Sunday, May 11, 2008

Well, Can You?

You're probably aware that I'm a bit of a self-improvement whore. More of the obsessive reading of self-improvement books, less of the following through to get results. So it goes. A few days ago, I was sucked into another psychology article in the business section of the New York Times. It suggested that you can't kill old habits, but you can make new ones. I was a little puzzled at first (if I want to break my chardonnay habit, should I switch to pinot)? But once she compared it to stretching - as opposed to sprinting - I thought, I can stretch! She recommends practicing a Japanese technique called kaizen, which calls for tiny, continuous improvements. And how much cooler is it to employ "Japanese techniques" rather than "something my Aunt Sally in Omaha suggested"?

"Whenever we initiate change, even a positive one, we activate fear in our emotional brain," Ms. Ryan notes in her book. "If the fear is big enough, the flight-or-flight response will go off and we'll run from what we're trying to do. The small steps in kaizen don't set off fight or flight, but rather keep us in the thinking brain, where we have access to our creativity and playfulness."

"You cannot have innovation," she adds, "unless you are willing and able to move through the unknown and go from curiousity to wonder."

So, I can stretch. And sometimes, my stretching turns into an amazing sprint followed by a mind-blowing adrenaline rush. I'm going to head over to the IPRC and polish up my letterpress projects. I'm going to figure out how to set up a compost bin in our backyard, even if it does involve worms. I'm going to try that Pilates class at the gym, even though the instructor will probably be astounded to learn that I am the Girl with No Core. NO CORE! Everyone needs a baseline to measure her improvement with though, right?

1 comment:

janet said...

I read the same thing, only about dieting! That you have to re-route your habits, because you won't get rid of your old ones. Those old synapses are easily fooled if you know how to do it. Instead of saying, "I can't have that cookie," which makes you crazy and resentful, say, "I want to have that banana instead." Then you eat (but not the cookie), and you don't feel like you have been deprived, and pretty soon the banana will be your habit, not the cookie, and your habit trail in the brain has been effortlessly and sneakily re-routed.