Coyotes in the distance, making sweet music to the snowfall…
How’re you doing with your 21-day habit change challenge?
I almost screwed up last night. Walked by the kitchen around midnight, and I swear the last box of crackers in there was calling my name.
First sign you’re gonna win is when you just shrug, acknowledge that giving in would be glorious and tasty and, you know, worth it in a way… and then don’t give in.
It’s not even a sign of strength, really. It’s just adult management of the ancient, murky, often self-destructive parts of your mind. The ape-brain wants, gimme, gimme, gimme. Ape-brain must have.
Ape-brain not happy when denied.
And yet the sky doesn’t cave in when you shoo the beast back into the shadows.
Day by day, your old habit goes from struggle, to weak impulse, to vanquished behavior pattern. It’s a grind… but results are incremental.
Heck, I’ve got to go through SuperBowl weekend without eating chips and dip.
You gotta feel for me, dude.
Still, the little victories mount quickly. Several years ago, in antipation of doing a full weekend seminar (where I would be on stage, on my feet, needing to be super-sharp and on the ball the entire time), I hired a trainer and started working out twice a week.
I loathe working out. I’d rather play tennis, or pick-up round-ball, or raquetball, or do anything other than schlump my ass back into the gym… but those sports, while exhausting, will not give you a thorough workout.
I knew I needed the whole shebang… and I knew from past experience that hiring a trainer was the best way to “trick” myself into following through.
See, you can join a gym, figure out a routine, and even schedule workouts for yourself, and not need a trainer. Read up on specific workout strategies, write out plans, do it all on your own.
But I knew I needed that extra condition — the very real tactic of having to pay the trainer for his time whether I showed up or not.
That works for me. Just knowing I’m screwing up, by not working out during my appointed hour… and knowing that someone else is also privy to my shame… is enough to kick my butt into gear.
I hate it.
But I go.
And I’ve been going for around four years now. Same trainer, too. I see him more than I see most of my friends, and it’s a relatively pleasant way to suffer twice a week.
It’s a habit. When I travel, and miss more than a couple of workouts, I get uncomfortable… and I like that. I’m more uncomfortable NOT working out, than going through the hassle of actually working out.
I’m in that groove where I crave the burn. Nice.
It’s a drag getting in shape, especially after a few years of slacking. It hurts, it’s annoying, and I don’t wanna have to do it. Been there, done that.
But once you’re there, it’s easy to see the benefits. Obvious health, energy and well-being advantages up the yin-yang, in fact.
Last time I was out-of-shape, I had chronic back pain, I strained muscles easily, and I had the energy level of a wounded slug.
Still, I have to gear up to attack each workout, week after week. I resent the time it takes to get to the gym, I resent having to change clothes, I resent gasping for air during aerobic training… I’m just a resentful pig all the way around.
But it’s a habit now. I don’t have to rearrange my day to workout — the scheduled workouts are already there, built-in, week after week. I plan biz stuff around them, and it’s EASY. Once you’re in the habit, and you make it a priority.
And that small victory — just showing up for my workouts regularly and grunting through them without thought of quitting — gives me a foundation to build other victories.
There’s an old standard goal I used to put on my weekly list I called “The Nasty Bit”. My task was — every time I sat at my desk to start my workday — to choose the ONE thing I really, really, really did NOT want to do… and then do that first.
Usually, it was a phone call fraught with dread. Or reading some long, dull report for a client. Or finalizing the death knell for a relationship.
Neurosis, basically, is the built-up mire of ignored tasks. If you have a problem in life, then you have a task: Face that problem, and resolve it (even if resolution simply means making your peace with it).
You do that, you get to move on. There will be new problems, new tasks, and more down the line when you plow through those. But you will be moving… and gaining strength as you roll.
If you don’t engage the task laid out for you… then the problem festers, and the lack of resolution creates an anchor around your soul.
You stop moving. Instead of engaging life’s new problems, you are stuck in neutral, unable to leave the rut that gets deeper each day you ignore your duty.
And it IS a duty. You have the option of crawling into a rut and going to sleep for the rest of your days, just like the zombie hordes that stumble around you. It’s a tempting decision, because it’s “easy” (if you can live with the self-loathing shame) (which an alarming number of people seem content to do).
So here’s the bottom line: Attaining happiness isn’t easy.
It’s a task, just like potty training. Do it, move on, engage life fully. Don’t do it, and… well, you get the picture.
What I’m saying is that the goal of goal setting… is to get good at attaining goals. Not just having them… but attaining them. Mastering difficult tasks, embracing the joy of victory… and then asking for more.
The small victory of attaining your goal — of either establishing a new, “good” habit, or ditching a “bad” one — is very much like that first step on a fresh path that leads to exciting places.
So… how’re you doing with your 21-challenge?
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