My song today is ‘One Day at a Time’. This popular Country and Western-style Christian song were written by Mari-john Wilkin and Kris Kristofferson. It has been recorded by over 200 artists and has reached No.1 in several territories.
The song was first recorded by American Country singer Marilyn Sellers in 1974. This version became a US top 40 hit and top 20 hit on the Country Charts. Following this, it won the 1975 ‘Gospel Music’. Between 1979 and 1980, the song spent ninety weeks in the ‘Irish Top 30 Chart’,. Which set a record of the longest run in Irish chart history. The Association (GMA) Dove Awards made it ‘Best Song’.
‘One Day at a Time’ became best known among country fans when recorded by American country gospel singer Cristy Lane. Lane had started enjoying mainstream success in the late 1970s through the release of several secular hits, including ‘Let Me Down Easy’ and ’Simple Little Words.’ In 1979, Lane recorded the song after it became a Number 1 hit in the United Kingdom by Lena Martell. Initially, the recording company was reluctant to release the record but after it’s release in the late winter of 1980, and by the end of the spring, the song was Number 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles’ chart.
"One Day at a Time" was Lane's only Number 1 hit. For Kristofferson, the song was his sixth Number 1 hit as a songwriter.
I spent the last 27 years of my working life employed as a Probation Officer in West Yorkshire. During this time, I specialised in many roles that essentially involved helping the client to resolve a problem behaviour that made them either unhappy, unhealthy, unhopeful, or led to them committing offences.
Many problems were of the addictive variety, drinking, drugs, sexual deviousness, money mismanagement, compulsive behaviour, etc. etc.
Since 1970, when I first came across the subject and method of working known as ‘Behaviourism’, I knew that I had found a way of working with people and helping them resolve their mental, physical, psychological and emotional problems through a method that philosophically appealed to me and my belief set.
When I entered the Probation Service in 1970, the main method of working with clients was to spend hundreds of hours with them, simply letting them talk while the worker ‘ummed and ahhed’ while nodding their head intermittently in a typical ‘Rogerian’ manner. After the office interview, the interview would then be meticulously processed, analysed, and recorded by the worker. The sole work method practised then was ‘Rogerianism’; a method of counselling which depended heavily upon listening, empathising and analysing.
Carl Ransom Rogers was an American psychologist and he was among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology. Born in Illinois, United States I 1902, during his lifetime (he died in 1987), Rogers was greatly influenced by Sigmund Freud. He essentially believed (as most past and present psychologists believe) that if the reason behind a person’s problem disposition can be discovered, this ‘insight’ will eventually lead to them working through their problem behaviour and resolving their problematic situation.
The reason why ‘Behaviourism’ was my chosen method of work in 1970 and thereafter, was that instead of concerning oneself initially ‘why’ this person has this problem or had that problem, I found it more effectively expedient to both worker and client to concern oneself with ‘how’ can I change the problem behaviour? instead of ‘why did it occur initially?’ It did not matter to me if the client had been potty trained or not or whether they had been sexually fixated on their father or mother (an importance that Freud ascribed to their current problematic state). What mattered most to the client was, ‘How can I stop doing this?’ or ‘How can I stop being like this?’
This aim was what became my prime objective. I saw my prime function as stopping and changing the client’s problematic response and overall situation, irrespective as to what initially caused the problem.
As for the concept of ‘insight’, I eventually concluded that ‘insight’ is invariably a retrospective benefit which is more likely to occur after the emotional problem has been resolved and the problematic behaviour and situation have changed for the better. Nobody can solve any problem which they are too emotionally close to, as too many partners and family members have found when they have unsuccessfully tried to help. They find that they are often unable to help because they are too emotionally close to the problem and the relative displaying the problem, and their emotional closeness loses their objectivity and adversely affects their action. I always found as a worker with problematic clients that it was far better to deal with the ‘how’ first. After the problem has been resolved and the problematic behaviour and situation changed, by all means, look into the question ‘why did this happen?’ One is more likely to locate the original cause of the problem, only when the individual is emotionally distanced from their original problem. That is the essential philosophy of ‘Behaviourism’.
Without going into all the various and numerous methods of behaviourism, let me deal with one important principle that applies to most behaviourist methods used. When needing to make big changes in one’s life or behaviour, it is more effective to tackle it gradually, bit by bit instead of trying to do it in one fell swoop. Just as an alcoholic or an addict is advised to approach life ‘one day at a time’, so most behaviour that is to be positively changed long-term is better achieved by gradual incremental steps( but please note, not always so; especially for type ‘A’ personality types).
People who learn to take one day at a time are more likely to deal better with problems in a more manageable way. Anyone who is a good manager or fixer of problem situations has already learned how to get from one moment to the next, instead of breaking their back trying to deal with a day that has not yet arrived and may never do so!
As a person who has worked with stressful people all my life, I can tell you that the greatest problem is doing too much at one go. The biggest problem is trying to cram too many things into one day, which usually leads to not doing any of them adequately, and taking on too many tasks that cannot possibly be completed in the time you are allocated (whether by others or yourself). All the energy a person employs on attempting to complete the unachievable will merely be ‘wasted energy’, This downward spiral of unproductivity will not only diminish your energy level but will simultaneously increase your stress and anxiety, besides reducing the number of tasks one would have otherwise competently achieved.
Each desert begins with one grain of sand at its centre. Every constellation in the heavens starts with one shining star. Every week has in its beginning its first day, in its centre one middle day, and at its end one concluding day. It is of no use trying to see the end of anything that is not within your sight or grasp when you are at the start of it! The only thing it can get you is disappointment, frustration, and increased worry, anxiety, stress, and fear.
‘One step at a time’ is a good way to approach an unknown situation, and ‘One day at a time’ is a good way to approach and live one’s life. When everything in life’s equation has been included, each of our lives are made up of millions of moments. The very essence of ‘being’ is something of the moment; something of ‘here and now’.
Love and peace Bill x