When we start looking at the little changes we can make in our lives to move towards a more deliberate lifestyle, we have a tendency to separate out the individual building blocks of our lives and treat them as individual projects.
My own tactics have often been like this. I would look at weight loss and physical fitness as two separate challenges. I have approached decluttering my possessions in complete isolation from my nascent forays into mindfulness.
There are good reasons for this approach. Human beings get overwhelmed if we think there are too many things we need to do, we shut down. So we break a task into smaller tasks and tackle them one by one, and in so doing give ourselves outcomes that feel easier to achieve.
Whilst it’s important not to overwhelm ourselves with a huge list of things we think we need to change, we should also be aware that everything we do is connected. As a strategy to effect change, dealing with changes on an individual basis is powerful, but we should always see everything we do as part of a greater course shift.
Here’s a rather extended example.
The desire to enjoy and savour our food will encourage us to cook from fresh ingredients which in turn will lead us to eat better, healthier food. This can form part of a diet that helps us lose weight. The extra energy we get from cleaner eating makes it easier for us to add exercise into our routine. The desire to exercise helps us feel better and more focused and we get better quality of sleep. All of this adds up to better mental health, more resilience and better relationships. A healthier approach to our personal relationships may manifest in a desire to cook a lovely meal for our loved ones and eat it at the table away from TVs and computers.
Weight loss is not simply about the numbers on the scale
Fitness is not simply about running
Decluttering is to just about being less reliant on things
If I told you that you had to cook, exercise, go to bed early, watch less telly, spend more time with your family, eat at the table etc etc you’d recoil. It’s too much, it’s overwhelming. But if I said to you that cooking a meal from scratch could be step one, well that sounds easy no? Little steps and small changes can have massive impacts on our lives and the lives of those around us.
It’s useful to split things out and tackle one thing at a time, but I was wrong to think of each lifestyle nudge as being isolated from the rest. I’ve come to realise that each of the incremental changes I’ve made to my life over the last few years have been moving me in a specific direction. They all to some extent hint at a larger shift – a desire to live a more deliberate life.
3 don’ts that are really do’s
1 – Don’t get overwhelmed. I strongly believe that we should make changes that bring us and those around us joy. This is why cooking and eating is so important to me – it’s the catalyst for a whole bunch of other changes. Take one step at a time and each one will lead to something new.
2 – Don’t be in a rush. You have time. You can learn the basics of a new skill in minutes and then take pleasure in perfecting it for years to come. The reward is in the doing but it’s also in knowledge that anything that’s worthwhile learning takes a little effort. If all we see is the effort and can only picture ourselves at the end, we’ll give up before we start.
3 – Don’t give anything up. When you spend an hour cooking and eating a meal with your partner, you’re not giving up an evening or missing out on TV – you’re unlocking a new, more rewarding and deliberate experience. When you don’t capture a moment on Instagram, you’re not giving up the opportunity to share a photo you’re reclaiming the memory of an experience.