Develop Your Life Pattern

“Obesity is a disease, not a choice.” So proclaims a billboard along I-90 in northern Indiana that I pass on every trip to Chicago.

I know the American Medical Association has redefined obesity, but I worry that many people will look at their physical condition as not their responsibility and just search for the magic pill that will end all their physical and emotional woes.

But whoever wrote the message on the board (bad advertising, I don’t remember the company) is correct in that obesity–like many other of our problems–is not a decision. It’s the result of a pattern of decisions–or non-decisions.

We develop patterns either consciously or unconsciously. It’s all the little decisions we make that add up. One day we don’t feel likeĀ  going out for some exercise or to the gym. The second day we don’t feel like it. We have a conflict on the third day. Then one day we realize we have established a pattern of inactivity.

It’s the same for everything. Our pattern of eating too much of the wrong food. Our pattern of either helping other people in big and little ways–or ignoring other people. Our pattern of rising early enough for study and reflection–or our pattern of sleeping until the last minute forcing us to rush through the morning.

Patterns must be replaced by other patterns. First we must decide who we are. Socrates said, “Be as you wish to seem.” First, say to yourself, “I’d like to be a nice person.” Or, “I’d like to be a physically fit person.” Or, “I’d like to be a person at peace with myself and others.”

If we know who we want to be, then we can begin “doing as we wish to seem.” The little choices that are made many times a day change. I want to be a nice person. I see someone whose arms are loaded with packages and I rush to open the door for them–or offer to help carry the packages. I smile and say thank you. I create a pattern.

It’s not rocket science, as they say. Humans knew this 5,000 years ago. But practicing it every day–that’s the challenge.

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