Tell me if this sounds familiar: “Monday morning I’m going to start exercising and eating better!”? What is your first reaction when you hear a declaration like this? My first thought is, wow that sounds like a lot of work. Because a statement like “I’m going to exercise and eat better” is open ended it can feel oppressive. Often times we fail at mega-goals which will start a downward spiral. Instead of creating unreachable open ended goals, try making small goals and celebrating successes.
In most parts of our life we look at small incremental goals that bring us to our ultimate goal. Take running a marathon for example, you wouldn’t say “I’m going to run a marathon on Monday” if you’ve never been a runner. You would start small by running a few miles and build up until you had the stamina to run 26.2 miles. Being healthy is like running a marathon, it is not something that you do one day. It takes small steps to become healthy and you should reward yourself at each milestone.
How we’re getting healthier
My wife and I recently decided that we each have an unhealthy habit that we wanted to change and decided to make it a competition. My wife has a sweet tooth and I have a beer tooth. For my wife, she struggles with her cravings for sweets in the early afternoon and I enjoy having a beer or two with dinner. We decided that we would commit to not drinking or eating sweets during the week over a period of a month. My wife and I are competitive people so it had seemed that beating the other would be enough incentive, but we decided to take things a step farther and build in a punishment. The person who cheats is required to walk our 95lb (bad on a leash) dog for a week. The fact that walking the dog is considered serious punishment in our house shows how bad it has become for our dog since the arrival of our two girls.
We are in our third week and neither one of us has cheated. There are a couple things that have come out of this experiment:
1. Indulging in our vices is much more enjoyable when we earn it.
2. Confidence that we can succeed with our bigger goals.
3. It is harder to cheat when your have someone holding you accountable.
4. We need to walk our dog more.
Both of us are encouraged by the success that we’ve had with this small step and know that it will lead to improving other areas of our lives. In this example I discussed our health and wellness goals, but these principals could easier be transfered to any other part of your life.
Remember that health is not a destination, but a journey and like any journey it starts with a single step. Along the way you may falter, but that doesn’t mean that you can get right back up and start walking again.