Unfamiliar Changes Are Harder Than Time-Consuming, Familiar Changes (Why Taking A Walk Is Hard)


March is here, and I am still thinking about my goals for the year. That’s not an unusual thing for me, but if sticking close to your goals is hard for you, may I recommend Powersheets?

I won’t list out all my goals for you, but I want to tell you what I’ve learned from two of my goals for this year. I decided I wanted to take more walks and read more books this year so I came up with this cute goal. It’s Instagramable and Tweetable.

200 books

200 walks

200 Books 200 Walks.jpg

Isn’t it adorable?

So how I am doing two months in?

I’m right on track on my reading goal.

200 books divides out to 17 books a month. I read 17 in January and 17 in February. I’m right at 34 books read.

200 walks divides out to 17 walks a month.

Ummmmm.

I didn’t take 17 walks in January or February.

I didn’t take zero walks though.

So there’s that.

I took 5 walks in January. (Single digits, y’all.) I took 8 walks in February. (The tiniest bit better.)

So I am not on track with my walking goal. I’ve done 13 out of 200. That means I still have 187 walks left in 2019.

187!

Here’s the puzzling thing about these two goals. I am not demanding about these walks. A 30 to 45-minute walk is great. I’m not speed-walking these things. A stroll counts.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

On the other hand, it takes hours to finish a decent book.

HOURS!

Why am I flying through this time-consuming reading goal while the walking goal that demands so little of my time gets pretty much ignored?

I think it’s because I was already reading a lot last year, and bumping up to reading a little more wasn’t as big of a change.

I was not exercising with any amount of regularity last year. Even though taking a walk has a literal phrase that means easy — “walk in the park” — I can’t seem to get it done.

It’s a bigger change, not because it takes more time, money (it’s free to walk), or equipment (I have legs, headphones, and shoes.) It is a bigger change because it hasn’t been a habit in my life.

Reading takes lots of time, some money (God bless the library and Ben Franklin for suggesting it), and I think it may be ruining my eyes (ain’t gonna stop me though.)

Googling “how long does it take to form neural pathways,” tells me this:

Now 66 days is the average and there are always variances. Some people can form deeply ingrained habits in as little as 18 days while others can take well over 200 days to form a habit. The ease and convenience of the habit also has a large part of how long it takes to form a habit.

So basically, it may take all 200 of my walks this year to change my brain to make walking a habit.

What does this mean? Give up? No!

It means I have to celebrate my progress. I have to be proud of my 13 walks in two months. It might be more walks than I took in the whole of 2018. I wasn’t counting.

People often ask me how I stay so motivated and energized. I could tell you I try to eat healthy foods and sleep well at night, but the real answer is grace.
— Lara Casey, Cultivate

It means I have to push myself to do something that doesn’t feel natural.

It means I have to stop listening to my excuses.

I never make excuses not to read, but I can think of 15 excuses why I can’t take a walk right now, the first one being I would have to put real pants and shoes on. Ugh. Who can be bothered?

But when I realize I’m not just taking a walk, I’m changing my brain, I can tell myself I am doing a hard thing that needs extra babying and celebration. I can pep talk myself into creating pathways that think walks are a normal part of a healthy day. I can tell myself that 2020 Jennifer will find walks easy peasy.

What about you?

What changes have you found hard to make because they were new and unfamiliar to your life?

What small numbers do you need to celebrate?