Bridging the Gap
In a previous post, I talked about the importance of small changes that yield big results over time. If your goal is to adopt a more active lifestyle, this isn't too difficult, at least in theory. You set aside a specific time, and because it will take a little while to get the task done, it is not easily forgotten. I'd like to talk instead about a different kind of habit. What if you want to remember to tighten your abs or glutes more consistently, or you'd like to correct poor posture. This may be harder than it sounds. You can't really schedule it on a calendar, because you will want to remind yourself to do this several times a day -- many more times than the average person checks a daily schedule. There's a two-part approach that may help. Part one is to change something in your environment. As a blind person, I don't find that strategically placed notes help. This is often suggested as a great way to be reminded of something on a more or less consistent basis. Since I can't see those notes, I find that essentially making myself the figurative notepad can bridge the all-important gap between intentions and actions. This past week, I decided I wanted to make a concerted effort to tighten my abdominal muscles and sit or stand straight and tall, so I put on a ring. I normally wear very few bracelets or rings, preferring to keep my hands free for typing and other tasks. Wearing the ring felt unfamiliar. As a result, everytime my attention was drawn to it, I had a reminder of my goals. Can you guess what happened? For the first day, I found myself tightening muscles and correcting my posture several times. On the second day, I was making far fewer corrections. I would like to say that I had achieved such success that the habit was firmly entrenched after just one day. Unfortunately, I had not improved noticeably, but I had become used to wearing that ring. This leads me to the second key factor in building small habits -- vary the message. I have talked to people who write themselves notes, and before long, they find that they either need to change the wording of the note, or put it somewhere else. For me, this could mean putting that ring on my other hand, or on a different finger. It could mean substituting that ring for a bracelet, or maybe changing my watch to my non-dominant hand. If you don't wear a watch, or you quickly run out of options, a rubber band around your wrist will serve the same purpose. If you run out of tactile cues, there are always audio, smell or taste, environmental, time-related, or possibly visual cues. If you have the radio or TV on in the background, you can use commercials as your reminders. Do you live or work within hearing range of church bells? If not, you could set a clock to chime at regular intervals. The possibilities are endless. Just remember to have a clear picture in your mind of what you want to improve, and change your reminders daily for best results. What are some reminders that have worked for you? Is there a small habit you've conquered with this method, or maybe you're going to implement it. In any case, we'd love to hear your comments.