On the approach.
Last week’s column discussed the need to have a clear, detailed vision of what you want your ideal self to be like. Notice I didn’t say “look” like – because the outward appearance is not the ultimate goal, at least, not for me.
My goal is to be a fit, healthy rider. Yes, as the pounds come off, my appearance is changing in positive ways, and that’s awesome! But my goal is “fit athlete,” and not merely “slimmer physique.”
Once I’m clear on the vision, the next step to help me stay consistent on my journey is figuring out the approach that will maximize my potential for success. Just like a show jumper has to analyze each obstacle and have an accurate and powerful approach to lift herself and her rider up and over the obstacle, so, too, must I analyze each “obstacle” in my path to fitness and find an approach to help assure my success.
When I am faced with a multi-part task, such as, “obstacles to my fitness” or “running my law firm” or even “goals for my next year of life,” I often find the following exercise helpful. I take a pad of sticky notes and, as quickly as possible, I write down the obstacles or components or goals, one per sticky note, in no particular order, and pop the sticky notes all over my desk until the next step in the exercise.
So, for my fitness journey, I might write such obstacles and goals as “time,” “food prep,” “cooking,” “yoga/movement,” “stress,” “break below 180 pounds” and things like that. Then, I’ll use each of those now-scattered sticky notes as a “header” and focus on one at a time and repeat the exercise for the various components that comprise that header.
For example, under my “yoga/movement” header sticky note, I might have the following additional ideas, one per new sticky note: five minute stretch, five minute stretch, 20 minute yoga practice, five minute stretch, five minute stretch, 15 minute brisk walk outside, five minute stretch. In my profession, whether as an author, an attorney, or a pianist, I have to sit – A LOT.
It is critical to my fitness goals, then, for me to get up on a regular basis and move around. Otherwise, I can easily spend four hours or more sitting and writing, working, reading, or practicing, and hardly move my body at all. Not. Good.
By breaking down “yoga/movement” into the above tiny increments, I’ve set a goal to get in a minimum of 60 minutes of excellent body movement every day, in addition to my daily pre-dawn barn cleaning exercise and riding Kaliwohi.
The advantage of this “sticky note” exercise is many-fold. For one, I can see all the mini-goals for each major obstacle or goal, as the notes get written and placed below each “header.” Also, I can pick up the various sticky notes and organize and prioritize them to best suit my particular needs. And that, friends, is the magic of this exercise. While perhaps it appears like a child’s game, in truth, I’m crafting an approach to success, one little note at a time.
For example, by having that handful of sticky notes all related to the heading “yoga/movement,” I can easily see all the mini-goals I have and set them quickly in a logical order, like this:
1. Five-minute early morning stretch
2. 20-minute yoga practice before breakfast
3. Five-minute mid-morning stretch/dance/drumming
4. Five-minute noontime stretch before lunch
5. 15-minute (minimum) mid-day walk outside
6. Five-minute stretch after workday/dance/drumming
7. Five-minute stretch before bed
I opt to start the day with a five-minute stretch, then go feed animals and clean the barn. Sometime before breakfast, I’ll get out my yoga mat and work on my yoga poses for 20 minutes. I schedule a mid-morning five-minute movement activity and a noontime five-minute stretch. Sometime in the mid-afternoon, I take a minimum 15-minute outdoor walk, no matter what the weather. I love being outdoors, but my profession keeps me inside a good bit, so a daily stroll outside is a most welcome part of my day. At the end of my regular workday, I’ll move again for five minutes. Sometime before bed, I do another five-minute stretch.
By breaking down my overall goal of “yoga/movement” like this, I can achieve a full hour of activity every day without feeling overwhelmed about trying to block out one single 60-minute chunk of time on my daily schedule. Plus, the smaller increments keep me from getting too stiff as might happen if I sit for hours on end without a break. And – bonus – during each of these movement activities, I strive to be truly mindful, focus on positive things, and take big, deep breaths.
This is just one example of how this “sticky note” exercise helps me figure out incremental (read: DO-able) steps towards overcoming any obstacle or achieving each goal. By taking the time to create an approach filled with small, do-able steps, I lay the groundwork with consistent, positive input, which will, over time, produce consistent, positive results.
One final thought: it’s Christmas week, and for many of us, myself included, that means lots of calorie-laden holiday treats. My approach to these temptations is a lot like the first time I took Kaliwohi out on trail.
To help Kaliwohi remain consistently relaxed and focused, despite all the distractions in the woods, I focused on staying relaxed myself. I gave him consistent riding cues, just the same as when we are in the dressage arena. I kept his mind engaged; instead of meandering mindlessly down the trail, I asked him for slight leg yields back and forth across the path, or a little shoulder in, as we rode through the woods. When a bird or something else startled him, I would quickly but gently ask him to refocus.
So, this holiday season, I’m striving to remain as relaxed as possible, despite all the typical stressors that accompany major family gatherings. I’m feeding myself consistent meals whenever possible, such as protein smoothies or scrambled eggs for breakfast, for example, so I’m not able to hide behind the excuse of hunger to “justify” having cookies or muffins for breakfast. I’m striving to stay engaged in each holiday activity, instead of meandering over to the buffet table out of boredom or sensory overload. And when I start to overindulge, I strive to immediately refocus on my goals and adjust my approach to help assure my success.
Next week: Consistently PUSH – as in, your beliefs and boundaries