jstanier Here be dragons.

Gently does it

It’s inevitable that many use the new year as an opportunity to make changes in their lives. In fact, it’s been quite difficult to avoid seeing the announcements of what people are committing to on social media, whether that be via lists shared on Facebook, or via pictures of the healthier food that folk are starting to prepare for themselves on Instagram. I am fully supportive of resolutions at this time of the year, but I’ve learned one small piece of advice: be easy on yourself.

The self that many wish to inhabit may be many moons away from where the self currently resides. It may take a very long time - maybe longer than a lifetime - to reach the perfect self that is longed for, and that is absolutely fine; without the desire to consistently improve, humanity would be much worse off. Yet, big drastic changes are often very challenging and can cause a lot of stress.

I’ve begun reading Essential Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. I’ve read his blog for a long time. The book introduces a much gentler, kinder approach to introducing new habits into our lives, and softly moulding the ones that we already have. The most telling aspect of this approach is that on day 5 of the first week, the reader is still just contemplating how the change will fit into their routine and where they will find the physical space to do it. The process of making something habitual lasts about 6 weeks, which translates to the first half of the book. The latter half is an index of help and advice for when things aren’t working out, or when the new habit is more difficult than it seems. It’s refreshing to see such a kind and thoughtful approach to change, rather than a chest-pounding mega-list that encourages overwork and burnout.

So far I highly recommend the book, and I’ll be making some small changes throughout the year. The text manages to communicate much more than is committed to paper: the matter is thought-provoking, especially when I consider how strict I often am with myself at work. Be gentle with yourself, as all change is tough. We all can make mistakes and find it hard to be forgiving of our own actions, but often we are crueller to ourselves than we are to others. Aim for small things, softly and slowly, and be forgiving.