Default States and Mindful Exceptions

If you’re like me, you know well enough that the standard style of New Year’s resolution doesn’t work. You know, telling yourself (or being so naïve as to tell others or commit in writing) that you will do this or won’t do that. Generally, that approach is a fruitless–and sometimes hopeless–endeavour for most of us average human beings.

Nevertheless, around the time of each year turning over I bravely engage in some sort of review, reflection and visioning which involves desired changes of some sort or another. Each year takes a slightly different approach and, in practical application, some are more successful than others.

This year’s tactic, which I’m using with the more tangible desired changes like technology/device interaction, news consumption, food & drink inputs, physical activity and other behaviour-based things, I’m calling “Default States and Mindful Exceptions”.

The main essence of what I am up to is that, instead of going at it from an angle with even the scent of being absolute or all-or-nothing, my approach is to be clear in defining what I would like to see as my “default” state for each aspect I desire change, but to fully allow myself exceptions. And here’s the thing: there’s no criteria or rules or parameters to those exceptions—other than they be arrived at mindfully, not impulsively, instinctively or out of rote habit.

So it’s not to say I won’t sell myself a bill of goods, as the saying goes, and masterfully conjure up some sort of justification for choices that lead me away from those desired default states. All I ask of myself is that I pause and make those exceptions mindfully.

What’s been interesting is that, loosey-goosey as it all might sound when it comes to effecting behaviour change, so far those exceptions have been rare. And I’m writing this blog entry today because I started this approach 4 weeks ago, in the midst of a pre-Christmas blizzard, safely distanced from New Year’s Day and its notorious resolution-like notions.

I realize this approach is mainly just applicable to tangible behaviours, and less so to the higher level kind of changes and growth objectives which many of us also desire to cultivate in our lives. But the day-to-day concrete aspects to us are what can help support those higher level aims and intentions with a more solid foundation. And in terms of change, they are often more directly accessible than the higher-level things.

In any case, I’ll report in on this again sometime before the year is out and perhaps it will offer some fodder to integrate into your own particular approach.

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