“Change one thing at a time.”
This is an eternal verity with my current health care provider. I trust her because a) she listens, and b) she has been through some health care ordeals herself–like losing 100 pounds and keeping it off, for starts. So when I rolled through her door a few years ago, singing the battle cry of the older woman–“I am tired of being tired (and fat)!”–her preferred approach was frustrating.
I wanted to throw everything at the problem at once–supplements, lifestyle changes, meditation, acupuncture, bring it all (except for a gym membership, giving up all chocolate, or going to pep rallies, and I’m skeptical of a lot of meds). I had just quit the lawyer job, and I was ready to Get Better.
Except that a blitz rarely leads to sustained change, which is why the “rehab racket” does such disgustingly reliable repeat business. In conflict resolution classes, we’re told to “make haste slowly.” Focus long and hard on developing an inclusive, respectful process for neutrally defining the issue. Go to great lengths in the information-gathering phase to uncover every relevant fact bearing on the situation. Take a good, long while to consider potential solutions, and only when all that hard, tedious, collaborative work is done do you turn your focus to choosing a solution.
The pay-off to the tortoise approach is that problems a) tend to stay solved, and b) can be the basis for strengthening relationships, so that even bigger problems can be solved. Mediation has a good reputation in domestic law arenas not because the agreements devised are brilliant and innovative (some of them may be), but because they are arrived at collaboratively, in a respectful, inclusive process, that allows the participants time to ponder, fact-find, and re-adjust their thinking.
If we have a meaningful hand in how a problem is solved, the solution is more likely to work. The “change one thing” approach to improving health (or environment, finances, job stress…) puts the choice of where to start in my hands. That means I have to think about the whole situation: What changes are possible? Which one am I most likely to stick with? What shift am I most interested in bringing about? How long do I run the experiment before deciding whether it’s a success or a failure?
“Change one thing at a time,” works for the deep-seated part of me that loves being the boss of me. To tackle anxiety, I started with, “Social media only between the hours of 2 pm and 9 pm.” That helped. To address post-menopausal muscle loss, I put a set of hand weights beside the microwave. That helped. To push back against poor sleep, I set the alarm at 7 am five days a week. That helped.To start on the whole death-cleaning thing, I hired the junk haulers to empty out the summer kitchen. That helped.
Change one thing at a time isn’t a good fit for every situation or person, but I’m finding value in it… though it took me a while.
Have you tackled any micro-changes lately? Has a blitz stood you in good stead? Just how do you move the needle closer to where you want it to be? To three commenters, I’ll send ARCs of Miss Desirable, who has gone off to the final proofreader!