12.29.2010

A Social Experiment Gone Personal


In three days, we'll be at the beginning of our journey into 2011, and thousands of us will put into action resolutions we've set for ourselves. Now...I've never been a big participator in this practice. Part of me feels like it's just a reflex people have at the end of December, leading them to make these promises without any expectation that they'll follow through.

The other part of me sees how they could be a positive thing in our lives, if viewed not as a promise we make to ourselves, but as a discipline we want to instill in our lives. I know discipline sounds like a harsh word, but it's not as scary as it seems.

Dallas Willard, a philosophy professor, speaker and author, defines discipline as, "any activity within our power that we engage in to enable us to do what we cannot do by direct effort."

Let's use weight loss as a hypothetical, since it's usually at the top of someone's resolution list. There are two ways to go about it: You could tell yourself you want to eat better and exercise, or you could set up a series of practices that will lead to weight loss.

For example, to commit to taking a walk every day would be great, but before you know it you'll be putting that walk off until later and later in the day, and soon you'll be back on the couch where you started. But, if you commit to taking a two-mile walk every day on your lunch break, you will have set up a discipline that's very black and white: You either participate in it or you don't. The more specific those disciplines are, the easier it will be to fully participate in them and reach your goal.

One thing I see in myself (and that's been there since I was young) is that I start something and never finish it. Piano lessons, ballet, learning the autoharp, starting my own line of jewelry, various craft projects... I get really excited about what I envision the end result will be, but can't seem to put in the effort it takes to get there. And I truly do believe it's because I don't engage in any specific disciplines to aid me on my way.

So, this year, I'm going to take a baby step in learning how to finish what I start by signing up for the Six Items or Less social experiment. The first run happened this past summer, with tons of people joining and documenting their progress on the website. And from Jan. 1-Feb. 1, I'm going to do the same, and share my experience with you on this blog.

The rules? Pick six articles of clothing to wear for an entire month. Exceptions include undergarments, shoes, socks, accessories, workout clothes, pajamas, outerwear and work uniforms (if applicable).

I think this is a great example of how to start down the road to disciplines; I've got specific parameters, and it's a reasonable time period. My hope is to learn more about my motivations and thought processes, and be able to use that knowledge as I make plans for the future!

What about you? What specific disciplines can you enact this year to help you reach your goal? 

{Image courtesy of livetocook.com}

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