I’m ten days into the New Year, and already one of my well-meaning intentions is faltering. It’s not that I don’t want to make that change.
I’ve realized I’m simply not emotionally ready yet.
Changing or creating habits takes effort, but before we can even make the effort, we need to be emotionally, mentally, behaviorally and energetically ready.
When I think about changing my diet—a recent blood test revealed that my cholesterol numbers are big enough to be seen from space—I focus on the impending deprivation.
“What do you mean, no pizza? No chicken wings smothered in blue cheese? No fancy European butter slathered on a baguette? Don’t even say, ‘Hold the mayo.’ Ben! Jerry! Oh dear God—I just realized. Bacon!”
All of my personal favorite food groups belong to an artery-clogging contingent of deliciousness.
I’ve been focused on the story I tell myself about the hard work it takes to prepare for healthy meals and snacks—researching healthy alternatives, going to the grocery store, deciding how much to provision.
I’m not focusing on the benefits to my arteries and my long-term health or the possibility that those stubborn five pounds might actually drop off if I kept my mitts off the whipped cream can.
I’m not ready to give up the short-term gratification, even if it would mean ensuring that I have an actual long term.
These are indicators that I’m not emotionally ready. I’m focused on an outcome that seems too difficult to achieve, and I’m allowing myself to feel overwhelmed by tasks that aren’t intrinsically hard to do, but require a slow and steady, patient commitment that is just not natural to a quick-starter like me.
What’s even harder for me to do is to reconcile the way I’ve nourished myself (or not. Because, bacon) over the years.
Emotional readiness would mean acknowledging the fear and uncertainty, and making the changes anyway. It would mean preparing for the inevitable moments of failure without deciding that the entire enterprise has failed. It would mean reinterpreting the deprivation of bacon into the joy of blistered green beans (which are just as easy to prepare).
Emotional readiness would mean questioning my stories of how complicated it is to have a couple of fresh apples in the refrigerator, or reaching for hummus instead of cheese. It would mean breaking down an enormous goal into tiny steps and present-moment decisions.
Being emotionally ready would mean letting go of the scarcity mindset that convinces me that I’ll never-ever again get to have pancakes with two eggs over easy and a rasher of bacon, rather than recognizing that I can delay my bacon-gratification, saving it for a quarterly break-feast rather than a thrice-a-week standard menu item.
Emotional readiness would make planning for healthy meals a vital and enjoyable part of self-care. It would mean that I’ve made a meaningful connection between eating healthier foods and the larger purpose of my life. It would mean recognizing that there are people I love who would prefer to have me around as long as possible.
Now you. What have you been wanting to change, but just haven’t been able to budge? What stories have you been telling yourself about how hard it is? What are the tiny steps you can take to stop focusing on how long it will take to get there and be present for the decisions you can make in the next minute, hour, day?
I’m off to blister some green beans. And I’ve scheduled those pancakes for March.