Wednesday, May 9, 2012

4 steps to making a life change stick...

                 Everyone would like to be better, thinner, faster, stronger, or some other thing that is personal to them.  For me I’d like to be pretty much all of the above.  Some might focus on one particular want such as being able to stand on top of the podium at their next race, or to have a personal record (PR) at their next half-marathon.  Whatever ‘it’ is we are always striving to get ‘there’.  Some of the stronger personalities out there are successful but most of us ‘normal’ people struggle forward in fits and sputtering starts that never get past the first hurdle.  We may know what we want, we may even know how to get to that point but we get tripped up by some person/place/thing that halts us in our tracks and we retreat to that oh-so-comfortable couch we know and love.  I think we tend to retreat to the couches of our lives to quickly.  I think the following four steps will help those of you who keep getting caught up by that ‘something’ in your life.  I know for me that once I decided to complete 1000 riding miles in a year these were the steps that helped me.

1.)    Visualization:

See yourself doing it.  Seriously, this works.  In a few months we’ll be getting the opportunity to watch some of the best athletes in the world compete for their countries.  Watch these athletes as they sit and prepare for their specific event.  They are seeing themselves running that lap, completing that jump, or running the course.  They are seeing themselves as the successes they are.  Look in the mirror and see yourself as the skinny individual you want to be.  Visualize yourself making the meals you should be eating.  See the success in your mind’s eye and it’ll slowly start to come to you.

2.)    Effort:

This sounds simple and in some aspects it is.  In order to ride 1000 miles, or run that 26.1 mile route you have to put in the effort.  Remember though that the effort has to start off within the parameters of your current abilities.  If you’ve never run you can’t expect to go out and run 5 miles in 30 minutes.  Be reasonable in your approach but you have to put out the effort.  Visualization is great but without the effort it’s just sitting on that couch day dreaming.  Start small, run ½ mile and walk a ½ mile that first time out.  You’ll feel great and you won’t be super sore the next day which means you’ll be hungry for more.  Maybe it’s some weight you’d like to lose.  Put in the effort by buying the healthy choice over the cookies.  Cut out one soda a day for a week and then go from there.  Effort, even in small steps,  is the key.

3.)    Consistency:

I can’t express how important this is.  It’s also my biggest general downfall when it comes to making a life-change stick.  We can visualize our success, we can start putting in the effort to obtain that end result we’ve been dying for but without consistency the first two will fail.  Last year I put in 1800 miles on the bike (chump change compared to some who will read this but it’s the best year on the bike ever for me) and the only way I did that was by throwing a leg over the bike as often as I could.  Find a routine that works for you and then stick with it.  In order to lose weight you must eat healthy on a consistent basis.  Six days out of seven you must put aside that soda and realize a large pizza isn’t for you.  You have to eat the right things or your life-change won’t stick.  Consistency is the “Location, Location, Location” of a life-change.  You have to find it, but the good news is that you can’t expect yourself to go from eating poorly 6 days a week to the opposite right off the bat.  That’d be like quitting cold turkey (mmm did someone say turkey) and we all know how successful that can be.  No, like with effort this must be ramped up slowly over time.  Start off running 3 days a week for a mile or two at a time (and half of that might be walking) then slowly walk less, increase the mileage and then increase the number of days you run.  Just make sure you keep it up each week, week in and week out.  It will become more habit like and then the consistency will be there.

4.)    Lifestyle:

This final ‘step’ will almost fall into place on its own.  As you put forth consistent effort your life will slowly change.  After several months of eating right those oreo’s won’t sound as appetizing (as a self-confessed Oreo addict I can attest to just how impossible that might sound but it’s true.  I promise)  Now that you have been running those miles you might’ve met a few other runners and maybe now’s the time to look into your first 5K race.  Your clothing won’t fit quite right because you’ve begun to lose the weight and as you replace clothes you’ll start to buy clothes more suitable for your chosen new lifestyle.  A rough day at the office?  You’ll naturally turn towards your next run/ride for the peace and tranquility the office didn’t provide.  You’ll become your ‘life-change’ and that’s probably the coolest thing that comes from choosing a different path in life.

                These steps are crucial to overall success when it comes to choosing to do/be something new.  I don’t believe it matters what that is either.  It could be a simple task like wanting to quilt more/bigger blankets.  It could be that you want to be better read.  In my case it’s generally been sports related (riding & running mostly) but I’ve also been using these steps as I work on my writing.  My lifestyle has altered slightly as I read a wider array of blogs and books to inform myself on the writing world.  I’ve put in the effort and I’ve gotten over 400 hits on my blog in a little over two months.  No one can write well if they don’t do it consistently.   

                There is a final item that isn’t really another step but it’s important not to include and that’s Reflection.  Reflection is a step that should be interspersed within the four steps.  It will allow you to sit back and look at what worked and what didn’t.  Maybe you tried a fourth day of riding in the week and you feel too sore, too tired, or for right now it’s just too much of a burden due to work/family needs.  That’s fine, back off and adjust.  Without taking the time to study that work-out journal,or listening to how the body feels you’ll never be able to make the many minor adjustments a ‘life-change’ requires of you as the weeks, months, and years pass by. 

                What’s your life-change?  How have you gone about getting it started?  Have you been successful?  Share your successes and failures (sometimes these are even more important than the successes) or ideas in the comments.  I look forward to hearing from you all and in the meantime go grab that bull by the horn and get to it, there’s no better day than today to make that life-change you’ve been putting off.

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