“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ” --Aristotle.
In the quiet moments of the evening when the day’s to-do’s are done (well, when those days emerge at least…), we are faced with choices. Deciding how to spend our spare time. Spare time has become more rare these days for me with a career, marriage, and a baby…but it still exists.
In all honesty my spare moments as of late have been enjoyed watching The Great British Baking Show. But there have been some stretch sessions, stroller runs, journaling, and reading. But tonight I really wondered – in the peace of the evening near the roar of my gas stove WHO am I? What do I DO with my spare time? For it's what we do in our spare time that defines us.
We might have a strong vision of WHO we are or who we WANT to be. It’s likely that you, like me, may not live in alignment with who that person is at all times. Maybe the TV grabs more of your attention, or your phone. Maybe your tennis shoes haven’t been worn in a while or your sewing machine has been gathering dust or your yoga mat hasn’t been rolled out. (Am I just talking about myself here? Perhaps…but I am sure you can fill in the blanks with the activities you lament about not doing…)
At any rate, it is OK. We all go through waves of being congruent with our values and periods where we are just kind of out of orbit, wobbling but still hanging in there. It is OK. (We sure don’t tell ourselves that enough do we….self-compassion is a difficult task…perhaps I'll address that one in a future post…)
The inspiring thing about this period of incongruency is that there is LIGHT. Change is a minute away. Stop and make a choice.
And lucky for us, the choice does not have to be major. It can be and should be small.
Albert recently bought the book Small Move, Big Change and it reveals that microresolutions are quite possibly more successful than the more drastic actions we take to change our behavior. According to the author, the core of behavior change happens around the edges, or in the vital margin:
“A single change in eating habits can result in permanent weight loss; a shift in spending pattern can yield substantial savings; a subtle change in communication can enhance a relationship; a change in attitude can create new opportunities on the job. The reverse is true: A small but negative shift in behavior will take your further from your goals. A slight change in habit can cause you to gain weight, take on debt, position a relationship, or hold you back at work.”
Rather than setting out to drastically change our behavior, let’s focus on small shifts. This message is timely with the New Year on the horizon.
Tonight I felt inspired after stretching for 5 minutes and reading a few pages in my book. The beautiful thing is that this took less than 20 minutes. There may even still be time for an episode of The Great British Baking Show (well, not after I’ve written this post…). But really what I found is that I didn’t want to watch TV after engaging in the activities that made me feel like ME.
Its all about choices. Choose your values, then choose activities that define them within you. That feeling of congruency and authenticity feels so fulfilling. And research reveals that humans have a desire to be authentic and doing so correlates with higher levels of life satisfaction and well-being.
And I don’t mean to bash The Great British Baking Show, but research also shows that excessive screen time is detrimental to our health. Research shows that chronic screen time (>6hrs/day) is associated with moderate or severe depression as well as being associated with obesity.
Its OK to curl up on the couch and enjoy our favorite shows, but let’s also seek out and engage in activities that define who we ARE and who we STRIVE to be. We don’t have to be perfect all of the time. We don’t have to be working on self-improvement all the time either. Relaxation is vital. But so to is actualization (recall Maslow in your last psychology class?).
Let me know how it goes! And if it doesn’t go well…don’t give up! We’ve all heard a quote or two on how success involves lots and lots of failure, right? If you don’t succeed try again! Revise your goal; dig deeper and make sure it’s personal; cut back and focus on just one or two activities; give it a positive spin i.e. practice positive framing (“I resolve to chew my food more slowly” vs. “I resolve to dine leisurely and savor my food and drink”).
Hello and welcome! My name is Andrea Notch Mayzeles. I am a Certified Health Education Specialist, Mom, and Master of Public Health dedicated to the path of well-being. As a wellness professional I am committed to continued learning and am here to share research, recipes and musings on health, psychology, personal development, and parenting. I hope you enjoy!