From Intention to Action: Turning resolutions into reality

It’s that time of year again. You’re either rolled up in fetal position on the floor or writing a list of New Year’s resolutions. Some of you writing resolutions might prefer to be rolled up in fetal position, and those of you on the floor wouldn’t change places with the resolution writers for a million dollars.

What is this compulsion that drives us every January 1st? How predictable are we that gyms do much of their advertising in January and then again a few months later when our bright, shiny beginnings have tarnished and crusted over and there is empty floor space to be filled.

For me, writing resolutions has always been a fun ritual. There’s something about writing a thought down on paper that makes it more attainable. That’s been true in many areas of my life. However, we all have those things that are especially difficult to achieve. Sometimes the writing of the goal isn’t enough to get us there. And our good intentions, no matter how strong, can’t motivate us to “Just Do It.”

That dilemma led me to think about how I had approached other goals in my life—ones that had been attained. For example, I hadn’t just thought about working for myself and ended up with a successful business. It was accomplished by breaking the goal into manageable chunks. Of course, I didn’t realize I was doing that 19 years ago, but in hindsight it’s obvious. So, why not do the same to finally achieve the goals that have been regulars on too many of my annual lists?

Writing “I will eat healthier, write regularly, and work out more” hasn’t been enough on its own to make those dreams a reality. But taking intermediate actions to bridge the gap between intention and action has proved to be successful.

For example, I’ve become quite regular with my exercise, following the “don’t skip more than 2 days in a row” rule. But sometimes, even though I know I’m going to feel great once I do it, I just don’t feel like working out. I’ve found a trick—something very simple—that gets great results for me. What do I do when exercise apathy hits?

I put on my workout clothes.

Yup.

That’s it.

There’s something about the act of getting dressed to work out that begins the momentum. Once I’m dressed, I’m going to feel like crap if I take off my workout clothes without having exercised. I know it sounds crazy, but follow the logic. The act of putting on those clothes is a prerequisite to working out, so it gets me one step further along the path to actually performing the desired action.

I decided to try out this trick in another area of my life. After thinking for the umpteenth time that I needed to get to the library to do some writing, I packed up my Neo, a printout of my manuscript, and my supply case in a bag and left it by the stairs leading down to my front door. Every time I walked through the living room, I saw that bag. Eventually, I put on my coat, grabbed my bag, and WALKED to the library. How’s that for killing two birds with one stone? 😉

Which leads me to my “eating better” resolution. If you studied my eating habits on paper, you’d think you were looking at the records of two different people. From dawn till dusk, I am the model of good paleo nutrition. After the sun sets, it’s like my inner Carb vampire emerges. I want Cookies, or Cake, or ice Cream, or Chocolate. The letter “C” is evil, isn’t it? 🙂

So, I began questioning why it’s so easy to stay on track during the day. And I realized it’s because my breakfast and lunch are prepared in advance and carted to work and dinner is planned out as well. If I’ve carried meals with me, it’s unlikely that I’ll get something else at the cafeteria. And in fact, I don’t. So, the answer may be to plan and pack up a healthy snack for each evening so I don’t indulge by whim. Whim is a very bad thing when combined with food. At least for me it is.

If you happen to enjoy experimenting with yourself as the guinea pig, let me know how these ideas work out for you. Most important, keep it positive. Don’t focus on what you won’t do. Rather stay focused on what you will do. There’s a theory that your subconscious mind doesn’t recognize a negative. So, for example, if you say I will not eat cookies at night, all your mind hears is I will eat cookies at night. That minor design flaw has been wrecking diets around the world. Just to be on the safe side, focus on what you will do. “I will eat berries and Greek yogurt at snack time.” Or whatever your intention is.

Last but not least, be gentle with yourself. Life is a process. We get to grand places by taking little steps.

Happy New Year.

Feel free to share your tips and successes.

I Did It!

Couch-to-5K

Full Disclosure: I wasn't quite this perky.

This morning, one day after my 46th birthday, I finally realized my goal of running 5K (3.1 miles) with the Couch-to-5K running program. Can I get a YAY from the congregation? 🙂

It was an amazing feeling. When I got to the end, my fists shot up in victory and I couldn’t help screaming a loud YEAH. The people driving by on the avenue must have thought I was a bit off. (Some would say that’s true even without the public display of Rockyness.) I’m embarrassed to admit I even had a wee tear in my eye. But maybe that was sweat.

I’ve mentioned Couch to 5K a few times in other posts. For those who are interested in starting a running program, I think this one is great. And that’s coming from someone who tried to run at various times in her much younger days and never succeeded. It’s a slow build that seems deceptively simple on paper. In fact, because I was already up to one mile before I started the program, I almost skipped ahead. Lucky for me, I decided to start from the beginning. I’d advise others to do the same.

The program starts off with intervals of walking and running. There are three sessions per week and a total of nine weeks until you get to the 5K. The workouts in the first few weeks vary each session, so I suggest downloading Robert Ullrey’s podcasts. They feature music, instructions from Robert on when to walk and when to run, and a tad of encouragement, which was just enough—I don’t need people screaming “do you feel the burn?” at me, thank you very much.

When the final week arrived, I set out on a overly warm day without water (yes, intelligent). I nearly died but finished the run along with the podcast. I was happy for that, but I had a suspicion I was running slower than a 10-minute mile, which would mean that I hadn’t actually reached 3.1 miles during the timed podcast. Sure enough, mapping it out with my car’s odometer later that day, I’d only run 2.5 miles, avereraging a 12-minute mile.

I charted the rest of the course, and on my next running day, I set out again (this time with water) to give it another try.  That day was hotter than the last and I couldn’t even make it to the 2.5-mile point. Disgusted, I decided to take a break and walked for the next week and a half, which is much easier to do in the heat.

But then the perfect day arrived. I woke up this morning to the absence of sun. It was much cooler than it’s been, and I thought “this is my moment.” I grabbed my iPod, tuned in to Robert’s podcast, and did it.

So, what next, you ask? 10K? Half marathon? Marathon? HELL, NO! For now, 5K is a goal achieved and I’ll be very happy to go back to a weekly combination of walking and running (fewer than 3.1 miles at a time).  We’ll see what happens when the cooler days of autumn arrive.