Sunday, March 6, 2011

Appreciation (34) … Just do it!

Appreciation (34) … Just do it!
Torrey Orton
March 6, 2011

'Just do it!' should be a candidate for a Rectification. It reeks of modern mantras commanding effortless deployments of will for transformations of shoes, souls, or real estate perhaps. But this appreciation came to me in the flush of a therapeutic intuition.

Many years ago the impossible – reversal of a 90% public opposition to seatbelts – occurred in 6 months or less (the user survey did not identify at what point in the six months respondents' opposition to the innovation had ceased). It occurred by force (legislation). Six months later the numbers were almost reversed. 'Just do it' version 1, a seamless habit change, but a very small and doable one with almost zero post-adoption costs for drivers. Easy to do, and easy to police.

Then there's the Nike version arising out of the mindless careerism of the 80's – 90's driven by the silly but attractive proposition that everyone and every organisation should be "world class". A principal capacity for arrival in that class was action and that, in turn, was a mere matter of personal will. 'Just do it' Version 2. Implication: if you don't have the will you don't deserve the fill. Moral arm twisting and a competitive edge.

The version I want to bring into view arises from another developmental proposition altogether – though it can easily appear as just another version 1 or 2 above. This is the 'doing it' required for an experience one's never had. This extends across the full range of human activities from eating to loving. For me a recent one was taking up morning floor exercises when in partial recovery from pancreatitis.*

I was still feeling achy and dog tired much of the time, and this started from the beginning of the day. I wasn't improving my sleep either. Probably some connection between the two facts: low sleep and low feelings. So I decided to take up the sleep improvement program's first recommendation – learnt to relax, and practise it daily for 20 minutes. While at it, I thought I'd throw in a few stretches I'd learned in yoga 35 years ago, and then also a few tone builders for my weakened gut core. Some leg lifts, bicycling, arches, and various hip flexors. Altogether about 25 minutes.

No surprise to those on top of rehabilitation, but I got such a seriously clear lift in overall good feeling that I was looking forward to doing it again the next day. I've been at it daily ever since, on the back of the same daily reinforcement, which is now an inducement to persistence. It's an internal push rather than an external pull.

It struck me that there must be many variations on this theme of taking action to discover a need or want. Cuisines offer obvious (once discovered) taste titillations hiding behind the screen of olfactory repulsion – eg., durian, chou doufu, some wines and cheeses. Music provides similarly distinctive, and equally offensive to the uninitiated, variety – the modern atonal, Beijing opera, Middle Eastern rhythm and melodies. Visual arts are a storehouse of visions which have to be learned to be appreciated, or even seen in some cases – Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, etc.

Different degrees and kinds of actions are required to enter these worlds because they initially resist entry or even obscure the possibility of it. So it may be helpful to find a person's relevant previous experience(s) to build a first effort on. Relying on chance won't do. Explicit encouragement is required since the unknown cannot be chosen until it is known. A look at a durian does not invite a bite. A first hearing of a Beijing opera is a jangle. First sight of Blue Poles may be a downer.

Whatever the approach to taking action, the moment of action has to be faced. Having a purpose other than that which the action explicitly seeks can help cross the hurdle into a new experience. For some, just trying something new is enough. For others, the action's explicit objective could be to acquire a skill, a sensitivity, knowledge, etc. The implicit objective might be to validate their own sense of direction. Support is often essential to find an inner source of motivation so 'Just doing it' can be its own reward.

*A not to be recommended event which left me 10kgs lighter (which could have taken months of training to achieve but only a week of nil-by-mouth in hospital). The standard recovery period is 3-6 weeks, of which I am now into the eight week, restarting moderated work 3 weeks ago (therapy) and developing new self-management regimes in eating (no alcohol which I don't miss at all and one latte on clinic therapy days) and morning relaxation and exercise practices with daily consistency, so far!

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