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Friday, May 2, 2008

Small Change

I used to be a daily coffee drinker. Now I start my day with a big mug of tea. I haven't given up coffee. I still love coffee. I just like tea a little more, first thing in the morning.

I didn't switch for health reasons or political reasons. I switched because I realized one morning a few months back that I was out of coffee and needed another source of caffeine to start my day. I rooted around through my tea stash until I found something suitable and brewed it up.

The immediate bonus was not having to deal with the very noisy rattle and whine of the electric bean grinder. I liked that. The next-most-immediate bonus was the lovely flavor of my chosen tea. I liked that, too.

The following morning there was still no coffee, because I still hadn't gone out to get any, so I had tea again. And so it went.

The "change your life" gurus say it takes at least 30 days to embed a new habit. By now -- some 90 days or more later -- tea has become my default.

The switch has given me unexpected payoffs, like not having to buy coffee beans every week at $12 a pound, and no caffeine headaches on those mornings when I sleep a little later than usual. But I didn't intend those when I took up tea. I wasn't trying to give up coffee. I didn't weigh the benefits of one versus the other, make a commitment and set my mind to the task. I didn't make coffee my nemesis. Not at all. I just tried something different, because that was easier than running to the store for more coffee beans. The added benefits became apparent only after I'd been drinking tea for awhile and realized I liked my new ritual more than my old one.

Sometimes change is that simple. Sometimes it comes to pass not by resolution or act of will, but as the result of a gentle nudge that says, "Why don't you try this?"

If you struggle with change, consider this: in order for things to be different, you have to do things differently. The lesson here is not about the tea. It's about the change. It's about becoming comfortable with change in general: how it happens, how it feels. It's about trying an alternative, and watching how it ripples out into unexpected areas. Your one small shift could bring benefits you didn't even know you wanted.

I used to be a bear before my coffee. Now I'm just me, starting my day. The old way wasn't terrible; it was what I was used to. This way is better. It's what I'm getting used to, now.

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