How to Find a Path Toward Better Health in 2015
The First Steps on Your Path
This all important first steps begin with having some result, or destination in mind. This will provide direction and commitment to your efforts. Think about the big picture of Where You Want To Be. This may involve improving your level of fitness that will affect your ability to tolerate a recreational sport (golf, tennis, hiking), improving your confidence so that you feel better about yourself as you slip into your clothes to go out for date night, or improving your cardiovascular health to improve your cholesterol level.
What is that image that you want to keep in your head that involves a better You?
The next question asks,
Why is This Result Important to Me?
There must me a solid purpose to why you will commit yourself to reaching what you have set out to accomplish. This must provide motivation that will help you through the challenges that you encounter on this path you choose. The Why must move you forward, physically in your efforts, and emotionally in your convictions.
There is a persistent challenge that confronts this desire to change, move in a new direction, or accomplish a task.
How will you continue to do what you say you will do?
How will you persist to accomplish this goal, or behavior, and how will you resist the temptation to abandon ship in your journey of change? Consider the analogy of the Elephant and the Rider that Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis proposes,
The Elephant is our emotional side, and the Rider is our rational side. The Elephant feeds on short-term instant gratification, while the Rider is able to think long-term, more focused on a plan rather than the moment. The enormous strength of our emotional energy and passion can easily overpower, and throw-off the Rider’s good intentions and plans.
How am I going to Ride this Elephant through the year?
Taking a look at people that stay on a fitness program, year in and year out, it is hard to imagine that you can match this. Well, the first problem is taking a look at those people in the first place. People that adhere to a fitness program have developed a standing ritual to exercise. You know the person. She seems to exercise on a daily basis. Attending a class in pilates, spin, and walking 3-4 miles religiously. It is like they don’t even have to try to fit it into their schedule. It is part of their daily routine. The fact is, it has become a habit.
I Want to be a Stick-To-It Person
Starting an exercise program, changing your diet to lose weight, or learning a new skill requires establishing habits. Developing habits that stick requires following a task or thought process that supports your goal, and following a realistic, easily embraced habit.,Switch, Heath and Heath(2010). When attempts are made to change and follow through on a new course of action the ability to think, be creative, and focus on the course of action can exhaust the self-control of staying on course.
Maxims by Professor Bain
- Acquisition of a new habit, or leaving off of an old one, we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided an initiative as possible.
- Never suffer an exception to occur until the new habit is securely rooted in your life.
- Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make, and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you aspire to gain.
- Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day.
A Trigger Can Give You Action
For a specific action to take place a trigger can motivate you to do what you need to do, and get you to where you want to be.
Establishing a routine, such as setting up your personal space, can have a positive effect on triggering a positive action, like going to the gym. Before you go to bed at night set your workout clothes in your bedroom. Make sure you have a workout towel folded, and stuck inside your shoes. When you get up in the morning there will be no question what clothes you are going to wear. This conscious effort performed the night before helps to establish this routine. Perform this regularly, and it becomes a habit. What are the habits that can influence what we want to accomplish, maintained for the long-term, or journey to what is possible?
The checklist makes the thought process of everything you may need to accomplish, perform, or remember made simple when your environment may dictate otherwise.
What activities do you do during the week that can be simplified by a checklist?
This may range from a list of healthy foods that you want to include in your diet on a daily basis; healthy alternatives. There may be specific foods that you will include in your shopping list. You can establish checklists for many daily, or weekly actions that you can pull up on your smartphone, or if you are old-school, in a notepad. Try using the Evernote app that you can download for free.
Be inspired with self-confidence.
Ask yourself, How strong is my desire to acquire this goal?
Your answer will be based on what lies in your heart and the willingness to endure when the going is difficult. You may actually stumble, lose your balance, and skin your knee. Enduring the difficult times is a true measure of the importance of your journey.
Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you aspire to gain.
Face your task at hand with the Habit of Mind.
A “Habit of Mind” means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known.
When we know longer know what to do we have come to our real work and when we know longer know which way to go we have begun our new journey. The mind that is now baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. – Wendell Berry
Hiking Poles are a Tool for the Journey
Each step on the journey is confronted with it’s own challenges, risks and rewards. There are strategies that you use to help you along the way.
A thousand-mile journey begins with the first step and can only be taken one step at a time.
Have you rock-hopped across a stream?
There is this initial planning as you survey the stream for a potential route to the other side; Your Goal.
There is risk in each leap that you take as you negotiate the crossing; the ice cold water. With each leap you give yourself up to the decision that you have made; committing yourself to the next rock.
Tools can be used to balance your progress across this expansive endeavor.
Hiking poles are invaluable on any venture into the back country. This tool not only provides balance, but can also provides an energy efficient tempo to your steps; conserving energy, aiding the body’s joints, muscles and cardiovascular system.
The rock hop across the stream, stepping and leaping, rock to precarious rock, is mixed with exhilaration, fear and at times, failure. These episodic challenges are rewards of the journey. Each time you reach the other side of the obstacle, the satisfaction of overcoming those fears, and committing yourself to a strategic crossing, builds the confidence that you can do it again. This becomes the reward of the journey. You will find yourself looking forward to, and anticipating the next crossing.
I am not a Stick-in-the-Mud
Have you heard of the Happy Camper? This is often used in a negative context(Ex: He was not a Happy Camper when the rain put his fire out). The Happy Camper is content, satisfied and upbeat. An Unhappy Camper, on the other hand, is the “Stick-in-the-Mud”. If you travel with an Unhappy Camper you would imagine them not enjoying the journey. On the trail they may drag their feet, kick up dust, and not perform what is expected of them, or not be prepared for unexpected circumstances.
In life, the Unhappy Camper is not prepared, or is not on the journey that they desire. Happiness comes from following your passions. If you are following a path that resonates with your values and desires, your successes will not be measured by what car you drive, money you make, or title you hold. Happiness is in the heart. Traveling on this path will require companionship of others that share your passion, or have similar goals. This provides accountability to your actions, and positive influence when the road gets rocky.
Challenges are an opportunity for growth, and when faced with others, a teammate or work associate, build confidence and accountability for the journey. A companion on the trail is priceless: the ability to give a word of support when the travel is tough; preparing a meal in camp; reflecting on the beauty as reach the summit after a strenuous ascent. The relations shared through trying and difficult times provide greater meaning and cherished stories for the future, adding to your well-being.
Stepping into Nature, and Your Self
Attention to the present. Each step provides a new experience, a new challenge and a new opportunity to learn. Opening your awareness to Yourself and the environment brings creativity. This may be a new way at looking at a problem or task, or a deeper understanding of how you relate to yourself and others in a situation. Being present is a mindful appreciation of what is, and new possibilities that exist.
In nature there are many opportunities to connect with and regulate the soul:
Listening to your breath and how it responds to the exertion of the uphill, and ease of the flat meadows.
Being present with the panoramic sites. Listening for the distant sound of cascading water, and wind through the trees.
Breathing in the thin mountain air, and listening to the pounding pulse of your chest, find a rhythm with your next step, ascending ascending the mountain pass.
Sitting still on a granite boulder as you become calm like the alpine lake.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. – John Muir
Nature adds to the experience of your senses. The experience of the preparation is vital for a successful journey. Being ill-prepared in the back country can determine survival in extreme situations, or a very unpleasant trip if poor weather settles in, or an injury from poor physical conditioning. Making a checklist of equipment, first aid items, clothing, material you will need in camp, food provisions that provide energy and hydration will ensure a safe and ready trek. Likewise, the physical preparation must be planned well ahead of time for the adventure. Making sure the body is fit to carry the pack and endure the varied terrain that you will encounter will minimize the risk of injury. Documenting the trip with pictures, and maybe a short journal of each day’s highlights, observations and encounters will add to your experience in the moment, and in years to come.
Just as we pursue any endeavor in life, whether it be at home, work, health or sports, having a goal keeps you moving forward. The example of the back country trek is just is one metaphor for the preparation required for a journey . You may have a career goal that requires careful preparation. This may include work experiences and educational requirements. There may be a sports goal like finishing your first triathlon. Careful physical and mental preparation is required to train in three events of swimming, biking and running. You must not only train hard, but you must also be disciplined to recover your mind and body from the arduous workouts that precede the event. This includes sleep, massage, cold packs and relaxation. Preparation also includes a balanced, and well constructed diet that gives fuel for the working body, as well as building lean muscle mass as you repeatedly break the body down, recover, and build again. All this for a healthy body; free of injury, prepared, and ready for competition day.
The growth that takes place is experienced each step along the way. Establishing small, attainable goals that keep you moving forward. In this matter, self-control and focus are rewarded with successes, that when built upon, will keep you moving forward to your final destination. Getting there is rewarded by developing the inner strength in the journey. Managing and overcoming obstacles and challenge builds resilience for what you may face in the future. This develops personal confidence and strength in knowing that you have what it takes.
Leave a comment below and share your Commitment for a Path to Health in 2015.
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