I have come across an interesting little book that could be a tremendous help to procrastinators everywhere – not to mention those who see themselves as perennial failures. It is called What You Can, When You Can: Healthy Living on Your Terms, and it is written by Carla Birnberg and Roni Noone.
The premise of the book is that when it comes to accomplishing the goals we have set out in life for ourselves – whether it is improving our physical fitness or learning a new language – such approaches as determination, willpower and resolutions simply set us up for failure. As soon as most of us decide to go on a diet until we reach our goal weight, or exercise for half an hour every day, or finish that paper one week before it’s due, we are done before we start: one or two slips or misses, and we give up. We throw the baby out with the bathwater.
But, say Birnberg and Noone, if we look at it from an entirely different angle – if, instead of making a huge resolution we are not likely to be able to keep, instead we take one tiny step in the direction we want to go, we will ultimately get to where we’re going. Furthermore, instead of calling ourselves down, we’ll be able to celebrate along the way. All we need to do is to choose the leaner item on the menu just once, or skip dessert, or walk three blocks instead of getting on a bus. Along that road lies success.
They call their approach “What you can, when you can” – “wycwyc” for short.
Endorsed by no less an achiever than Venus Williams, the book is cleverly set out to deliver its own message: the chapters are small segments of a page or two that are easy to digest within a few minutes, then mull over at your leisure. You can read a bit, put it down, then pick up the book again when you have time. (In other words, you can read wycwyc. Get it?)
The book contains concrete tips (declutter, get more sleep) and well as psychological boosters (don’t let yourself compare yourself to other people). Birnberg and Noone have also set up online groups on every social platform you can think of so that you can find others who are celebrating small achievements in their daily lives. To find them, just search the hashtag #wycwyc.
In my own recent efforts to lose weight and (even more difficult, in my experience) to keep the weight off, I have found that it has helped to avoid thinking of myself as being on a diet. Instead, I simply take two days a week to work on my weight-loss efforts (by eating no more than 500 calories) and the other five days are mine to do with as I wish food-wise. The fact that my tastes for overdoing it are gradually diminishing (at least I hope they are. “Leftover” Hallowe’en candy proved no easier to resist than it ever has) is beside the point. The point is that with this particular program, I did not have to make a resolution to which I was bound to fail again (going on a diet). (As some of you know, this was also the key to Rita’s success in my novel, Rita Just Wants to Be Thin.)
At the moment, I am taking the same approach to building up my ability to plank. Instead of sticking to the 30 Day Fitness Challenge guidelines (at which I would never have succeeded), I am increasing my time as I wish to, when I wish to. If it takes me 30 months instead of 30 days to get to the 5-minute plank, so be it. I have no doubt I’ll get there eventually. (I made four minutes last week.) Nor do I doubt that I will reach my goal weight…. Sometime. Preferably before the end of January.
Living this way (WYCWYC) is becoming part of my way of life. I just didn’t know it until I read this book.