Say you skip a day accidentally or on purpose with something you’ve been meaning to stick to – a diet, an exercise plan, a 30 Day Challenge…
What does your mind do? Does it immediately go into Chicken Little “OH MY GOD!!! THE SKY IS FALLING!!!” mode? Does it tell you you’re a failure? Does it tell you to go back to square one – to start over – that anything you did up to this point, no matter how many days in a row, DOES NOT COUNT because you missed a day?
That, my friends, is called black and white thinking. And according to Martha Beck in The Four Day Win, it’s one of the hallmarks of people who have trouble losing weight (or organizing their lives, managing their time, and taming their paper piles!) It is however, curable, thank goodness. It’s all about recognizing those thoughts. You just have to watch your cute little Chicken Little mind and tell it to calm down. You’ve got this. One slice of pie or missed yoga class or unattended junk mail stack is not going to bring you down. You will keep going. You will be fine. You will teach your mind to see shades of grey. All is definitely not lost.
So far I haven’t missed a day. I enjoyed grass time this morning with two cats. I went through a stack of old photos (we used to get double prints back in the age of film, and that makes for a lot of pictures that really don’t need to be saved), and I worked on my whimsical cardinal drawing.
Turns out that’s where my thoughts needed looking at! Here’s a selection:
“This isn’t going to turn out very well.” “You don’t know what you’re doing.” “Oh NO! You’re going to wreck it!” “Real artists would have a plan for this instead of just winging it.” “Are you going to POST that for people to see? What will they THINK???” “Why didn’t you just leave it?” “OMG.”
Oh yes – another hallmark of people who struggle with weight loss, or getting things done, or managing their time, or letting themselves try creative writing or painting, is being critical. Especially self-critical. It can really stop you in your tracks.
So I just listened politely to my Chicken Little brain and said, “Thanks so much for your input. We have to let ourselves mess up. We have to try things. It’s ok to play. I don’t have plans for a gallery show at the Louvre. There’s no such thing as messing this up – we really don’t need to be attached to those cardinals! We can draw more if we feel like it! Relax and enjoy! This is fun! I’m curious to see how it will all turn out! This isn’t a final piece – it is just for us – it’s in a sketchbook for goodness sake! We are playing! La la la! Breathe!”
Yes – there’s all kinds of black and white thinking to watch for. If your brain says anything with the word always or never – or even with a version of the verb “to be” – as in “I’m disorganized”, “I’m not a good artist”, “I’m too heavy” — it sounds permanent and it’s a sign of black and white thinking or assuming that things that are one way will always be that way- assuming fixed conditions. What if we replaced those thoughts with, “My desk contains some extra papers.” “I learn a lot when I play with art supplies.” or “Right now my body has some extra weight.” These don’t sound as permanent or like they’re part of our being – they’re just circumstances and they are subject to change. They’re not fixed conditions. They offer us many shades of grey to play with.
P.S. During the past 6 days of this challenge, I also read all three 50 Shades of Grey books. I will admit that I was entertained. And I had no idea the story was ultimately so sweet. I was prepared for something more 9 1/2 weeks and it was more like Harlequin Romance with a little steamy and kinky thrown in. And this blog post title is totally a gratuitous reference to the Shades of Grey phenomenon – no doubt!