Have you had “one step forward, one and half step backward” struggles, otherwise known as the dread vicious circle?
I am delighted to say that, at the moment, I do not have any vicious circles in my life—those nightmare phases of life where everything you do has unintended negative consequences.
You know: You rush, and so you create a mess, and the mess stresses you, and so you eat some chocolate, overlooking the fact that chocolate will not tidy your house for you, and you cannot find things, so you own 6 pairs of scissors, and tweezers and combs and nail-clippers, more clutter, and you realise you are wasting money, and you feel bad about that and the stress of the mess and chocolate-weight makes you sleep a little bit extra, so you are late to things, and feel worse about yourself, and you pick up another chocolate bar and crisps as you rush, and now you are heavier, and feel even worse about yourself, and fall out with your spouse, and feel even worse, and need comfort and order a pizza, which has every one of the 1800 calories you were meant to consume all day. And then you don’t have the energy to tidy, or wake early or exercise, and so–guess what? Tomorrow you will need comfort again. Hello chocolate, my old friend.
Well, I have been in vicious circles like that—and that best way out of them is take one habit, just one, and stick at it, and slowly build self-confidence and energy and gumption. Flylady, overweight, depressed, in deep mess and debt, started an upward spiral by shining her sink daily–just that–which meant washing the dishes in it, and then she swiped the counters around it, and so on, and now has a house which can be made guest-ready in 15 minutes. Swoon.
Consistency and persistence will overcome any vicious circle or bad habit.
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At the moment, however, I am tacking four areas of falling-short-of-the-glory-of-God, not generally advised, but on the other hand, I am enjoying the process of change and am energized by it.
I am waking at 6.35 a.m., but slowly pushing the alarm back. My Holy Grail goal is 5 a.m. Will I reach it? I believe so. This time round, waking early is easy, because I set an alarm at 9.35 p.m. to simmer down (yoga, tidy bedroom, read) for a whole hour before the second alarm goes at 10.35 p.m. for lights out. For the whole family, teenagers included.
I want a clutter-free house, and spend a couple of hours a week decluttering and tidying while the cleaner is here, doing the 365 less things project (getting rid of one thing a day) which has been paradigm-shifting. Asking: do I REALLY need this, rather than where should I stash it away?
Writing…. I am thinking of doing Jeff Goins 500 words project in February. I am sad to confess I did not write anything NEAR 500 words a day on my memoir this month, though I blogged. A lot. Yes, I did!
Weight. Ah, weight!! I have lost 15 pounds since I resolved to eat more healthily in November 2012, but that was 15 months ago. Very slow, very steady!
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Ah weight! I left boarding school weighing 116 pounds, at 5’ 2” –considering myself overweight, since so many girls weighed 100, though looking at photographs, I see I wasn’t overweight, or particularly plumper than anyone else.
But I had a negative body-image—that I was fat–reinforced by nagging parents, so I sort of gave up, and steadily gained about 3 pounds a year since leaving school.
I broke that cycle in November 2012, and since then have lost a pound a month, 22 in all.
It’s not easy, but I plan to stay in the battle, aiming at losing half a pound a week, 26 in a year, and am meeting with a dietician to that end.
Being overweight is a mixture of dozens of bad food habits–what you eat, how much, when, why, where–and exercise habits. (See the Obesity Influences Map at the head of this post). It’s a difficult dragon to slay—because you must put dozens of good habits in place, but it’s a worthwhile dragon to slay.
Health risks increase with each additional pound. Overweight people are negatively perceived, which can drag you down.
And most significantly, just as the self-confidence from achieving one goal enables us to achieve others, discouragement about being unable to lose weight can affect our confidence when it comes to achieving other goals. And spiritually, the Enemy of our Soul will use this to drag us down.
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Dr. Samuel Johnson, was a Christian, and great 18th century writer, lexicography and polymath–though he is oddly best-known for being the hero of Boswell’s Life of Johnson, a sycophantic recounting of every bon mot which crossed the great man’s lips and there were several:
Boswell: I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. Johnson: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”
Well, Johnson produced a fraction of what he was capable of, much of his brilliance flowing into said bon mots in pubs and coffee-houses.
But as a Christian, and an ambitious one, he wanted to wake early, at 6 a.m. and write. This was difficult because he returned home in the early hours of the morning, and lay abed till 2 p.m.!!
But he never stopped trying.
Jack Miller in his Sonship course, which I went through, one-on-one with Jack’s son Paul Miller, describes Johnson’s efforts.
1738: “Oh Lord, enable me to redeem the time which I have spent in sloth.”
1757: (19 years later) “Oh mighty God, enable me to shake off sloth and redeem the time misspent in idleness and sin by diligent application of the days yet remaining.”
1759: “Enable me to shake off idleness and sloth.”
1761: “I have resolved until I have resolved that I am afraid to resolve again.”
1764: “My indolence since my last reception of the sacrament has sunk into grossest sluggishness. My purpose is from this time to avoid idleness and to rise early.”
1764: (5 months later) He resolves to rise early, “not later than 6 if I can.”
1765: “I purpose to rise at 8 because, though, I shall not rise early it will be much earlier than I now rise for I often lie until 2.”
1769: “I am not yet in a state to form any resolutions. I purpose and hope to rise early in the morning, by 8, and by degrees, at 6.”
1775: “When I look back upon resolution of improvement and amendments which have, year after year, been made and broken, why do I yet try to resolve again? I try because reformation is necessary and despair is criminal.” He resolves again to rise at 8.
1781: (3 years before his death) “I will not despair, help me, help me, oh my God.” He resolves to rise at 8 or sooner to avoid idleness.
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Jack Miller put Dr. Johnson’s failure down to the fact that he had never learnt to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
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My life blossomed in my forties when circumstances forced me to rely on God. I founded a business which I found exhausting, and was so outside my experience and knowledge and interests that I was forced to pray constantly.
And then I began to blog—I who had written careful, much-revised pieces.
My goal for my blog was steady month-on-month growth. And for that, I needed to rely on God. For blog growth depends on rapid writing and good posts, but far more, on people reading your posts, and sharing your posts, and you can do nothing to induce them to do either, but trust, and lean deeper into God from whom all good blogs flow.
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And losing weight and getting physically healthy, an issue which has bugged me since my teens (unnecessarily so, at first)–How come I tried to do it by will-power?
Will power is over-rated. I am done with will power.
I am still in the battle to lose weight, because as Charles Duhigg says in his brilliant book “The Power of Habit,” each change you make makes a whole lot of other, unrelated changes possible. In study after study, people who’ve done one of these—lost weight, started budgeting, woken early, got organised—have found the strength, almost unconsciously, to progress in all the other areas. And that has been my experience.
I am hoping to lose weight as a branch in the vine, relying on God’s power, asking him for it, trusting that he will give it to me.
“Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit,” says the Lord (Zech 4:6).
To tell, the truth—I have never relied on God’s power, asking him for it, trusting that he will give it to me in the area of weight loss, though I do it when I write, for instance, or when I struggle to keep my temper, or to forgive.
So losing weight by surrendering the struggle to God, relying on his power, and trusting him to give me strength will be entirely new territory for me. For instance, I have been shutting my laptop and praying, just enjoying God, whenever I get tired or bored and I crave chocolate.
I will be blogging on this battle. And prayer for strength or victory will be appreciated.