Have you ever noticed how being absolute about anything doesn’t seem to work? If you’re on a diet where you have to give up all your favorite foods with no exceptions, it’s not long before you break the rule or give up on the restrictive plan. When you tell a child that they can’t watch a certain show, or stay up past a certain time, they soon become obsessed with begging you to let them. When you tell yourself you’ll never (fill-in-the-blank), you might find yourself wondering about what would happen if you did.
Self-discipline is a useful tool, but being absolute is the death of fun. If you don’t leave any room in your plans for spontaneity, your free spirit will most likely rebel. Perhaps a more workable approach is to have goals, but to be flexible with how you achieve them. Rather than strict rules, give yourself guidelines to follow.
Beliefs, too, are but tools that we use. Say for example that you decide to make a lifestyle change based on a belief that individual sustainability will help the Earth’s environment. You decide to eat organic, locally-grown foods and start a garden. I know several families who have made these goals their focus in recent years. The families who have been the most successful and happy with their choices have been those who remain flexible.
To continue our example, say the family has had a long week and this has been a particularly difficult day. It’s pouring, and no one feels inclined to go out to the garden to pick some veggies. The parents, who had planned to make a salad and roast some vegetables for dinner, are exhausted. The kids are hungry and whiny, and someone suggests just ordering a couple of pizzas. What would you do? Does the decision to order take-out invalidate all the organic home-cooked dinners the family has made over the past months? Should they get the pizza, but then feel guilty and awful about it? Or make dinner anyway, groaning about their sore feet and bickering over who sets the table? Or is it possible to order pizza, have a picnic in the living room, and giggle over a favorite family DVD?
Being flexible gives us the option to make exceptions, free of guilt. It also allows us the energy to sustain our plans over the long haul. When you know you have options, you’re more likely to look at the big picture. If you can happily enjoy a piece of cake with your best friend on her birthday, you’re more likely to stick to your low-sugar diet the rest of the week. Our spirits know that we are free beings, and that everything we do is by our own choice. We are also always growing, learning, and changing. By embracing guidelines and being open to new ideas, we can achieve our goals and enjoy the process.