Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.
—- Jim Ryun
My mother and I have a ritual whenever I visit her in Germany – we go shopping together. She finds a comfortable couch or chair and I venture out to find a variety of cloth for her and myself and we try on and decide together what comes home with us. We chat and bond and have a good time. A few months back we were in the middle of our shopping spree when I thought I found a very cute, sleeveless dress for me and I was sure my mom would love it too. I expected from her an approving “oh this will look so great on you” or something along the line. Instead, she only glanced at it and quipped “women in our age are done wearing sleeveless dresses.” Gasp! That hurt! At the same time, the whole scene was also very funny. I turned around and brought the dress back where I got it, suddenly I had no desire to try it on – it was really gorgeous. We went on chatting, decided on a few pieces, came home to coffee and cake and reviewed our treasures.
Somehow though, my mother hit a nerve, big times. I have been an athlete all my life but in the last few years I had gained a few pounds and my workout routine was none existing. Fast forward 8 months, I lost most of the unwanted pounds, my body is on its way to being lean and strong again. My workout routine starts every morning when the gym opens. I was astonished to see how many people are in line waiting for the gym doors to open at 5 am! I swim a mile, work the weights or take a spinning class 6 out of 7 days a week, every week. I created a habit over time and switched out the morning tea and cake for gym and sweat. It feels great, progress came slowly but steadily. Thank you, mom! Next time we go on our shopping spree I will find another sleeveless dress and then we see what you say…
How did it all happen?
My mom’s comment was certainly a big part of it and I will be forever grateful for her refreshing frankness. It triggered my resolve to tackle a long lingering discontent with my fitness, weight and eating habits. I also just finished reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. It is all about the small steps, that lead to meaningful improvement. It is all about creating habits that lead to the goals you are setting for yourself. It is all about scaling down these habits to something that takes two minutes or less in the beginning and move forward from there. Read an interview with James Clear by Alison Beard in the Harvard Business Review. It gives you a great synopsis of the approach he describes in his book. It certainly is changing my life!
Want to really achieve your goals? Don’t rely on willpower – we already know that does not work – create habits instead! Listen to the interview, read the book and subscribe to James Clear’s blog.
Now that I created and enjoy my workout habit I am on my way to creating my new habit of eating healthy 90% of the time. I guess the other 10% is like taking a day off from the gym!
By the way, if you wondered – my mom was 85 and I was 55 years old at the time.
Happy habit building! The way to succeed in anything.