Friday, April 1, 2016

Stick with Little Labors of Love

When you set a goal to conquer a porn problem, you might shoot yourself in the foot by being too eager and ambitious. It may feel great to tell yourself, "I'm finally going to kick this thing once and for all!" Research shows that people get a high from making a firm and enthusiastic resolve to exercise greater self-control. However, that kind of energy fades and becomes next to useless in the long run. In fact, some people find that the higher they felt during enthusiastic moments, the further they fall the next time they give in to cravings. This is such a common phenomenon that researchers Janet Polivy and Peter Herman coined a term for it: false hope syndrome.

Recovery is a Coal-Powered Locomotive, Not a Rocket

There's a more helpful mentality and approach to recovery. See it as a gradual, step-by-step process. One of my clients, Timothy, calls it wall-building. He eventually wants a house of recovery that will protect him and his future wife and kids from relapse to his porn addiction. Rather than scurrying about frantically to try (and most likely fail) to erect the house in one day, he lays down single bricks and accepts that modest labor as enough work for the day. That bricklaying work may not seem particularly glamorous or exciting, but the effects of it definitely keep accruing and accumulating over time.

Timothy told me, "If I had cancer, I wouldn't expect it to go away tomorrow just because I ate healthy or got chemo today. If I planted a peach tree, I wouldn't expect it to bear fruit today. Expecting those immediate outcomes is denying the laws of nature. Well, we're part of nature, too. I can be happy with myself for taking today's steps on this journey, and not hold out my approval for after I've reached the final destination of complete abstinence and successful recovery."

Start Small and Build Slowly

These little labors of love may vary for each individual, but I've been surprised over the years how many of them relate to areas we share in common. Many of them are basic principles of healthy living. Often they relate to the three areas addressed by Tom Rath in his book, Eat, Move, Sleep. In fact, the subtitle of his book is "How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes", right in line with the topic of this post.

Timothy said, "It's a win these days when I get to bed on time. Instead of one or two a.m. on the weekends, I'm shooting for midnight. I'm drinking a green smoothie and at least taking a walk every day. If possible I take fifteen minutes or a half hour to work out." He said that he implemented these habits one by one instead of all at once by trying to make minor improvements in one arena of his life and then moving on to another little goal once he had the first well established.

It's How We'd Treat a Friend We Love

I complimented Timothy on how he was treating himself. "It's the way I would want to be treated by you if I were a friend you were showing around for a few days. The fact that you know I do better with more sleep and said to your other friends, 'Hey guys, I know you're still going to hang out but I also know Mark won't be at his best tomorrow if he's sleep deprived so we're taking off now so he can get to bed.' It wasn't the easiest conversation to have with them, so I would appreciate that you cared enough about me to have it.

"That's the way the in-need part of you feels right now: he appreciates that you recognize his needs and are taking steps every day to get better at meeting them. Same thing goes for what you're feeding him. Again, if I were your friend and all you fed me when I was in town was cheap junk food and fast food, I wouldn't feel very cared about. You taking the time to have shopped for organic vegetables and fruit and spend ten minutes blending them up for me? I would know I am important to you and that you care about my health and well-being."

Do This

What's one labor of love you could take a couple of minutes today to initiate? Go cut up some vegetables and snack on them? Clean out the back seat of your car? Take a walk around the block to get some fresh air? Erase old messages so there's room again in your voicemail?

One of my clients who recently took this action step simply stopped drinking caffeinated beverages. (Okay, so maybe that's not quite as simple as it sounds.) Another started putting her "Guidepost" magazine on her toilet tank cover so that she could read part of an article every day, something she really found uplifting during an earlier time of her life.

There are lots of little labors of love you could pick from, activities that both feel good and are both good for you. What one thing will you can initiate or carry out completely in the next couple of minutes? Please comment below and let us know how it goes!

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