07.22.14: One Thing At A Time

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed with work lately. It’s good in the grand scheme of things, like when the paycheck finally arrives (the life of a freelancer), but it’s a little rough in the short term. When my house is a wreck and I’m hopelessly behind on things like thank-you notes and returned phone calls and emails. And sleep. And has anybody seen my kid lately?

I notice that when I get overwhelmed – and perhaps I should stop and reflect on why it happens frequently enough for me to study it – I tend to shut down. I go all Hamlet on the situation and do nothing [1] and suddenly the gravitational pull of the couch is tripled.

My good girlfriend (with/for whom I work) has a neat approach to overcoming this inertia-with-a-dash-of-depression-and-hopelessness.   When you feel like you can’t do anything, do just one thing. One thing, and then you can sit back down again and wallow or play Sudoku or whatever. Then, after a while, do one more thing. Just one. No biggy. Just one thing. And sit back down. Rinse and repeat. She got her whole house clean this way and didn’t feel like the world was smooshing down on her.

So let’s apply this idea to your health and wellness. If you’ve got extra pounds, if you get winded walking up the stairs, if you’re on a bunch of meds, if you can’t find your sneakers and might get winded trying to tie them anyway, if your pantry is full of boxed and processed junky foods, if you’re not sleeping well, if your blood pressure/cholesterol/lipids are high, if you have zits, if you drink too much wine/beer/Coke/Gatorade … (a) you’re not a bad person, (b) I know the road seems long and daunting but you can do it, (c) why not start with Just One Thing.

Some folks do well with a cold-turkey approach. Shut it all down at once and wipe the slate clean. I married one of those folks, and huzzah that it works for them. As a personal trainer and wellness program administrator, I found that more people do better with the Just One Thing, or incremental, approach that chips away at situations that can seem breathtakingly impossible to change.

Choose your One Thing. It can be an add or a take-away.   Take away late-night snacking or alcohol, or add vegetables at two meals. Take away television or your tablet/phone after 8 pm, or add a ten-minute walk. After a couple of days and Total Mastery of your One Thing, build on your Total Mastery and add (or take away) One More Thing. You’re adding a good breakfast every day, or taking away highly processed food. You’re adding an earlier bedtime and rise time, or upping your walk to 15 minutes, or 30. If you’re already on a good path, then challenge yourself with your One Thing – add a new exercise class or more leafy greens, or take away protein bars. And so on and so forth as you build an Awesome Tower Of Things.

We all know that bad habits sneak up on us – good habits can too, if we’re mindful. Over time, you’ll be in a much better place. You’ll look back down the mountain at all the discarded bad habits and be as happy as my friend was when she realized the kitchen was swept and the laundry was folded.

Today is Square One, friends. What’s your One Thing?


[1] I’m well aware of the plenty of cogent arguments that Hamlet was not, actually, a victim of over-thought and inaction, because he did plenty: acted all crazy, directed a “gotcha” play, killed some folks, and so on. That’s fodder for a different blog. Right now I’m going with the common perception of Hamlet as an indecisive, procrastinating non-hero. Roll with it, MFAs. Roll with it.

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1 Response to 07.22.14: One Thing At A Time

  1. Patsan says:

    “…killed some folks…” Ha Ha. Seriously, this was just what I needed today. Unbelievably relevant for me. So thanks, child. So brilliant you are. I will actually print this off and read it every day for inspiration. Just One Thing. Mummmm

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