HEALTHY PRACTICES Healthy behaviors improve futures, lessening later demands on limited resource
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When we are overwhelmed with the anxiety of survival, developing traits such as compassion, courage and connectedness hardly measures in importance. The undeveloped traits linger in the background failing to grace the futures of those most in need. Neglecting idealistic traits is not always because of ignorance or laziness, but sometimes a practice of necessity. Impoverished and dangerous neighborhoods often require unique skills for safety; when these survival skills are neglected, the lack may meet deadly consequences. The lofty goal of character development must follow individual paths, not simply abandoned. A preparatory goal is to first seek environments that support healthy character development.
In main stream society, most the vaunted ethical standards do apply. Failing to acknowledge them, or habitually justifying deviations from them, seriously impacts our futures. Ethical standards include: empathy, trustworthiness, industriousness, commitment, and gratefulness. Stalwarts of character, such as Benjamin Franklin, devoted a lifetime nurturing and developing their moral fiber, improving depth of character, and strength of will. Their examples, however, remind of continual striving, not attainment of perfection. We can’t address every human failing at once. We fall short on all ethical fronts; each standard can be improved upon. The cognitive load to force perfection would overwhelm and depress, leaving us depleted and susceptible to destructive impulses and faulty reasoning.
The prudent path to achieve desired growth requires us to imperfectly implement daily practices; Imperfect because we are imperfect. We courageously do our best, addressing the most salient failing first. When carefully and consistently practiced, our souls develop, with new behaviors becoming nuanced, comfortable and habitual. We don’t simply change; difficult work is required. Without the proper resources, our efforts give way to impatience. All paths to lasting change require self-compassion, courage and connectedness.
Our human frailties require imperfect attempts to change. We must, as we do with a child’s first steps, accept a few falls, stumbling as we learn, courageously continuing, even are objective determination of success is uncertain. Large changes are not forced through rigid self-discipline alone. Conscious effort eventually exhausts and we falter. Our strength must be bolstered with outside resources. Proudly, many wait until complete destruction, when the walls have already fallen, before seeking help. The humility to recognize early imperfections, and courageously seek help, may prevent the disasters. The early assistance may sure up walls of defense, provide new artful responses to stress and wisely direct our efforts to the more vulnerable areas in our lives.
"Our human frailties require imperfect attempts to change. We must, as we do with a child’s first steps, accept a few falls, stumbling as we learn, courageously continuing, even are objective determination of success is uncertain.
Implementing changes to character traits isn’t automatic or seamless; changes take hold through a complex structure of starts and stops, hopes and despairs, successes and errors. We must reach a little deeper, beyond the normal comfort of the past. We must trudge through discouragement, and deal with failure. It’s the nature of major life changes. If we wait for a tomorrow that will be easier, more congenial to change, we will be disappointed.
Other practiced games of avoidance invade and discourage persistence—denial, avoidance and blame. Our mind plays dodge ball with the difficulties of change. But if not now, when?
Mindful attempts to incorporate change coddled with courage, self-compassion and connection, invites growth. With courage, self-compassion and connection instead of denial, avoidance, and blame, our life transforms. Areas previously beyond our reach now become realities. Anxieties subside, freeing cognitive space for continued growth. When we habitually engage in healthy behaviors, good things happen.