Straining at gnats…
and swallowing camels.
Gnats are so distracting. It is easy to become so annoyed at their biting that bigger issues walk right past us.
I know a woman who struggles with a monthly decision to buy a $5 item while at a casino where she has just dropped $1000 in a couple of days of gambling. Her sense is that she is carefully weighing all financial decisions, totally ignoring the major rip in her purse.
I guess it is similar to the beam in the eye versus the splinter in your brother’s. It’s not just our skewed perspective on our own actions, but also that of those around us. Everyone else’s faults are much more heinous, glaring. Not only do we pay more attention to the attitudes, actions of others, but we too often make it our own personal mission to draw their flaws to their attention.
Of course, taking this view could keep us from intervening in lives where it might possibly be warranted, but, that being said, unless the flawed person is your underage child, it is none of your business. There are those, however, who are so mortified by their own flaws, that they feel hypocritical to correct their own children. If we allowed the presence of our own shortcomings to keep us from guiding our children, there would no doubt be beaucoup hellions roaming the streets. Oh, wait, there are!
All the child-rearing advice aside, I personally find it troubling that I can police or perfect the tiniest minutiae in my life to the extent that I miss the glaring, even life-harming behaviors that threaten my very existence.
I guess it is not just whether or not I ignore the destructive actions or attitudes. It’s that I do recognize them and do not feel I have the necessary discipline to make the changes. I have a post grad degree in behavior modification. I know many ways to navigate around negative issues to effect change. It’s just that I don’t seem to be able to use my expert techniques on myself.
A plan, for me, and perhaps you, that comes straight from my training, if not my behavior, deals with choice, which we all have. We can prioritize the activities of every day based on two things. First, decide what you want to accomplish, and establish a firm deadline. Then make sure your actions are choices toward your goals. Don’t be sidetracked by doing things that are not part of your personal game plan.
Remember as you create a plan that it needs to include a daily time for your health and well-being. Just like the advice we get from the steward on the flights we take; set up your own oxygen before assisting others. What good are we if we have goals to fix the world but don’t live long enough to implement them?
For ordering the rest of your plan, decide what are two accomplishments you aspire to. Efforts toward these goals need to be part of your every day routine. You will get tempted to put out fires, usually other people’s, or even to elevate an activity above those connected to your life vision. Let your goals be your beacons. Keep your eyes on the prize.
The longer you spend establishing these habits, the stronger they will be. New routines can be created with a minimum of effort and discipline. After just three faithful days, habits are born. I will caution that it takes about three times the amount of time to get rid of a bad habit than it took to establish it. But even that is so doable.
It helps to put a time limit on things. I allow for a 15-minute bad day, literally. Likewise, I try to put off doing something I shouldn’t by just 15 minutes. Mostly what we are doing is distracting ourselves from the urgency of our craving, and it works. I reverse it to accomplish tasks that I find onerous. I spend 15 minutes on something I really hate to do. Inevitably I spend much longer than 15 minutes either way. Once re-focused, we get caught up in what we are doing.
I know of some really long-standing bad habits that were broken with the 15-minute rule. My mother-in-law stopped smoking in 15 minutes. That is, over a few months she would put off having her first cigarette 15 minutes later each day. A current commercial notwithstanding, a lot can be accomplished in just 15 minutes.
So, what is your camel?