Developing and Maintaining Habits
As a recent college graduate, I find myself at a cross-roads. I am no longer bound by the social obligations of living with my peers, such as keeping current on movies, music, or internet memes and hashtags. I now have less concern for who’s dating who or where the party is at next weekend (it’s no longer socially acceptable to drink irresponsibly anyway, right?). My schedule is no longer formed around required classes and studying for finals (not that it would be during the summer months), so I find myself with additional free time. Yes, I have found seasonal employment and am still tasked with finding a full-time job that I will enjoy (or will pay off my student loans. I can’t really have both, can I?) But I also have spare time that I can use however I wish. Rather than filling it with required readings, awkward social interactions, and binge-watching whatever is popular on Netflix like I did during much of college, I can now develop new habits or hobbies and fill my time as I wish. I see this period of my life as a time for re-shaping my habits and for setting the tone for my post-college, adult life.
During the fall of my freshmen year of college, I was required to read the book, The Nature of College, in an interdisciplinary course called, Paideia (the Greek word for education). This book highlighted ways in which college students are unsustainable and offered suggestions as to how to be more conscious of resources. These suggestions included things like taking shorter showers, recycling, and adopting a vegetarian diet. So what did I do? I adopted nearly all of the suggestions, even going so far as to keep a compost bin full of red worms in my spare closet. Although the worms were not odorous, I realize now that this may have been a little drastic. And I have since apologized to my former roommate — don’t worry, we’re still friends! But the major positive that came from reading this book and altering my lifestyle at the time was finding a blog called No Meat Athlete.
Since reading this book and finding the No Meat Athlete blog in 2011, I have struggled to maintain habits when it comes to both diet and fitness. Despite battling through a knee injury in 2013 and developing a love of running (even running my first half-marathon this February), I still have not managed to maintain my fitness or health. However, since graduating from college a little over a month ago, I have made it my number one goal to develop habits that can help shape my post-graduate life for the better. In this time, I have been greatly inspired by much of what Matt Fraizer, the founder of NMA, has written on the blog and said in his podcast.
Much of Matt’s content on the NMA blog and podcast has to do with running and maintaining a plant-based diet — which are both topics that I enjoy reading about as both a runner and someone who eats mostly plants. However, Matt also often writes and talks about self-improvement and developing habits. One of his most recent posts is titled, “A New Method for Creating Changes that Last.” In this post, he outlines a method for developing habits that consists of both taking “Massive Action” or going cold turkey for a set period of time (say, 10 or 30 days) and then taking “Small Steps” or developing a step-by-step plan for slowly creating change and making this habit or diet stick. He also gives a sort of step-by-step plan for implementing his method, which I have paraphrased below:
The first step: Choose a habit that you want to develop or change.
Step 2: Set a start and end date, preferably 30 days. Go all in for those 30 days.
Step 3: After the 30 days, decide whether you want to stick to the “all in” approach or create a “small steps” plan.
Step 4: Go all in (for good) or implement your small steps.
At the end of the post, Matt challenges his readers to choose one thing that they want to change and to go ahead and try his method. So of course, this is what I plan to do…
Developing a Fitness Habit
For the past month or so, I have already formed two (fairly simple) morning habits.
1. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I drink between 8 and 16oz. of water.
2. I drink a smoothie every morning for breakfast.
However, I have tried and failed numerous times this summer to get into a fitness routine. Whenever I feel like it, I may go for a run or hike or bike ride, but I cannot seem to get into a routine and do something every day. That said, my plan is to use Matt’s approach to develop an exercise habit — step one: complete! My plan for the next 30 days (starting today) is to walk at least 30 minutes every morning — step two: in progress!
That’s right, from today until July 28th, I will be walking every morning and posting about my progress every week! Later this week, I will post a more detailed outline of my plan and how I will keep myself motivated and accountable.