We are all familiar with buyer’s remorse. Wikepedia’s description of this phenomenon notes the positive emotions that one experiences before the purchase, followed by the negative aspects that rapidly ensue when the deed is done. It points out that we have a vast array of options before we buy, including the choice of not buying at all!
Afterward, we are boxed into a much more limited scenario that boils down to two main avenues — return or keep. No matter where we are in the continuum of this behavior, we confront two basic issues that apply to much of our adult lives — choice and change.
I’ve been ruminating on these two “c” words as I continue to cope with depression — and aging, too, for that matter. (I had put a third one into the mix — control — but don’t feel up to dissecting that one right now.) As usual, I turned to the Oxford English Dictionary to find inspiration for reflection, and found out that the etymology of choosing is not really known. I was shocked, though, to discover that although it is one of the 1000 most frequently used words in our language, it has only two short definitions: to pick out (someone or something) as being the best or most appropriate of two or more alternatives; and, to decide on a course of action. Two simple definitions, for something that we actually do many, many times a day! Why is choosing so difficult at times?
In the work of self-improvement, the choices can often seem limitless. Do I want to choose my weight, my sleep habits, exercise program, learning skills, my goals, my fears, my I can’t make up my mind!! My list could go on forever!
The onus of choice is trivial when compared to that of change, defined simply as to make or become different. It is derived from the Latin cambire, to barter, and so denotes the concept of the swap. That makes sense when you think of handing off unwanted components of yourself and replacing them with newer, better parts. Which takes you right back to choose, because everybody knows you can’t change everything at once.
In my own case I made a bit of progress when I somehow managed to settle on a few finite things I wanted to focus on, and could actually write them down on a list. But then the moment of truth came, and I had to put one item at the top! I felt like I was picking out a new cell phone from the hundreds of models available. Once I made my decision it was time to whip out the old credit card and buy into it — I had to figure out how to change. But to become different in one or two little aspects of myself — oh my, it began to seem so daunting
When I dug further into changing habits, for example, I learned about things like rewards and cues, and saw all the latest research showing the marvelous capacity of humans to transform themselves. I found everything from a simple three-step plan to a process involving 29 different actions, ranging from “keep it small” to “drink water”! I sincerely doubt that water will swap my fear of failure for the confidence I want to nurture!
For me, I felt that I could best change the habits of procrastination and inactivity that were impeding my progress by crafting a schedule. I would simply trade off the computer games for a walk in the neighborhood, the TV talk shows for the time it would take to play with my fresh juice maker. More and more opportunities to make a switch began to pop up. So that’s what I ended up doing. I spent time on a week-at-a-glance calendar, and assigned myself specific times for these activities. I even used different colored ink pens, after having been a black ink/pencil person for my entire life! I "kicked it up" a notch.
We’ll see how it goes from now on, but I certainly have nothing to lose (except those pounds). If I work on the things I choose to change, I won’t have buyer’s remorse. I’ll be swapping out negatives for positives, and I'm sure I'll be more than satisfied with a "no-return" policy.