Friday, January 8, 2010

The Bigger Picture

It’s been a while. I took on an overload of classes last semester and it ended up consuming all of my time. I would equate the extra courses to picking up a 20 hour part-time job on top of a 40 hour full-time job. Why did I do this? I’m struggling to answer this question.

I have a very difficult time maintaining balance in my life. I tend to embrace one thing and pursue it single mindedly – to the exclusion of other things. In an attempt to prevent myself from these single minded pursuits, one of my last posts before I disappeared was a list of daily goals – all of which were designed to help me strike a balance between work, family/friends, and me.

It is just like me to recognize what I need to work on, make lists of where I need improvement, make schedules to factor in time, and then go about doing everything possible to ensure that it doesn’t happen. Hence the list of daily goals and then taking on such a work load that there was no way I would be able to actually DO any of those daily goals.

Then I started making a list of resolutions for this New Year – and realized I was making the same old resolutions all over again. Yes – I did accomplish some from last year – and I don’t want to ignore those accomplishments. I did do three triathlons – which kept me exercising. I managed to maintain my weight loss – but I hit a plateau and did not lose any more weight this past year. I did not eat very healthy. I did not take care of my health - nor my personal or my spiritual growth. I feel as if I just let my relationships coast this past year. And all this came to a head last fall by taking on so much at work that it prevented me from having to do anything but – well - work.

Once I realized my resolutions were repetitions of years gone by, I started taking a good long look at myself. I THOUGHT I already did this two years ago with my whole “I’m turning 50 and the next 50 I’m turning my whole life around” rhetoric. I think that I hit a plateau not just in my weight loss but also with my own personal growth and how that extends outward in my professional, social, and family life.

As I’m reflecting on my struggle to maintain balance and realizing I’m not really making the kinds of changes I want to in my life – I’m hit with a huge realization. I’m an Avoider. I create situations where I have to “this” (“this” being something I HAVE to do) before I can do “that” (“that” being something I might really WANT to do or would ENJOY doing). I’m not afraid to take risks; I’m not afraid of learning or experiencing new things; I’m not afraid of failure. This avoidance behavior prevents me from maintaining any kind of healthy balance in my life. I understand this intellectually – but I need to work on the reality of it.

Then two seemingly unrelated events occur as I’m struggling with my resolutions. The first was when talking to a friend about a course she teaches about the cognitive behaviors of different cultures. The focus of the course is on how Asians and Westerners (us Americans) think differently. We think differently I asked her? How do we think differently? And I was fascinated with the answer she gave me. So much so that I ordered her text book to read for myself. It’s called “The Geography of Thought” by Richard E. Nisbett. I didn’t even get through the introduction before I saw some parallels to my struggles with balance in my life. I never look at the whole picture! I look at problem areas as if it were an isolated issue to be “fixed” and devote all my focus to that area. I need to start taking a holistic approach to the whole issue of balance in my life.

The second event is in regard to my husband deciding to lose weight. Diets are very difficult to sustain with our lifestyle. So he decided to try counting calories as a means to lose weight rather than try a diet. His intent was not to deny any certain foods but to just watch how much he ate. He found a website that tracks your weight loss with a graph – and calculates a daily average weight based upon your actual weight from day to day. The philosophy behind this is to show overall weight loss over time. Since your weight might fluctuate up or down from one day to the next – the chart is a visual demonstration that over time you are indeed showing steady progress in losing weight. I read everything the author wrote about this approach on his website and realized this was putting into practice what I started reading about in the book “The Geography of Thought.” Again – looking at the bigger picture. What a concept!

These two events have changed my whole approach to my next 50 years. I’m going to try a more holistic approach and look at the “bigger picture” in all aspects of my life. I’m examining my avoidance tendencies and trying to determine why I have them and how to eliminate them. I have much to work out. My first step is to rework all my resolutions – but with a very different focus now.

And once I get my house clean I’ll be ready to get started on the New Year!