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The 'Take the Day Off of Easy' Challenge: Are You In?

I was about to start a spinning class the other day when I ran into a friend of mine in front of the gym spin room. She explained how she had done spinning for years but gave it up because she had begun “cheating.” In spin class, you have a choice of how hard you want your workout to be and she had begun opting for the easy workout. It was time for her to move on to where she would be held more accountable.

For some reason this conversation stole some of my energy and made me suspect. Did I do this very thing? Was I so obsessed with spinning at the moment because it was actually an easy workout? Maybe everybody sweats buckets. Maybe it was just because the room was warm? I needed some answers and that’s when I decided to be super aware of making sure I was doing the opposite of easy. I noticed that every time my thoughts were “I’m tired,” my legs would slow down instantly. I immediately shifted the thought to a question, “Are you taking the easy way or the hard way?” Boom, my energy was back.

As a consultant to individuals, couples and families I have had ample opportunity to learn that our awareness of ourselves in the moment is very rare. We operate on autopilot, in my guestomation, about 94% of the time. I would define autopilot as simply reacting to the world around us with very little purposeful thought tied to the action. Almost like, habit. For example, your child leaves the kitchen a disaster, you notice disaster, you begin yelling/nagging about said disaster. You yell because you are emotionally reacting and that is easy. I’m not saying having a disaster of a kitchen is something you should accept, but doing what you did yesterday, the day before, and the day before that is easy. What would happen if you took the One Day Challenge to increase your awareness, do things differently, take a day off of easy? Here are some examples of easy. Make no mistake, sometimes easy is better and the right choice. The point is to think about what has become autopilot and therefore easy, and to take yourself off autopilot and connect more thought with action. Make a personal list.

Easy to overeat.
Easy to avoid someone who you need to confront.
Easy to spend precious, potentially constructive time on Facebook instead.
Easy to clean when you need to exercise.
Easy to over-react.
Easy to not be patient.
Easy to not talk about emotionally charged issues with your partner.
Easy to exercise lightly.
Easy to not exercise.
Easy to avoid stretching when you’re tight.
Easy to do it later (whatever IT is).
Easy to intervene when it doesn’t belong to you.
Easy to walk away instead of figure it out.
Easy to complain/be negative.
Easy to watch hours of TV.
Easy to eat sweet things every night.
Easy to eat yummy over healthy.
Easy to think immediate gratification versus long term
Easy to spend and not save.
Easy to rationalize.
Easy to feel versus think.
Easy to be late.
Easy to overwork.
Easy to keep trying to be perfect.
Easy to never feel good enough or have self-disparaging thoughts.
Easy to stay in an uncomfortable relationship versus end it.
Easy to put another’s life first.
Easy to give in.
Easy to join the majority.
Easy to be in denial.
Easy to regret.
Easy to go back to old habits.
Easy to stay in uncomfortable because change is hard.

Why are things that tend to not be as good for us easy? This is a question that has always perplexed me. For one day, I would put my level of awareness on hyper drive, number ten, turbo blast…I would pay a lot of attention.

Here is how it worked in my day:

After dropping off my kids to school, there was a gathering at a friend’s house for some of the Moms to celebrate their kids going off to kindergarten. She had a delicious spread laid out and without much thought, I watched, out of the corner of my eye, as my hand began to dive bomb the lemon poppy seed bread. Let it be known that I had already had breakfast. Mindless eating with an open spread is my specialty, as is regret of overeating afterward. I said to myself, “That’s easy to mindlessly eat, it’s harder to control it.” I went for the harder way.

During a conversation at the same party, my mind began to wander to “what am I doing next? I wonder if I’ll get a chance to go to the grocery store today.” I noticed what I was doing and shifted my thought to, “bring it back” and refocused on who was right in front of me. It’s easy to be ten steps in front and multitasking in your mind. It’s harder to refocus and stay in the moment.

When I got home, I saw the trashcans were on the side of the street ready to be brought in. I usually walk right by because this is something my husband typically does. It’s easy to walk by, but I pulled them around to the back.

I was running a little late to get to the office and I was stuck behind a slow driver. It’s easy to get frustrated and let my agitation get the best of me. Instead, I took a breath and relaxed my shoulders, which, upon actually noticing, had come, dangerously close to my ears. I decided to notice things along my route that I had never noticed…a house, some landscaping etc. It passed the time beautifully.

My husband and I met for lunch. After much fun, laughing and enlightening conversation (*), so began a conversation we had probably had a million times (*the beginning of the second sentence may be a stretch, but I certainly couldn’t start with the second part of the second sentence). In broad-brush strokes, one of us is neater than the other and who is neater than whom is certainly not the point here so I will refrain from mentioning. My automatic response is to get defensive and annoyed like a child (I may have given it away), but I decided not to do the easy thing. I let him know that I heard him and I would try to pay more attention to my part. The automatic tension was diffused, and we really did have a fun, laugh filled, enlightening conversation…no stretch.

As I was tucking our daughter in for sleep the typical 30 minutes later than planned, she says, “Oops, I forgot to brush my teeth and go to the bathroom.” Based on her sheepish proclamation, she knew I would be annoyed by this seemingly purposeful delay. And I was. “Ugh, why do you always do this? You should think ahead.” and blah, blah the easy (over) reaction was out before I had a chance to be aware. Woops. Better thinking next time, because there WILL be a next time.

At the end of my day, here is what I learned or was confirmed:

  • Navigating life in your thinking system and not simply emotionally reacting to things is challenging but very rewarding. I felt a sense of calm at the end of the day, which I think came from realizing I had more control over my life than I consciously thought about.
  • Making purposeful decisions on how to respond and what actions to take was empowering. For example, my husband doesn’t make me defensive; I choose to be or not to be.
  • Focusing on one day at a time and giving myself the ‘one day challenge’ versus the ‘change now and forever’ or all or nothing mentality was very useful. I did it again the next day and have adapted being more aware as often as I can.
  • This is like taking on anything new. At first it’s not comfortable or effortless, but the more you do it the easier it becomes. You’ll notice from day to day how your training improves. According to Dr. Angelo Bolea, a gifted neuropsychologist, it takes 70 to 90 times of doing something to establish a strong neural pathway. Get cracking!
  • Being more aware and in the moment has the potential to improve relationships dramatically. I think I’ll start my own scientific experiment to prove this. That’s how strongly I feel about it!

I often coach people in an exercise to spend a few minutes a day saying out loud what they’re doing while they’re doing it. For example, “I’m putting my keys down on the table, I’m walking to the kitchen and opening the fridge, am I hungry? No, I’m closing the fridge…”and so on. It seems a little crazy but it is an excellent way to practice being 100% present.

Here are some quick facts to keep in mind while you take this challenge.

The brain is malleable. New neural connections can be made. You can change. Check out this link.

Multitasking is not so impressive. When we multitask we actually perform worse and learning and memory is impaired. We use different parts of our brains during focused learning versus distracted learning.

Take this “One Day Off of Easy” challenge and let me know how you did. One day, opposite of easy. Increase your knowledge of how you operate and decide where you have been cheating. Feel free to either post a comment or email me your thoughts.



Filed under Brain and physiology

3 comments for "The 'Take the Day Off of Easy' Challenge: Are You In?"

Jay Treadwell says:

Great thinking. Obviously thinking AND feeling went in to this. I wonder why I am proud to have you as my (blank) (Don't want to give too much away). Keep it up.

Laura Havstad says:

Inspiring, Glennon, and I found it through facebook! now, back work.

Janis Norton says:

Your effort in writing this up much appreciated. The thoughtful approach to everyday life makes ordinary stuff compelling reading!

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