Confession: I’m not the most gifted writer. I don’t have Hemingway’s conciseness, nor King’s ideas, nor Shakespeare’s gift with words. I find myself critiquing my blog against other, more popular blogs, and always coming away wanting. Every time I get down on myself, however, I think three thoughts: 1, it doesn’t matter, I’m not doing this for adoration. 2, practice makes perfect. 3, with dedication, I can overcome.
On that note, I had the opportunity to have lunch yesterday with a very close friend. Among the many topics we discussed was his confession that he follows this blog and has been trying to use it as inspiration for bettering himself. However, he has trouble maintaining focus beyond a week or so. It feeds a vicious cycle…he’ll work out for 4 or 5 days, then go 4 or 5 days without working out. This leads to a desire to work out, so he promises to work out again. Rinse, lather, repeat.
It’s a tough cycle to break. The only way to do so requires intense dedication for a few weeks. A friend once told me that when it came to cracking your sweet tooth urges, it requires three entire weeks of completely abstaining from sugar. Her reasoning? The average taste bud is regenerated every 7 days. So you have to see to it that the current generation of taste buds is completely gone, as they have the taste. Then you have to wait 7 days so the next generation never sends the sugar signals to the brain and the nerves begin to “forget”. Finally, you have to wait one more generation to ensure you’ve completely destroyed those taste pathways.
I realize this is far from scientific, and I can guarantee it has no basis in actual taste bud science or biology. But it is an interesting thought. Change requires discipline. You have to be dedicated to not giving in to your cravings in order to change. Do you actually change your taste buds? I doubt it. What you do is develop new habits and new desires.
I used to eat McDonald’s almost every day. In high school, as a growing boy with a sky-high metabolism who constantly played sports, I could eat anything I wanted and not see the effects (outside, at least). What better way to sate a hunger than three Big Mac’s every day for lunch? For years, I continued to eat McD’s when available, until I watched the documentary Super Size Me. It’s not so much that it turned me off of greasy hamburgers as it piqued my curiosity to try a similar experiment - in reverse. I committed myself to not eating any fast food for two months. Those two months turned into almost 6 months, and on the day that I finally broke down and had some fast food…well, let’s just say that I felt the difference. Within an hour of eating, I was gassy, felt bloated, and actually lost energy. My body wasn’t used to the preservatives, low quality ingredients and fat in the food, so it didn’t react well.
The point is this: My desires and cravings changed when I forced myself to abstain from them. The same has happened to me over the first 6 weeks of this year. I used to have to drag myself away from the television late at night to go to bed. After a full day of work, taking care of kids, cooking and evening chores, all I wanted was to shut my brain off. TV was an all-to-convenient way to do so. I would head downstairs, plop my feet up on the couch, and veg. This year, however, I made it a point not to watch TV in the evenings (notable exceptions: Super Bowl, Grammys, big special events). I’ve discovered lately that I no longer have a desire to turn on the boob tube. Instead, when I get downstairs, the first thing I want to do is either run on the treadmill or start working out. As soon as that is over, I find myself either blogging for the day or cracking open whatever books I am reading. It took 40 days for me to realize it. 40 days to change my thinking, my habits and my desires.
In the grand scheme of things, 40 days is a blink. Have you ever given up anything for Lent? That’s 40 days. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a shade under 40 days. Think about the last time you took a nice vacation that you were looking forward to. In the month leading up to it, were you counting down the days? That month was almost 40 days.
Trust me, 40 days is doable.
As I ran today at the gym, I was thinking about this post. How could I wrap it up? Then it dawned on me. I was running, and I wasn’t even thinking about it. Several weeks ago, I would have been concentrating on the ticking off the miles, half miles, quarters and tenths of a mile until I was done. But today? Today I was focused elsewhere.
That sums up the shift that has happened for me perfectly. By throwing myself wholeheartedly into this endeavor, I’ve begun to change habits in myself. It took dedication, because Lord knows there were nights I didn’t want to read my devotional or crank out pushups. I had to force it. As I said before, it’s becoming routine for me to almost wander into workouts unconsciously. I now love reading my books at night. I feel bad if I don’t post serious thoughts to my blog. I love it. I’m becoming disappointed by the things that used to be my goals!
That’s the sign of progress. When you begin to leave one horizon behind in search of a new horizon, you know you’re moving forward.
And you can quote that.