Anthony’s Note: This is a guest post by Angela, from Setting My Intention, where she focuses on intentional change and developing healthy habits in the midst of daily life. Follow along with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Everyone loves a good story—especially when it involves a massive transformation.
I’m a sucker for those movie sequences where the main character transforms in front of our eyes and changes from down and out to downright prosperous.
Pretty Woman (I’m dating myself here).
If we’re honest with ourselves, we would love for some fairy godmother to come and wave a magic wand to transform some part of our lives. We desperately want a healthier body, a decluttered home, and loving relationships. We look at where we are today and where we want to be and the path looks waaaaayyy beyond what we can do on our own. We feel hopeless and continue living life the way we’ve always lived it.
What I didn’t know several years ago is that we all have a “magic wand” inside of ourselves to create the change we so desperately desire.
My Transformation Journey – the First Step
In 2012 I was working part-time. My two oldest sons were in school. My youngest son was home with me on my two days off. I felt lethargic and overwhelmed.
I really wanted to start exercising regularly, so I joined the YMCA. If I’m completely honest, the fact that they offered childcare was a huge motivating factor in that decision. I loved being able to spend time with my 3-year-old, but the days felt long with him, and I didn’t know how to prioritize my own needs with his.
Joining the YMCA and planning out my exercise classes for my days off and the weekends, gave me a schedule I needed in order to make exercise a part of my daily routine.
I learned through trial and error that the best time to go to the gym was right after I dropped off my older children from school. We were all in the car and already in motion. If we waited until later in the day, it often didn’t happen.
Exercise became part of my schedule. It was a given. It became a habit that had a reward wrapped up with the activity – a couple of hours by myself to break a sweat trying something new. The rush of endorphins (feel-good chemicals that your body produces when you exercise) made me feel great, and the loving child care that was offered relieved me from “mommy duties” for a couple of hours. It made me a more focused and loving mommy for the other 12 hours of the day.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Decluttering Negative Self Talk
I was 42 years old when I joined the YMCA. It was the first habit that I developed and stuck with as an adult. In October 2013 I ran my first 5K and then in May 2015 I ran my first 10-mile run called the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia.
Starting to run as part of my movement plan was a big step in decluttering negative thoughts. Whenever I heard people say they were runners, I would always reply, “Oh, I’m not a runner. I feel like I’m dying when I run.”
I also used to say to myself and others:
“Oh, I’m a night owl, not a morning person.”
“I’m not a disciplined person.”
“I can’t keep a regular quiet time in the morning.”
“I don’t do (fill in the blank).”
One of the first steps in our own transformation journeys is to stop putting ourselves in a box. Just because we haven’t done something in the past, does not mean we can’t do it in the future. Instead of limiting yourself, approach opportunities and your abilities with curiosity and experimentation.
When I joined the YMCA, I tried Zumba, Pilates, Piloxing, Kickboxing, Yoga, Strength training, HIIT, Spinning, and running on a treadmill. Most of these things I had never tried before.
Today, I’m not a member of the YMCA, but I’m grateful for that time because it offered me the opportunity to try new things in a welcoming environment. It helped me discover that I love yoga and running, which I continue to do every week.
Habit Begets Habit
Today I have a habit of decluttering, a morning routine habit, and a gratitude habit. It all started with my first step of exercising.
When I publish my monthly intentions on my blog, some readers comment how organized I am and productive. I’m always amazed at those comments when I think back to 2012 and how scattered and overwhelmed I felt.
Making the shift to develop one habit will lead to other life-changing habits. I started with exercise. Then I added a 5 minute morning routine. After that, I started decluttering our home.
All it takes is deciding to take action. It doesn’t have to be large. In fact, it shouldn’t.
Pick one area that you want to change and commit to one small step. You don’t have to join a gym to start moving – just take a daily 5-minute walk. Get rid of one thing from your house. Write one thing you’re grateful for.
Do that one step every day. When you miss a day, just start again the next day. My motto has been and always will be, “Progress, not Perfection.”
“To get through the longest journey we need take only one step at a time,
but we must keep on stepping.”
– Chinese Proverb
No Magic Wand Needed
It turns out we don’t need a fairy godmother to transform our own lives. What we need instead is a desire for change, a mindset of curiosity, and the decision to take small achievable steps daily. We have everything we need inside of our very own minds and bodies, no fairy dust required.
What small action step are you taking? If you’re further along in your transformation story, what was the first habit that you developed? Tell us in the comments!