When I studied early childhood education, I learned that telling a child “Don’t…” leaves the child with uncertainty. But being directive (“Do…”) guides the child. So, I learned to substitute for “Stop running!” with “WALK!” repeated until the child heard and did as I asked.
As the child grows and develops, the introduction of critical thinking helps the child to solve this problem or uncertainty. “I don’t want you to run in the house, it’s dangerous for you and for my pretty things. What could you do instead of running?”
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and Lent has started. Whether you’re spiritual or not, I believe you’ll find that having a substitute helps you to avoid falling back into a habit you’re trying to unlearn. Nature abhores a vacuum. Humans don’t do nothing. So whether you’re trying to quit smoking, give up sweets for Lent, or get rid of the obstacles that prevent success, try considering the positive opposite of what you’ve been doing.
- What would be a good thing to do instead of having a cigarette?
- What could you do when you want a cookie?
- If you don’t spend time watching TV on playing Farmville or sitting around fretting, how could you use the time to take your business to the next level?
I recall a marvelous list of suggestions that I first heard a few years ago in the context of ‘celebrating Lent’:
“Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal Truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.”
– William Arthur Ward
(American author, teacher and pastor, 1921-1994.)
If I focus on the feasting on good things, I can trick myself into not even noticing that I’m fasting. And that, to me, seems like a very good idea.
I plan to practice these types of things ‘throughout these forty days’. Maybe you could too. It’s certainly a long enough time to build a new habit. And you know, the time’s going to pass anyway!