Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One step at a time

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
~Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher

If you want to make a change in your life, start with a small thing. Let's say you want to get healthier. Start by replacing one can of soda with one glass of water. That's it. Now, do it again tomorrow.

When we want to make a change, sometimes we try to make it happen overnight. How many times have you said, "Okay! Enough. Now tomorrow I'm changing the way I eat, and I'm starting an exercise program." And so you throw out all the junk food, stock up on veggies and join the gym. You're all gung-ho for about 24 hours, maybe even a few days. And if you had a lot of momentum, even a few weeks. Then your knees start to hurt and you take a couple days off from the gym. And at your cousin's birthday get-together, you take a break from your "diet". And then your resolutions slowly (or quickly) unravel. And there you are, back to your old ways. So you wonder, how did this happen to me, again?

The fact is you can't break old habits overnight. Frankly, you can't "break" old habits, period. You have to replace those old habits one by one with new ones. Nature abhors a vacuum and if you try to drop your junk food ways without filling them in with healthier eating habits, you are going to fall back into your old patterns. Like your favorite pair of comfy, old sweat pants, they are the ones you reach for when you're tired or stressed.

You have to take it one thing at a time. And I mean ONE thing at a time. I like to start with water, because most people simply do not drink enough water or drink too much soda, juice or coffee. Replacing one soda, juice or coffee with one glass of water is an easy thing to do. Then try another tomorrow, until you are no longer drinking soda all day and at the same time, have started the habit of drinking water. Once you feel comfortable with that habit, try changing another one, like getting more sleep.

Do you usually stay up until midnight on the computer? Try going to bed 30 minutes earlier tonight. Then add another 10, 20 or 30 minutes tomorrow night. Before you know it, you'll be getting a full night's rest. Keep in mind that there will be days when you don't feel like sticking to your new habit. Its inevitable, so plan ahead. Give yourself some incentive, like if you go to bed 20 minutes earlier tonight, you can reward yourself with that new book you wanted to read, or a few luxurious minutes sitting on the porch sipping your morning coffee.

I believe in only biting off as much as I can chew. And making any kind of lasting change in your life is a slow munch. You can't do it all at once. They say it takes 28 days of practicing a new habit before it becomes a lasting habit.

Little by little, folks; little by little.

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