I recently started trying to go beyond getting my productivity act together and start moving into something I’ve been avoiding for some time now… my weight. Having no idea where to get started and finding myself overwhelmed by the endless suggestions of the web, I turned to someone who knows a thing or two about a thing or two. My own personal swami, Gini Dietrich. She immediately set me straight and turned me onto the Couch to 5K program, a 9-week program that takes a lazy, overweight gentleman such as myself and gets me from being unwilling to get off the couch to being able to run for 30 minutes straight.
Now if you are asking yourself why I’m writing about this on a blog that usually talks about tech, creativity and productivity, there are three reasons… 1) It was helpful and I hope it helps you, 2) the iPhone app really made a difference, so there’s a techie rationalization if you need one and 3) In hindsight, so much of what worked about this program jives with many of the ways I’ve been getting my act together in other areas of my life.
With that in mind, I wanted to share a few insights from the experience that may be able to help in any endeavor you are crazy enough to undertake:
Pick Something – You’re going to be tempted to come up with some massive game plan. Don’t. Figure out the thing you’re hoping to overcome and start to look for a small, yet logical starting point. Sure, I could have signed up at a gym (again) and got a personal trainer (again) and made progress (again), but at some point the wheels would have fallen off the wagon. Inevitably, I’d find myself sitting back on my couch paying for a gym membership I don’t need. Couch to 5K cost me $3 for the app and time.
Set a Deadline – Sure we want change to last. We want our efforts to make a lasting change, but a well placed deadline can be a powerful tool. Knowing this was only going to be 9 weeks made it doable. Knowing there was a finish line gave me something to shoot for. More often than not, we tie success to the results. Something along the lines of the weight we want to get down. While it is a great target, it is unending. Once you get there, you have to sustain it. This time I had a nine-week goal, I got to celebrate a victory and it has made me excited to move forward rather than worried about sustaining.
Go Slow – In any endeavor, we crave speed and we crave progress. So much so that we almost always push ourselves too hard. We want to see the pounds shedding, the to-do list shrinking. We want to see tangible results or we want to find something better. Stop it. Now. Real change happens slowly and often isn’t noticed until someone else points it out to us. Fast change is always temporary and usually unsustainable. Whatever it is you hope to attempt, take a long term approach. Go slow. Don’t only get where you want to go, but figure out how to stay there.
Have an Enemy – Going from nothing to something is hard and it can be really, really frustrating. Especially at the beginning when you really, really suck. Pick something to channel that energy on, it can go a long way towards keeping you on track. It’s easy for frustration to permeate every aspect of your life or worse yet, rear its ugly head at the wrong time, so my advice: Pick something silly to hate. In my case it was Gini; I focused all my “ire” on her. Every time I ran, I tweeted or emailed that I hated her and she took it in stride. Hell, she even returned it in encouragement. The more I hurt, the more I didn’t want to do it, the more awful the things that I said (she tolerates me so). It might not be logical (or fair), but it kept frustration from derailing me and it was kind of fun!
Add Something New – This is the most important part, especially if you’re looking to go one step at a time, rather than adhere to some master plan. Once you succeed at something, get ready to potentially fail again. When you get to the end of the road, get started on another. Gini’s suggesting that I move on to P90X, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Much like my slow ease into GTD (another post for another day), I think I want to work my way up to that program. In the meantime, I’ve already started in on the 100 Pushup and 200 Sit-up apps.
While I’m still just getting started and have a long way to go, this was the approach start I’ve ever taken in order to start getting healthy. The challenge was real, but the goals were attainable and the efforts have me excited to strive for more. I may not have a long-term plan, but I have direction, momentum and a desire to keep moving, which are things I’ve always lacked in the past. Thank you, Gini! I don’t hate you anymore, not even a little.
So how do you approach your biggest challenges? Do you jump right in or do you go slow?