Friday, 20 August 2010

A little bit of what you fancy does you good

My Grandmother was fond of pointing out that “a little bit of what you fancy does you good.” Sadly, the world I live in has so much of what I fancy, what really does me good is having a little bit less of just about everything. My Grandmother’s world was very different.

I suppose I have got used to the idea that in order to improve I need to be disciplined, and cut out harmful things. Moderation has never really been my style. My 100-day caffeine challenge was a prime example. It took three attempts to live without caffeine, but after a recent upset in my schedule caffeine is now back in my routine. Life throws all sorts of unexpectedly wobblies, and being disciplined doesn’t always work if you need to stay awake.

But then this week I read a blog post that kind of shattered my view of the world. The talented and highly readable Leo Babauta of Zen Habits suggested that the best habits are the ones we enjoy. On first reading this I scoffed: Of course! It’s easy to keep to habits we enjoy. That takes no effort at all! What a silly idea.

But then I let it sink in a little more. By finding the pleasure in what we do, and what we need to do, we are more likely to do what needs to be done. Simple. But effective? Maybe ...

He is not the only writer to have suggested this type of approach. The scarily prolific Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project has all sorts of good advice such as “enjoy the process” and “spend out”.

Is there benefit in working on pleasurable habits? Or in making stuff-that-needs-to-be-done more fun? Common sense tells me “Yes”, but it seems so radical.

So I’m enjoying a few cups of green tea each day, and not feeling bad about it. The occasional glass of wine with dinner has also been known this week. My yogic self doesn’t approve, but for the moment I’m going with the flow and letting the idea grow roots.

Habits are so important, but habitually get too little thought. Aristotle advised “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit”. Health, wealth and sanity depend on what we do day in and day out. Finding a way to enjoy what we eat, how we work, and how we relate to one another seems like a basic building block.

Maybe the wise words in my Grandmother’s advice were “a little bit” rather than “what you fancy”. Enjoying life and work through moderation? A radical idea!

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