A habit a day
For a long time, it was my habit to go for a walk most every day. That was when I lived in Colorado and even in the snow-covered winter the days were beautiful and inviting.
A neighborhood park was only a handful of blocks away from my condo. The walkway had a small wooden bridge crossing a little rivulet that swelled in the spring runoff season and bubbled brightly.
I loved being outside watching the trees and plants change and grow. Every season had its own rewards. Taking that 45-minute break in my day was a pleasure on so many levels. And, bonus, it kept my weight under control.
Then I moved.
Here in Arkansas, my home is in the woods, near a backcountry biking trail. I have trees and trails all around and wildlife in my backyard. The air is warm, the sun is filtered through the oak leaves and a slight breeze keeps my skin cool.
Just like in Colorado, I love being outdoors. It is so pleasant to sit on the deck in the evenings and soak it in. I watch the birds and listen to the cicadas. It’s bucolic.
The real truth is instead of a walking break in the afternoon, I take a nap break instead. I shifted my habit.
This has not been the best plan for weight control.
James Clear, in his wonderful book Atomic Habits, describes the cumulative effect of habits. He suggests we should be more concerned about the trajectory of progress rather than outcomes.
He uses the example of an ice cube sitting in a room a few degrees below freezing. Increase the temperature by one degree, the ice cube isn’t affected. Increase it one degree at a time, it stays frozen. Until you increase the temperature from 31℉ to 32℉.
Then the ice cube begins to melt. That temperature increase, exactly like every other single degree increase, transformed everything. Instead of ice, you will soon have water.
He calls it a breakthrough moment and says, “Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change.”
Our habits are often mundane and invisible, until the accumulated effects are revealed.
Those years of walking was a habit for me. I walked for many different reasons, but when that habit changed, a new trajectory toward sedentary led to a couple of extra pounds.
In selecting my new home, I made sure I had space to set up my ancient analog Nordic Trak Ski Machine and I am on it most every day. My habit of how I choose to move my body is completely different, but I am consistent. The effect is that my weight stays manageable.
When we look at the outcomes we already have, we can trace them back to habits begun years ago. Those tiny positive or negative actions we take every day accumulate.
If you want a different outcome, change your habits.
… to be continued.