I have a dream.
My dream is to live to see my grandchildren be born, grow up and get married. I don’t have any grandchildren yet, they are still part of my unknown future. Still, I know that these unknown, unborn, hypothetical people will be very, very important to me. And I want to be around to watch them grow up.
My goal, therefore, is to get in shape. I know that being overweight is not going to help me to live my dream. I know that good eating habits, exercise, stress reduction, and keeping myself generally in good health will increase my chances of making my dream come true.
A few weeks ago, I went on a retreat. My pattern, when taking time to think about life, is to make a long list of all the things I want to change. I usually return from time spent in introspection, examination of conscience, prayer and meditation with an action list a mile long. Fortunately for me, before this particular retreat, I happened to read a blog post on ZenHabits (one of my daughter’s favorite blogs) that changed the focus of my retreat.
The idea behind the blog post was this: change one and only one habit for six weeks. What a great idea! Instead of making a list of ten or twelve changes (mostly destined to fail after an enthusiastic beginning), I would decide on ONE habit to change. My dream of seeing my grandchildren grow up was uppermost in my mind, so I thought of all the many healthy-living habits from which I could choose. I settled on two. I would exercise and I would begin to pack a healthy lunch for work each day. Surely I could handle changing two habits. Then, I reread the blog post. The author is pretty clear about choosing only ONE habit and sticking to that one change for a month or six weeks before moving on to another habit. I remembered all of my failed attempts at making habit changes and decided to give this a try. I chose to begin to exercise.
I am very out of shape and I knew that it would be hard to begin an exercise program that I could stick to and make a habit. So I decided to keep it really simple. I would get up a little bit earlier than usual and get on the treadmill. The ZenHabits author wrote about how he changed his life by running for just ten minutes a day. I knew that even ten minutes of running was way out of reach for me. I did not have much time or energy, so I decided to start with just five minutes, alternating walking and running. Within that five minutes, I would run for as long as I could and then walk for the rest of the time.
On Monday, October 31, I woke up at 6:00am, put of exercise clothes, got on the treadmill, and did the following:
Walk 1 minute, run 30 seconds, walk 1 minute, run 30 seconds, walk 2 minutes.
After completing my five minutes, I thought I was going to collapse. My heart was pounding, my breathing was ragged, and I was sweating like crazy. But I had done it! I had set and achieved Day One of my goal. I was determined to stay with this plan. I felt great. All that day, and each day that followed, I was amazed at the difference that just those few minutes of exercise made in my day.
I am happy to say that I have exercised every single morning since October 31. It has been 18 days now. I am up to ten minutes on the treadmill, with 3 and a half of those minutes spend running. I feel much more energetic. Even though I have never been a morning person, it is easy to wake up. It is easy to get out of bed. The exercising, though, is still difficult. I push myself to do just a little bit more every couple of days. I give myself pep talks, where I assure myself that I am getting stronger. It’s hard, but it is becoming a habit.
Sometimes, I think that I should add a second habit, that I should begin to change something else about myself. I stop myself, though, remembering that the blogger’s advice was to really focus on this change for six weeks before moving on. I am enjoying the success of incorporating this one change into my life in a permanent way. I want this to stick. I want daily exercise to become part of me, part of my routine, part of who I am. I am keeping my dream in mind and the goal that will help me live out my dream. I really believe that this method will help me make that dream come true.