The good news this week came from a study showing that if you stop smoking by age 40, you get back all the years of life that you had lost by smoking. Even if you stop smoking after 40, some of your longevity deficit is made up.
The bad news is that it is still just as hard as ever to quit smoking.
We can hear and believe all of the benefits of eating healthy, exercising, getting a new job or ending a relationship, and still find ourselves unable to make the changes we need. Sometimes change is too frightening, and sometimes it’s just overwhelming; either way, we stay stuck where we are. Changes on the outside come more easily – we might change the color of our hair, the way we dress, or the car we drive on a whim. But making changes to our habits of mind, belief and behavior is so much harder.
So we swat away the thoughts about changing, as if they were gnats buzzing around our heads. “It’s too late for me”, “I’m too busy right now”, “Maybe I’ll think about it tomorrow, or next week, or next month.”
You know what? The time to change is now, and it always has been. The promise of a longer, healthier, happier life might seem like a distant dream, but what about the certainty that the action you take today is your first, necessary step? You cannot be different in the future if you never start. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Close your eyes, visualize launching yourself on that wave, and start believing that you can change.
I attended an amazing concert a few nights ago, called “Sing the Truth,” featuring singers Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright. They sang songs of empowerment, freedom, truth and love, by great female artists. Their rendition of “Both Sides Now” brought me to tears. At one point, Kidjo spoke to the audience about peace and freedom in the world, reminding us that it is up to each of us to do one small thing every day to make the world a better place for each other. In that moment, I know that everyone believed that possible.
That’s how change will come – little by little, with one small choice each day. That’s how change happens for us as individuals, and for the world we live in. So whether it’s the choice to skip one cigarette today, or the choice to be kind today to someone you dislike, or the choice to speak out today about injustice you’ve ignored, look to today. Today is when we change.