What’s the Plan?
Labor Day: a last stretch of leisure before the tans fade and the sleeves lengthen and the year begins for real. Over brunch I explain this to S., an Israeli who just moved to NY and is getting accustomed to the American way of life, the calendar, the small details that make up reality. And then we discuss the Jewish calendar, how aligned they are this year, and how today, on both calendars, is a combo kicker to get our ambitious self improvement plans ready and set into motion. Yesterday was the response to ‘are you ready’ and the leap into the ‘yes’. Today is about practical swimming, move by move towards the other side, the destiny, the desired outcome. So, what’s the plan?
Plainly speaking: To take the Elul/Prepent challenge seriously one’s got to have a concrete and doable change in mind. Nothing too ambiguous or vague. Imagine those ‘before and after’ advertisements on late night TV or the back pages of newspapers. What’s the ‘before’ – as in ‘right now’ – and what would ‘after’ as in– ‘I did it!’ look like?
Several have written to me today with ‘I’m in for the ride’ notes and ‘the water is great!’. I. wrote with a long note about how this process is not about God anymore and that kind of piety but simply our ability to be powerful in our convictions:
“The key struggles we face are distraction and loss of focus, laziness and over-comfortable apathy, and being self-centered to the point of solipsism. In Elul we need to genuinely find the other, invite him in, and rediscover ourselves in the other.”
Yes to finding the ‘other’. But before we do so – in a few days – I want to still focus on the ‘I’, even at the risk of too much self-centered attention.
The plan for change as I see it has four steps, none of them easy though all quite simple:
1. Identity ONE area in your life that you want to improve on so that your life has more meaning, happiness, balance (private or public form of behavior, a habit, an addiction, a thought pattern, a default routine)
2. Describe to yourself the ‘Before’ snapshot of what this ‘thing’ is and why you want to change it. What’s wrong?
3. Imagine what success looks like 36 days from now. Even in small doses of baby steps towards a grander goal.
4. Make a plan: Write down THREE achievable goals that will get the change to start manifesting in your life within this period. And commit.
My project this PREPENT period, as I already wrote in day one, is nutrition. I need to commit to serious changes in what and how I eat so that I am healthier, happier, in better shape AND in accordance with the new ways of life I have taken on, AKA rabbinical school.
The “Before” snapshot is a pluralistic and vaguely disciplined diet, composed of loosely liberal Jewish norms, low carbs and organic preference. The “after” is a disciplined and responsible dietary system that what is becoming more commonly known as ‘eco-kosher’.
My three (hope so) achievable goals are:
1. I’m going Pescatrian – mostly veg. and fish only at home from now on. (Def. no meat – but I’m leaving myself the option of eating poultry out at some events/homes and will reconsider again. I’m not quite ready for 100% cold turkey. Ha ha)
2. Pay attention to breakfast – my nutritional weak link. Come up with 3-4 sustainable options for super early wake up days – which will be most of them this year. Sigh.
3. Go local: continue supporting the local green markets and cooking more at home. At least two dinners weekly.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have other Elul/Prepent tasks ahead. As I. wrote – there is the attention to the other. There are lists coming up of people I’ve hurt this past year and amends that have to be made. There are things to consider regarding my ethical behavior and spiritual, intellectual and emotional wellbeing. Not just what I take into my mouth but what comes out of it, etc. etc.
But for now, today, there is the PLAN. Simple steps to success.
What’s your plan?