Oh Harvard Business Review, I’m not so great at reading you regularly, so then I read you in marathon format. But dang if you don’t get me 100%.
Listen to this: “The Latin root of the word “decide” is caidere which means ‘to kill or cut’ (Think homicide, suicide, genocide). Technically, deciding to do something new without killing something old is not a decision at all. It is merely an addition.”
I’m pretty sure I spent an entire week in middle school learning all the vocabulary words to do with the suffix “-cide” and “decide” was not among them.
This changes everything. It’s so true! Some choices make it obvious (if I want to be a vegan, I must kill the habit of eating meat.) But sometimes making change is much more insidious. And the possibility of “having it all” calls to us, seductive, full of promises, like a siren. And sometimes fear stays our change. “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t,” says fear.
This is a worthwhile line of questioning to ponder. I’m reminded of Geneen Roth, whose books are incredible and who runs a retreat for people with food and eating issues. And part of her program is that all meals are eaten together, in a group. And I think there’s a buffet, and you choose whatever you want, and when you sit down, before you eat, Geneen asks, “Who chose this food?” And you look at your plate and think about who made those choices.
If you’re an adult and you’re not super hungry, but you’ve piled your plate high with steak, salad, two slices of bread, a helping of mashed potatoes, fruit, shrimp, quinoa salad, and more, who chose that food for you? Because this is not the food that your not-hungry adult self chose. But maybe it’s the food that your 15-year-old self needs, because that 15-year-old self has not processed the death of a parent, and the feelings feel so overwhelming that the 15-year-old self must stuff those feelings down with food, or must get bigger in order to overcome those feelings.
If you’ve selected a cube of cheese and an apple for the third time today, ignoring the hunger pangs in your belly, maybe you choose to find solace in restriction. Why? Which version of you started to find comfort in extreme demonstrations of control?
Of what if you pick a meal that appears “perfect” but wish that you could sneak m&ms into your room so you can eat them in private. Why do you want to hide your food consumption? What part of yourself are you hiding?
This is the start of the exploration, but the change happens when you’re ready for it. It happens when you decide to let go of those old selves, and the stories that no longer serve you. And sometimes you’re not ready just yet. That’s ok too. Stop resisting. The first step is asking the questions and uncovering the story.