Find the Joy!
And sure, there's always a bit of suck-it-up self discipline involved in forming a new habit. If it were totally easy and effortless to make changes, why the hell would we have waited so long?
If broccoli tasted like fresh baked cookies, and if lifting weights felt like a lovely trip to your favorite spa for a massage, and if we were all well-organized stress-free superachievers, there would be little need for all the "resolution" and "willpower" and "this time it will be different" crap.
But just because lifestyle changes require a bit of focus and resolve, they don't have to suck! There are a number of things you can do to make the change process more fun and less miserable. And less misery means a better chance of success, right?
First Off, The Giveaway Thingy:
If you're just joining us and want to participate:
1. At least skim the first New Year's Resolution January Giveaway post, even if you have absolutely no desire to win a free Life Coaching package. The real point of this post is Community Support!
2. To catch up and be eligible, if you wanna play: leave a two part comment to let us know if you have a goal or resolution or whatever (you don't have to say what it is), as well as some observation about how you're doing on it. And leave at least two reply comments on other people's comments giving them some support in some way. If you get here early, you may have to come back; c'est la vie.
Or, if you were here last week and are already playing:
1. Leave a comment on this post with any sort of observation about how it's going, and one other reply comment on someone else's progress report. Be supportive or informative or encouraging! (If you forgot that part last time, just make it two this week and you're good).
2. (Optional) go back and see if anyone commented on your comment from last week, and feel free to engage in some back-and-forth at either post!
Editorial Note: I suspect there will be some drop-off, but last week was SO FUN for me! Loved all the helpful comments and inspiring goals and amusing observations. It really helped me stay on track! More on that in the comments.
And so now, here are:
Four Simple-Minded Ideas for Bringing Joy to Virtuous Pursuits
1. Allow Yourself to Throw a Little Time or Cash at It
Change is often hardest at the beginning. If you have the ability to indulge extra time, energy, or money to make it fun when you first start off, you'll have a better chance of maintaining initial momentum.
Consider a splurge like a new time-saving kitchen gadget for preparing yummy healthy recipes, or a fun new piece of home exercise equipment, or a wildly overpriced but really pretty new notebook with a fancy cover to brainstorm in. Or heck, go to Whole Foods and look for healthy treats and pretend the numbers on the price tags are just figured in Monopoly money! You can even promise yourself future fun purchases to reward "good" behavior.
Well, sure--a Ferrari seems a fair reward for surviving your first trip to the gym.
2. Swap, Don't Sacrifice
If you're trying to cut something out of your routine that was formerly rewarding, experiment with a fun substitute. It could even be something slightly naughty in a different way, just to facilitate the transition. If you're quitting smoking, perhaps swapping a couple bites of chocolate for your usual vice during a "cigarette break" might ease the transition. (Although in the "naughty" department, be careful: spontaneous Husband or Wife Swapping may cause unpleasant complications). Once your brain is rewired to no longer crave your usual unhealthy reward, you may be able to ditch the evil substitute for something better for you.
Similarly, if you're trying to add something new and challenging to your routine, consider giving yourself a break on some other ongoing virtuous activity if you're feeling too martyred. You'll get back to it once your New Thing is more routine.
3. Be Playful, and Make it a Game!
Getting Up Earlier: Way More Fun if You Can Fly
Spend a few minutes thinking how to turn a goal into a game. Do you like to compete with others or yourself? Wanna bet your spouse a week worth of dishes who caves on their resolution first? There are interactive apps out there that encourage competitions which I'm too lazy to research but they ain't hard to find.
Exercise is a natural for morphing into playtime, because, well, play was the only kind of exercise we got as kids and recess was something to look forward to, right?
The thing is: you are still that kid, somewhere inside. So find that little brat and ask her/him for inspiration. What could Play could look like or feel like in your world now? Romping with dogs? A game of tennis? Dancing? Running? Smearing feces all over the wall above your crib? Oh wait, perhaps you better not ask your inner kid to help out after all.
But even something that is nonphysical can be made more playful. Get creative with your "chore." Think about tracking and beating your previous efforts, but make it goofy, with stickers or colored pens or vision boards or depending on your temperament, spreadsheets or interpretative dances done to bongo drums. Take a few moments to ponder possibilities to make the new thing as weirdly silly and fun as you can make it.
4. Tweak Your Environment
So let's say hypothetically you have an ongoing goal of yours to stay active and exercise. And let's further hypothesize that you woke up on a weekend morning planning to go to the gym, which you normally don't mind because you've been coming up with new and better ways to make an ass of yourself playing with the toys there. But suppose on this particular morning you thought, well crap, I don't FEEL like going to the gym. And then a good friend with a companionable canine proposed a hike up a (small) mountain? And let's further assume you had a flexible partner willing to come along too and the whole "exercise" thing became a lovely outing instead of a grim item to cross off the "to do" list?
Quite a Bit More Fun that the Gym
Some alternatives on tweaking your environment besides wandering out into the great outdoors? You could clean up and prettify your indoor environment, for example..not that piles of dirty laundry or sticky food wrappers or stacks of paper still to be filed from 1997 arent, to some eyes, perfectly lovely. Or you could make an effort to introduce pleasant smells if you have a nontoxic way to do that, like making a fragrant tea or something.
You could go where other folks are, or are not, depending on how you feel about sociability. (In my case, a writing goal is a great one to take to a communal space like a library or coffeehouse, while gym stuff I'm happiest accomplishing completely solo. I would happily lock the doors and keep everyone else the hell out of my gym if I could get away with it).
And music! Tunes make everything better! (OK, unless one of your resolutions happens to involve listening to guided self-hypnosis recordings, in which case you may have to hold off on the tunes for a bit).
Anyone else got ideas on making things fun? And how are you doing on your January goal/resolution, still hanging in there? My progress report will be in the comments, see ya down there!
Dog photo: cobalt124
Bedroom Superhero: Eole