Changing practice by practicing change

New Year’s resolutions.  Diets.  Vows to arrive earlier to work.  Promises to keep calm while in traffic jams.  All worthwhile attempts at change that often fail.


“Change is hard,” right?  Maybe.  We try changing so rarely, so why should we be any good at it?  Same schedule most days.  Same people we work with.  Same friends, same families, same food we eat.

It’s reassuring and productive to have a whole lot of habits.  But we’re setting ourselves up for failure if we only attempt change when it’s something BIG: “I’m going to stop eating carbs.”  “I’m going to get up at 6am every day and exercise.”  “I’m going to become a great public speaker.”

Great if you can pull these things off.  If it’s not happening, maybe you can make space for practicing.  Practicing change, that is.  Trying to change small, low-stakes things, and watching what happens along the way.

Here’s an idea: try brushing your teeth with your other hand for a month.  It’s meaningless, it’s easy, it’s low stakes, and there’s no good reason you can’t pull it off.

Why bother?  Because if you can do this for a month you might have more faith that you can change something more important.  And if you fail (which you might), you’ll have a chance to watch when and why your attempts at change fall apart.  Are you initially enthusiastic but then lose interest?  Do you convince yourself it’s too hard?   Do you just forget?  Pulling this silly little thing off is your way to learn how to change – which makes it important and worth the follow-through.

(If you don’t like the idea of brushing your teeth with your left hand, here are some other ideas, all for a month: Arrive 5 minutes early for every meeting.  Never complain.  Answer enthusiastically when anyone asks you “how are you doing?”  Look everyone in the eye when you talk to them.  Sit quietly with your eyes closed for 5 minutes a day.  Go to bed by 10 pm.  Floss daily.)

Have fun with it.  Keep a log of how it’s going.  You never know what you might be good at if you practice.

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