Thought for the Day: In preparation for each week's writing for the blog, I mull over a few ideas. My thought process this week began by focusing on the turn of the seasons. Then it moved to something a client said about four months ago which helped motivate me and many of my clients over the last few months. The client's suggestion dovetailed with something I learned about my grandmother's nephew, Herb Crane, z.l., whom I wrote about in another post after he passed away at the age of 95 last May. It also resonated with and fit well with psychological research findings about habit change. Somehow these four thoughts collided inspiring what appears to be another miniseries on time and motivation.
Back in May, one of my clients came in and told me that she had started working on getting fit. She had been working long hours and neglecting all physical activity. Not only was she uncomfortable with the extra pounds she had gained, she also wanted to improve her life style. One of my client's friends with similar concerns about her own health and fitness suggested that they could help one another stay motivated. They decided to start walking together whenever possible. The friend had heard that it would help to practice this principle: "Don't break the chain." The basic idea behind the "Don't break the chain" method is simple. Most great ideas are simple and here's why I believe this is a great motivational concept...
Basically, the idea of "Don't break the chain." is to do something every day even if you only have a few minutes to keep moving toward your goal without "breaking the chain." In my client's case it was daily exercise; however, it could be applied to anything that you wish to change in your life. Her story coincided with an article I had read about my grandmother's nephew, Herb Crane, z.l., who had passed away last May. I had the honor of meeting Herb several times. He was a vibrant man with a positive outlook on life who can be an inspiration to all who hear about his life. At 95, the WWII veteran who was being treated by hospice, still drove to the gym every day to exercise, since it made him feel good. I told my client his story to help motivate her even more. If a 95 year old man in the final days of his life could keep the chain going, we all can.
I had been exercising 3 - 4 times a week and watching my diet, but it did not seem to be enough. I decided to try the Herb Crane, Don't break the chain, version instead. Believe it or not, I have followed this regimen almost religiously since then. I think I have only had 2 days, when i was only able to fit in a few minutes of exercise. Most days I have made it to the gym or taken a brisk walk in my neighborhood. I have lost 11 pounds. I can now ride a stationary bike for over an hour, do Zumba (albeit modified, I'm not jumping to protect my knees, but I do bounce and keep up with the music. If you like to dance, I'd recommend it.) or an elliptical machine for an hour, row a rowing machine for 30 minutes and swim for 45 minutes at a time. Last October, I started back to exercise following a knee operation from square one, so I am in better health than a year ago! I have actually increased my exercise and stamina way beyond what I was able to do prior to the operation which was about 3 -4 times a week of swimming for 30 - 45 minutes.
Obviously, the technique is working. What makes it such a powerful motivator? First, like the seasons, the idea reminds you of the passage of time. Every day is a link in the chain. It reminds you to use that piece of time wisely. You learn to make time, even if it's just for a few minutes, to focus on and do something that will bring you closer to that goal. One day, I know I must have looked ridiculous going up and down the stairs in my house for ten minutes, (it was not easy exercise mind you, so I knew I was strengthening my legs) but I did not break the chain.
The second reason it works is that it makes you feel good. Herb was a wise man who knew that going to the gym, exercising and seeing his friends at the gym made him feel good, even as his body was nearing the end of his life. He lived every day to the fullest. Staying on target and accomplishing your goals will help you feel good about yourself and keep motivating you to stay on target.
Another reason that the technique seems to work is that in time it will become a new habit. It's easier to stick with something if it becomes a habit.
Finally, the metaphor and visual image of a chain and not breaking it is easy to remember.
Over the rest of this week, I will elaborate on how time is the greatest motivating tool, but for now, if you want to change something in your life, consider trying this method and "Don't break the chain."