I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, to create my own business that had flexible hours, aligned with my talents, strengths, values and passion and let me choose which projects I wanted to work on and who I wanted to work with. I’ve explored many ideas and much to my frustration and disappointment, none of them really worked out.
My biggest obstacle? Me.
One of the problems was I made these ridiculous plans that not only ignored my own natural tendencies but overwhelmed me before I even got started. I had schedules where I literally thought after a full day of work, I would come home and devote a full 3 hours to my venture-du-jour – everyday! And I expected to spend all of my weekends on it also. Not sure when I was planning on eating, sleeping, spending quality time with my family and friends, showering or dealing with all the other stuff life threw at me.
Finally I took stock of the things that were going right in my life. I’ve been a runner for nine years, practicing yoga for about 3 – consistently. Exercise has become a daily habit. So why have I been successful there and not other areas of my life?
Find your compelling reason for committing.
Motivation is the key to success. If we decide to do something because we were told to (by our doctor, spouse, boss, etc) or because we “should” (all good leaders should have an MBA) then we’re starting out handicapped. To increase our chances of achieving our goals, it should be our choice.
I started paying attention to my diet and exercise when a friend was diagnosed with cancer. She is the type to research everything and found that her daily soda habit was probably not helping. Even though I’ve always been a healthy eater (I was the kid that actually liked snacking on celery and carrots…) I had a 2-liter soda as well as some other unhealthy habits. Being over 40, I wanted quality in my years, not just quantity.
I have a strong commitment to a healthier lifestyle because there is so much more I want to do with my life and I want to be in good health to do it…hopefully for decades to come.
Once I made the commitment, I decided to start exercising again. I eased into it with small steps. After I walked my son to school, I took a 2 mile brisk walk around the neighborhood. Nothing drastic. Then I started adding ankle weights. Walking became a habit.
Small steps are a great way to start anything. It helps us to overcome inertia and start, which is often the hardest part. It’s easy to commit to something small and easy – say five minutes. Five minutes can easily turn into 15, 30 or 60 if we get engrossed in a project. Five minutes doesn’t raise any alarms or bells in our brains (if it so much as gets a whiff of something stressful, it will go into survival mode and do everything it can to eliminate that stress and shut down our efforts to change) so it slips quietly under the radar . For me, walking was my “five minutes” because it’s something I know how to do and it fit easily in my schedule. It was non-threatening. I wasn’t demanding that I put my body, which was more used to being a couch potato than a track star, through some torturous “Biggest Loser” exercise-till-you-barf routine. I just opened my front door and walked out.
Another thing about small steps is that it allows us to grow into our goals. I often made schedules without taking into consideration that I was a beginner. We don’t expect a baby to come running out of the womb. That’s a good 1-2 years down the road. There are a lot of other little milestones that need to take place first. She needs to build muscle strength so she can hold her head up, sit up, roll over, crawl, walk and eventually run. I needed to take a step back and start at the beginning instead of trying to jump in at a higher level. Small steps help advance us through various skills and learning so we are mentally and physically prepared for the next challenge.
Find a buddy who will help you with your goals
Next, I was “dared” to do a six week boot camp with my co-workers. Five of us signed up for the 5:30 am class and I never missed one. At the end I was the strongest and healthiest that I’ve ever been. I didn’t want to lose all my hard work so when one of my co-workers suggested I run with her, I accepted.
I suffered those first couple of months. Fifteen minutes into the run and I’d be gasping for air and waved her on as I stopped to walk. But in a short time, I was able to keep up with, if not surpass her. The thing that kept me going was being accountable to someone. I didn’t like getting up at 5 am but I knew she’d be there waiting for me and I didn’t want to disappoint her. I know she’s part of the reason I developed the habit.
Having a buddy who is trying to reach a goal too and being accountable to each other can make things a lot easier. You have someone who can give you another perspective, you have someone you can commiserate with (it was either too hot or too cold – we complained about it but we still ran), you have someone cheering you on, you have someone who keeps it real. My running partner did so much more for me that just help me run, our running connected us on so many other levels and made the experience richer.
Find the formula and repeat it.
Once I saw the formula for achieving my exercise goals, I realized I could apply it to anything I did with the same success. I expanded my workout routine to include yoga. I may have been a yoga beginner but my running habit easily transferred into a yoga habit with little effort because I had already developed the “exercise” muscle.
When I applied this formula to other areas of my life, I found I had less stress, enjoyed the process more, moved forward quicker and saved myself a ton of time and aggravation.
I spent way too much time listening to the “experts” instead of looking at what actually worked for me. Take stock of your own success, those times you achieved your goal, and find the pattern. Test it out on your next goal. I’d love to hear your success formula.