Monday, May 6, 2024

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, January 7, 2023 - Making Molehills Out of Mountains

I have been described in the past as an “expansive thinker.” It wasn’t meant as a compliment, but I took it as one nonetheless. It’s true that my mind works in expansive ways, generally overthinking things, but also imagining huge possibilities ahead. That’s the part I like.

When it comes to making change in my life, however, this trait often has a tendency to not just invite change in practical, realistic ways, but also in ways that can overwhelm the sense of discipline we all need to make change possible. In other words, the idea of a brick often makes me think of building the Great Wall of China.

A single brick is doable. The Great Wall of China is not. There’s a lesson in this.

Humans are not designed to take on enormous shifts of reality all at once. It is generally better for us to break things down into increments. Steps. Stages. Smart change versus drastic.

I recently wrote about wanting to think of my life as a series of sacred temples; each with its own domain and list of nudging improvements which call out to be made. These improvements would really be better described as respects. I wasn’t respecting my temples. I am still not quite. But it’s early days still.

The changes I have decided to make in my life are not all going to happen at once. Just like the Great Wall of China was not built via New Year’s resolution, nor shall be the changes I need to make in my life. 

On my regular Wednesday morning radio appearance on WPKZ, where I usually discuss my column’s topic for the week, cohost Noah Hatton smartly noted that a piano is tuned one note at a time, never all at once. This is important, because the process of fine tuning a piano is virtually identical to the process of fine tuning ourselves.

A piano tuner carefully listens to all of the notes one at a time and adjusts them accordingly, playing the piano periodically to see whether or not the notes are compatible with one another and play in harmony. We too, must have all of our notes, all of our various components, performing in harmony with one another if we wish to live an optimal life. 

For it often comes down to the vibration we wish to emit into the Universe. But even if not looked at metaphysically, being in harmony with ourselves is simply healthier. It’s better brain chemistry, which translates into better choices.

I also think of the difference between hope and optimism here. Hope is a desire for something we can’t imagine how it might occur. Optimism is something we can imagine a pathway toward, even if improbable. Hope it is wishing for a pile of money to fall from the sky. Optimism is buying a lottery ticket.

When the contrast between hope and optimism is placed alongside our desire for change, it’s worth noting that optimism works better. Incremental change is something we can imagine. Building the Great Wall of China is not.

Make a slow and steady plan for change. We did not get fat overnight, nor shall we lose the weight overnight. Gaining weight happens because of small, incremental changes we make over time that gradually decreases our ability to metabolize fat. So if we want to lose weight, we have to gradually reverse that process. Likewise, all forms of change we wish to make in our lives happen slowly, even when we intend to do them quickly. Just try to lose 50 pounds in two months and see how much the body has not changed in that time. The body still feels its proper form is heavier and so the weight will inevitably return.

Change is an almost entirely emotional experience, not physical. It is spiritual and existential in the sense that it is about fundamentally changing who we are at the core of how we identify ourselves. So be gentle about it, and forgiving. Evolve your body and mind slowly into seeing a new and happier version of itself. Be patient and constant. Reward yourself in positive ways at all stages of accomplishment. Our hearts never tire of congratulations. 

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