Updated: Mar 28, 2020
"Baby steps out the door...baby steps to the elevator... baby steps into the elevator...I'm in the elevator."
I always go back to Bill Murray in "What About Bob?" (If you haven't seen it yet, go watch it, at least that scene, then continue reading). His little baby steps were tiny and resulted in hilarity. It took him longer, but the smaller steps really did add up, and they got him moving out of the doctor's office with a new perspective.
When it comes to your health and lifestyle, it's the same. Take baby steps.
Baby steps, really? Taking baby steps are going to help me lose 20lbs, get stronger, get leaner, help reach my big fitness goals?
Yes, those little baby steps will add up, just like they did for Bob. I know it sounds cheesy. And it would be so much easier if you could just make one big, drastic change and then all of your goals would be met, right? If you could just stop eating carbs; if you could just workout 5 days per week; if you could just do HIIT training; if you could just drink half of your weight in ounces of water each day; if you could just do bicep curls (we all want those guns).
Baby steps are the answer. It's easier for us to adapt and accept new habits when the change is small. Why? Well there is a long-winded answer to that, but we can simplify and just say that most humans don't like change. We get used to our habits, our way of living, even if it will ultimately harm us. Like that repetitive swiping motion with your thumb on your phone or eating pizza every Friday night after work. These consistent actions become habitual through unconscious repetition. And they are all little, baby steps that slowly culminate over time to result in what you see and experience as your lifestyle. And what you define as your lifestyle is a pretty big thing, right?
So when most people say they want to change their lifestyle, it often feels like too big of a task to take on. And that is why most people will find success at first, but will inevitably fall back into old, comfortable habits.
Going back is simply easier than taking on massive changes all at once. You have known these habits for a long time and they contribute to your identity. So making big changes can feel like a fight against who you are as a person. And that's not fun.
I've been developing healthier habits now for the past seven years or so, ever since I began my yoga teacher training. The changes in my lifestyle did not happen all at once. And today, I am still creating new monthly and weekly habits for myself in order to sustainably implement new ways to approach my idea of health. My definition of health is different than it was seven years ago. It is ever-evolving based upon the research and exploration that I commit to as I examine my lifestyle choices and my movement practice. So yes, I understand that it can be frustrating that there isn't a "fix-all-solution" with immediate results, or a "fit-pill" that we can take and then sit and wait for the magic to happen. I've taken thousands of baby steps to get where I am today, and I predict that I've got a few hundred-thousand more to go.
Now, I know all of this might sound very discouraging because a lot of baby steps sounds like a lot more work to accomplish. I'm not going to lie, implementing healthy habits can feel like work at first. Right now, you only need to take one baby step. Don't worry about the rest that you'll take tomorrow or next month. Once you start to incorporate a few new ways of making your day healthier, you'll find that these habits begin to correlate and make sense together. And when things work together your idea of a healthier lifestyle will become easier to create and enjoy.
So here are a few, fun baby steps that you can start implementing today. I would suggest choosing one out of the three options; the one that you find easiest to incorporate into your daily life. Then you can add the second and third baby step every two weeks to a month apart. It depends upon if you are truly ready, willing, and able to commit to implementing the habits. Remember, you are taking these baby steps at your own pace. Feel free to make them as tiny as you'd like!
1) Write down 3 tasks each night you'd like to achieve tomorrow - Each night, write a list (on pen and paper) of 3 things you would like to do the next day. It can be as simple as "buy more toilet paper", "call Mom", or "workout for 30 minutes". It doesn't necessarily mean you have to accomplish one or even all three things the next day (no one is going to see this except you). This list is simply a great exercise to explore the daily habit of journaling in a very approachable way. I find it also helps me avoid the screens of my phone/TV before bed, which helps relax the central nervous system for better sleep.
2) Set an alarm at 3:55pm for breathing - Create a recurring event in your calendar, set it for the same time each day: 3:55pm. Give yourself 5 minutes to focus on breathing. That's all you have to do. Sit and breathe for 5 minutes. Even if you've never meditated before, you can do this. Breath is the key to life, and there are so many physical and mental benefits to breath-work and mindful breathing. And if you feel uncomfortable doing this, start with 1 minute; only 60 seconds out of your day to be aware of your breath. Even those 60 seconds can yield results, and can begin to fuel neurological pathways of mind-body-breath connections. Also, why 3:55pm? Why not?
3) Cook one evening at home each week - Cook something at home that you enjoy. At first, you don't have to worry about whether or not it is considered a healthy meal. More than likely, what you create in your kitchen is going to be healthier than ordering out. At home, you know what is in your food and you give yourself the opportunity to cultivate your culinary skills. If you feel like you're lacking in that department, now is the perfect time to learn and fail, and then get better (sometimes burnt things taste delicious).
Baby steps, they're cute and they're purposefully simple. If you find that you need bigger steps, reach out to me and we can find ways to scale these up for you. And if you find that these baby steps feel like giant leaps, reach out to me and I will help you modify them to fit your stride.
Over time, these baby steps will culminate to a far distance traveled from where you began. And you might find that you're living a lifestyle that aligns closer with your definition of healthy.
We have all heard it before. Baby steps. And it is so obvious and simple that it is easy to shrug this blog post off as mere inspirational fluff. But does this concept actually hold true? Find out for yourself, and try implementing one of my baby steps above to your weekly habits. Let me know how it goes!