized today is that my quickness in asking for help is simply a habit. I have developed a belief that I am mechanically, technologically, directionally and mathematically challenged. Holding on to that belief as if it was true, I realize I have cut myself short. I have sold out on my own inner power. This habitual belief is not healthy.

Please understand, I am not saying that asking for help is wrong. On the contrary, I believe it is imperative to know when you honestly need help and to seek assistance from someone that can lend a hand when needed. What I'm getting "real" about in my behavior is that I want to be honest whether I truly need help, or just want it.

If I practice this level of awareness on a regular basis, it seems my old beliefs regarding my perceived shortcomings may change. Perhaps I may even develop some new skills in areas that I haven't believed to be possible. I imagine I will feel pretty good, even with simply trying.....maybe even powerful.

I just hope it isn't harder than giving up daily lattes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Eve

It is early evening on the eve of Christmas. I managed my activities so I could spend the day at home rather than frantically running about picking up last minute necessities. It's been a heart warming kind of day. Quiet. Reflective and warm...... from the inside out.

I visited some neighbors and delivered my homemade gifts. Some folks showed up at my back door with a treat or a card in hand.

Each encounter was sweet and precious. I felt very grateful to be surrounded by so many people that care so much about me and my husband. Although I don't take them for granted (at least I hope I don't), there is something special that I feel when we celebrate this day on the eve of Christmas.

It's almost like our antennae are up and we are more tuned in to one another. We are more verbal and comfortable about sharing our feelings with friends and family. We feel generous and outwardly more caring. Hugs and kisses on cheeks are the typical form of greeting.

In a short time we will be headed out to a friend's home for an open house. We will be greeted with more hugs and kissed cheeks, a large array of wonderful foods, little kids excitedly anticipating Santa's arrival and a feeling of universal love and joy.

Our religious beliefs may not all match, our favorite holiday foods and traditions may vary, but throughout this time of joyous celebration, I feel loved. On this eve of Christmas, that is the only gift I want.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Gift from Paul Bunyan

While waiting for a light to change at the busiest intersection of my town, I observed a large man with long unruly hair, a flannel shirt, boots and the kind of jeans one would wear for hard work....not for fashion, walk past my car. My first thought was that he resembled Paul Bunyan. He appeared to be the epitome of rough and tough, both around the edges and through and through.

My quick judgment of this stranger changed, however, when I noticed he was carrying a small gift bag. It was a delicate looking bag with a pretty decoration on the handle and a raffia bow holding it in place. It seemed so out of place for a massive, rugged man like this to be carrying. Since my light did not yet turn green, I had some time to reflect on the lesson my Paul Bunyan look alike was teaching me.

Where I could have continued my judgment about my Bunyan stranger, being a hard, tough and insensitive creature from the woods, I decided to make up a new story about him. I decided, the gift was for his wife. It was small since he didn't have much money to spend on anything expensive and extravagant. I also decided he delighted in picking out just the right thing that will surprise and move Paula (his wife) deeply on Christmas morning.

I soon exchanged my negative opinion for one of respect for my Paul Bunyan and was grateful that I caught myself making an unfair judgment of someone I didn't know anything about. Yes, I also didn't know who the gift he carried was for since I made that up too, but the truth is it didn't matter since Paul Bunyan actually gave me a gift. The gift was a reminder to not judge by appearances and to expect the best from every one I meet or even just see walk by.

What a perfect Christmas gift for me. Too bad, Paul Bunyan will never know how much I appreciated it.