Friday, January 07, 2022

Goal Setting Fridays - The Power of the Gentle Start

Welcome to Goal Setting Fridays!

Why Fridays?
So you can ruminate over the weekend & get a fresh start on Monday!

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We're kicking off the New Year with:

The Power of the Gentle Start

Once, a lifetime ago, I belonged to a gym.

I joined in the summer and, over the months, I created a strong habit of visiting three times a week. Being self-employed, I could attend during the slower daytime hours. I enjoyed small classes, a quiet locker room, and my choice of machines.

That first week of January, I showed up for my usual Tuesday afternoon visit.

I was shocked at the transformation of my quiet neighbourhood gym! Bodies pressed upon bodies as classes were filled to capacity, line-ups wrapped around machines, and the locker room resembled a scene from Blake Edwards' “The Party”. 

I expressed my surprise to the staff, who rolled their eyes and said, “Give it a week.”

Experience had taught them well. 
By the following week, the place had started to settle down. 
By the end of the month, I had my quiet gym back to myself.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 
This quote - generally misattributed to Albert Einstein -
should be the official motto of New Year’s Resolutions! 

You know the story:
Year after year, people make resolutions to “drink less,” “eat better,” and “lose weight.”
And year after year, they set records for how quickly they break those exact resolutions.

First, we need to address the biggest problem:
Resolutions aren’t Goals!

(I could talk about this all day, so stay tuned next Friday for a post on how to turn Resolutions into Goals.)

But for now, let me address a second problem:
The Gangbuster Approach.

After the feasting and indulgence of the holiday season, people jump into their New Year’s Resolutions feet first and eyes closed. They throw out all the sweets, lock the liquor cabinet, and yes, sign up for a gym membership. 

For the next week, they are “The New Me!”

But just as quickly, it all starts to fall apart. That kind of instant and complete lifestyle change just isn’t sustainable.

This January, may I propose a different approach?

May I suggest
The Power of the Gentle Start?

The Gentle Start invites grace into our goal setting.
You need to stretch before you can run. 
You need to build your muscles and endurance before you can run your first marathon.
It’s the same thing for setting and achieving goals.

At the start of the pandemic, I decided to start walking.
It was a habit that could potentially fulfil several desires for increasing
my overall physical, mental, and emotional health.

I started with three 20-minute walks a week.

Now, for those of you who work out regularly, that probably seems like a really small commitment. But trust me, for me, it was a challenge! It took genuine focus to prioritize my walks and not let weather, tiredness, or really any excuse, keep me from taking that first step outside. And in the beginning, those 20-minutes felt like forever!!! What was my brain supposed to do with all that time??? 

So, I found my first solution - call Mom and Dad.
Soon, I was having my daily phone call with them during my walk.

After a few weeks, I decided to increase it to 22-minute walks.
A tiny increment, but it felt like progress.

Over the months, I increased both the length of the walk and the number of walks per week. 
I challenged myself to increase the amount of time spent in the “cardio zone” on my FitBit.
Mom gave me a new pair of sneakers that made me feel like I was bouncing along the sidewalks.

Now that the physical part was rocking,
I started to have fun with it:

I created fun games for myself, such as discovering the best bakery within walking distance of my house.
I learned which homes had the best gardens, and created routes to visit those throughout the summer.
I always allowed time at the start or end of the walk to have a driveway chat with any neighbour who might be on their front porch.
And on those particularly difficult days we've all had in the pandemic, my walks became Prayer Walks, lifting pleas for my family, our ministry, and our community.

By the end of 2020, I was walking 5-6 times a week, for a minimum of 35 minutes each time.
I was able to carry my habit successfully into 2021, and now, into the start of 2022.

My Gentle Start delivered huge results! 

With a small initial goal, and slow incremental changes, I’d created a sustainable habit that was meeting larger goals for my physical, mental, and emotional health.

What are your big Dreams for 2022?

Maybe, instead of going headfirst into January, you could incorporate the Gentle Start.

Find a small place to begin.
Choose one tiny, achievable step to get the ball rolling.
And for now, just do that one thing.

Want to eat better?
Start with one vegetarian meal a week.

Want to write a book?
Start by writing 10 minutes, 3 times a week.

Want to record an album?
Set up one cowrite for this month.

Over time, you can increase what you’re doing. As a matter of fact, studies show that once you start taking tiny steps towards your goals, momentum will kick in and you’ll want to do more!

For now, just start.
Do something small.
Get your energy flowing in the right direction.
Invite a Gentle Start into your Goal Setting...

And before long, you’ll be on the path to succeeding in your New Year’s Resolutions!

What’s one thing you can do today to create a Gentle Start? 


Unknown said...

One thing that I like about your approach is that it allows for graceful course corrections. Start slowly and you gain an understanding without overtaxing yourself. Now you are well positioned to consider changes and adaptations that make it more meaningful and satisfying.

You start a project to write a novel. As you progress, you gain insights into the creative writing process. As time passes you feel that the project is bogging down, however you do enjoy explaining it to friends and strangers alike. That's when you decide to pivot to textbook writing.

Allison Lynn said...

"Graceful course corrections" - yes, exactly! I'm so glad this resonated with you!