On beginnings that Stick…

I am about halfway through my expected “4000 weeks” and it’s just now, that I’ve finally established a healthy, dare I say, life changing habit. I’d like to share how I came to this breakthrough, with the hope that it helps you establish your own healthy habit. As you might suspect after a brief survey of articles here on exploring-art.com this story starts with a book. 

Atomic Habits - book featured on an e-reader

Atomic Habits is another trendy self help read that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. However, alas, the first attempt to apply what I had thought I learned was a total failure.

I committed one of my common mistakes, which was trying to do too much, and over complicating the routine. I also failed as the tactic to make it harder to do the wrong thing wasn’t a sufficient barrier for my pleasure seeking ways. Let me explain. I had tried to implement a regime of  daily exercise by putting the exercise bike in front of the TV every night along with a fresh set of workout gear. The rationale purveyed by the book was this would make it easier to get on the bike and ride than to move the bike out of the way and enjoy the TV. The experiment was a total failure. The bike got put away while I told myself I just didn’t have the energy. 

Sometime passed and my irritation at my inability to form and stick to a single good habit returned. If I didn’t make some improvements soon, activities I once took for granted like the ability to complete the Grouse Grind, or hike Mount Finlayson, might be beyond my ability to do reliably. 

In the face of this internal conflict, I of course turned to my trusty traveller’s notebook, my practice of self reflection flexing its muscles, wielding its mighty mechanical pencil and… 

Some of the wisdom from the Atomic Habits came back to me during this reflection period. One was to keep it simple, maybe even more simple than the stationary bike, another was it had to be something I could do everyday, and lastly rather than making it easier to do the right thing, maybe it had to be something that I actually enjoyed… like you know…. all my vices. 

What could I do everyday, that was good for me, that I actually enjoyed? And then the idea struck me… I could go for a walk! An outdoor walk. I’m inside all day working on my computer, I love fresh air and being outside. A speedy walk would get my heart rate up and would be unlikely to hurt my knees or legs impacting my ability to do it again the next day. Could I commit to finding 90 minutes everyday to speed walk 8 kilometres? The walk itself would be less time, but there would be change and cool down time. This was less of a time commitment than going out for a long bike ride… and if I kept up a fast pace, it would be great exercise…

I was compelled to try… and to my surprise it actually stuck. After a few weeks of getting out for this daily speed walk, I’d get down right anxious if a day had gone by without my 8k… like a day without my 2 cups of coffee. I had done it! I had established a healthy daily habit. 9 months later, I’ve lost 30 pounds and I feel great. And as the saying goes – I’m not done!

So how do you begin a healthy habit that will actually stick? My advice to you is:

  1. Choose one thing you can do everyday 
  2. Make it something you actually enjoy 
  3. Force yourself to do it, until it becomes second nature 

I was beginning to believe the myriad of books on habit forming and task management that I’d read just weren’t for me. That given a busy work schedule I was just too spent to master my own personal administration, and that some downtime spent numbing my mind on the couch was my just, pleasurable, reward. I was beginning to believe that I could force myself to do something for a while, but it would never become part of my entrenched daily routine.

I was wrong! I’m grateful that after more failed attempts than read advice, I have finally formed a healthy habit. And I believe you can too! Drop a comment below if you need some ideas on what might work for you or further convincing. And good luck making the most of your limited time… may your good health be preserved by the formation of a good habit! 

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