Begin With the Break In Mind

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”
― Alain de Botton

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.”
― Peter F. Drucker

Begin With the Break In Mind

How to Realize Your Intentions

What if you were told that today could be just a little better than yesterday? Would you take the offer?

Or would you reject it upon learning there was a price?

Many say they’d refuse any offer that seeks to bait them before revealing that there’s a cost. They feel manipulated.

Let’s restate our question: Would you accept an improvement over yesterday if a very small cost were involved?

I Help People Improve & Achieve

It’s my business to help people improve things. I learned very early not to want improvement for my clients more than they want it. For a client to achieve success, they have to work harder at it than I do. If they don’t want it more than I want it, and they fail, then I can still sleep at night knowing that I succeeded as far as the client made my success possible.

And because I find myself thinking of my clients so much (yes, your therapist/coach thinks of you between sessions), inspiration recently struck (just this morning actually) about a certain client I’ll call Sue (and I’ll change other details for confidentiality purposes, too).

Sue works hard with me. She’s serious, motivated, and diligent in doing her part both during and between sessions.

Here’s the idea I felt inspired with today:

What if Sue decided to read something brief and uplifting every day?

That probably doesn’t seem too inspired. It’s not exactly an original idea.

But it was the intention behind it that seemed like such a good idea. The idea continued like this:

As you set the intention to read something positive every day,
FIRST, decide how many days you want to do it.

How many of your goals or New Year’s Resolutions have you forgotten within mere days? When you set a goal to do something on a consistent basis with no short-term time intervals, you set yourself up to fail.

We can stick with almost anything if the duration is short enough.

And a short-enough time frame ensures the initial cost is small enough to commit to.

So set an end point for each goal. Then you can evaluate at a predetermined point whether you want to repeat the goal or modify its duration. You can adjust other details of the goal at such evaluations, too.

For Sue, I’m going to suggest she set an intention to read something impactful every day for 28 days. She, though, has to be the one to decide a) IF she’ll try this experiment, and b) HOW LONG she’ll give the trial. I will only make suggestions to give her something to consider.

The SECOND step is to choose if you want to set further detailed features for your goal.

For this step, I’ll suggest that Sue select a specific reading for the first five days. She may decide to read four different texts every seven days, and I’ll suggest she wait until the first period is done before choosing another reading. She may not feel finished with the first one and want to add another period before she switches it out. For her to own her goal, she will have the final say on those (and all other) decisions.

A Suggestion For Sue

I’m going to suggest that Sue start with the reading I found in the Dear Abby column of today’s newspaper. It’s a credo from Al-Anon that was adapted by Abby’s late mother, Pauline Phillips:

JUST FOR TODAY: I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once.

I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will decide to be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things that I can correct and accept those I cannot.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I’ll not speak ill of others. I will improve my appearance, speak softly, and not interrupt when someone else is talking.

Just for today, I will refrain from improving anybody but myself.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will do something positive to improve my health. If I’m a smoker, I’ll quit. And I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it’s only around the block.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.

I’ll suggest that Sue read it aloud whenever possible (or comfortable).

Evaluating her goal as she finishes her five (or seven) days will be Sue’s THIRD step to this process. She has several choices.

  • Stick with or change out the reading
  • Stick with the time period or change its length
  • Add an intention to focus more clearly during each day’s reading
  • Add ‘personalizing’ each day by applying parts of the reading to her own life
  • Or terminate the whole thing if she wants to focus somewhere else

Sue is free to evaluate at any time she thinks an adjustment would be advantageous. Nothing locks her in until the end of the time period. (I’ll address elsewhere the excessive need for strictness in sticking with intentions, round numbers, and the first of the week or month.)

Recap of The Steps

These are the three steps to this daily reading idea that occurred to me for Sue.

  1. Put a time frame on any intention you set
  2. Decide if you want detailed features for it
  3. As each time period comes to a close, evaluate whether you will repeat it, modify it, or terminate it altogether

Possible Benefits

Here’s just a few of several benefits I expect Sue might enjoy when this exercise ends:

  • Elevated mood
  • Sense of satisfaction
  • Increased knowledge
  • Greater awareness
  • Experience with persistence
  • Daily dose of positivity

I’m convinced that Sue’s days will quickly improve if she implements this idea.

But to work effectively, it will be up to her to decide whether the price (of her effort) is worth the reward (of her continued improvement).

At least she can try it on a trial basis before she commits to the whole term.

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