Trying that ‘slow to anger’ approach

At the end of December, I always find it easy to feel hopeful about keeping my New Year’s resolutions. As we settle firmly into the second week of the year, however, I have to become more realistic. It’s clear already that many of the items on my long laundry list of new intentions for 2014 haven’t stuck. The best that I can hope for now is to carry through with a couple of the biggies.

One that I feel is doable and would help my life immeasurably is an idea I swiped from New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, and it’s a New Year’s resolution he swiped from his mother. She always urged him, he wrote in a column published late last year, to count to 10 before he spoke. He interprets her simple, oft-repeated line this way: “She meant that pauses are the spaces in which passions cool, civility gets its oxygen, and wisdom quite possibly finds its wings. She meant that slowing things down often classes them up.”

Bruni’s message to slow down comes amid all the arguing many of us engage in on Facebook and on other social media sites. I am not proud of the fact that I have gotten disagreeable with complete strangers on Facebook, entering into debates about politics and religion, issues that I care about. And even sadder, it’s only through immense power of will do I find myself able to keep from weighing in on things I care absolutely nothing about, starting with “Duck Dynasty,” – I frequently come close to delivering the kind of toss-away FB snark that is kindling for a disagreement that will resolve nothing and enlighten no one.

In political discussions, particularly in threads where hot-button issues such as “Duck Dynasty” and Chick-fil-A come up, many folks don’t pause a second to consider the other person’s point of view (much less take the time to actually read an article or supporting material the person might have cited in making a point). Many people don’t seem to pause to even think through the point of view they hold themselves. Each of us is running his or her own a rapid response team.

Or as Bruni puts it: It seems “contemplation has given way to expectoration, with speed overtaking sense and nuance exiting the equation.”

As far as a solution, the columnist concludes by looking to our evolving approach to food – to adopt the mindset that has more of us trading in the drive-through to spend time cooking leisurely from-scratch.

“For more than two decades, there’s been a celebration of slow food,” he writes. “Over the last few years, we’ve proved receptive to slow TV. What we really need is slow debate. It would trade the sugary highs and lows of rapid-fire outrage for a more balanced diet. We’d be healthier. Probably happier, too.”

The other big resolution I do hope to keep has to do with improving my organization methods, at home and at work. For that one, I’m trying to follow some advice I think I may have gotten in a fortune cookie. Something about taking the smallest step possible in the right direction.

It makes sense to me that adopting a new (good) habit is hard work and that making a huge leap forward may be a tough all but unreachable goal. Almost anytime, though, we can move ourselves just an inch along that right path.

A study I saw this week said that people who take small steps toward goals and then reward themselves lavishly are more likely to stay with the program. Makes sense.

Wayne Dyer, the self-help author and motivational speaker, has similar advice. We don’t make good on our resolutions by threatening ourselves with a hammer. Instead, his advice is to adopt your resolutions just for the moment – and then each moment, give yourself an opening to again do the right thing.

Just for today, you can say, I will eat a healthy diet, be kind to someone who annoys me, organize my work, exercise, read more, whatever. It does seem to be true that our mindset creates our reality.

Which reminds me of another Dyer tidbit that I like a lot: “Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.” (Maybe, maybe not, but it sure beats the more popular alternative.)


– Snyder has been the Life editor at the Spirit since 2012. Share feedback on this column to Christine@spiritofjefferson.com.


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