Most of us have watched a child learn to walk, roller skate, or play the clarinet. They didn’t start out proficient, did they? There were plenty of stumbles and falls and a few screeches along the way. Nonetheless, we didn’t criticize or belittle their efforts. We applauded and encouraged them, understanding that each little step was necessary to the next.
Unfortunately, we rarely give ourselves the same privilege when we set out to learn something new, like eating healthier or moving more. We call ourselves weak or stupid. Or worse.
I submit that the fault is not in ourselves, but in our expectations. We expect perfection of our very imperfect, very human selves. Perhaps the goal—perfect compliance with new learning— was too big. Even if you possessed some great skills and habits pre-pandemic, you may need to relearn some of them.
Don’t get me wrong. Lofty, long-term goals are important and worthwhile, but so are all the steps leading to them. Break that big goal into smaller goals. How small? So small that you are absolutely certain of success. And when you achieve that little bitty goal, celebrate it. Soon, you’ll feel more capable and ready to take the next step. Success breeds success. Start where you are, with what you have, just one small step from where you are right this minute. Are you with me?
Want be more active? If you can only walk five minutes away from home and five minutes back, do that. Then next week, add five minutes. If you are walking twenty minutes a day, make it thirty. Already at thirty? Make it forty.
Already hitting the gym three times a week for an hour? Add a few minutes to your workout. Or add a day.
If you wear an activity monitor (pedometer, Fitbit, or the like), spend a few days seeing what “normal” is for you. Then bump up your steps a bit each week until reach the recommended 10,000 a day. Maybe your goal will be to find that pedometer and wear it. Or recharge it. Or buy one.
Want to eat more fruits and vegetables? Start where you are. Not eating any? Replace one snack a day with an apple or banana. Already eating some but not your five-a-day? Include a fruit or vegetable with every meal or snack.
Not sure what you’re eating? Keep a food diary for one day. Or two. Or a full week. Observe what foods, situations, and times of the day trip you up.
Start small. Set a goal that is too small to fail, but not too small to matter.
What one baby step will you take this week? Care to share?