One thing I've learned over the past year is the importance of not letting it all fall apart.
Once you are past your twenties, and even your thirties, and as aging takes its toll, there is a tendency to relax, go with the flow, and let it all hang out.
There are all kinds of seemingly good excuses for this. After all, isn't it natural to fall apart with age, bit by cruel bit? If the senior members of your family are carrying some spare baggage... well, then it must be genetics, right? And who can fight that?
This is a long way of saying that I had not been taking the best care of myself physically these last few years. I'd got into that workaholic rut of just whacking away at the keyboard, doing all sorts of seemingly important tasks, but leaving the most important task of all - my own health - to the ravages of natural decline. I'd put on some weight, got into some unhealthy eating habits, and basically started to let it all hang out.
It's not that I was not into exercise, or at least the idea of it. As a teenager and into my early twenties, I had been very active indeed and in extremely good physical health. More recently, although the mind was still committed to the idea of doing exercise and maintaining health, the body was a lot less convinced. If you have ever tried to turn the tide, and been unsuccessful, then you will know what I mean. Whenever the time comes to do the workout - be it multi-gym, yoga, aerobics or whatever - the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak! It is either too cold, or too hot, or you feel tired, or you're too busy... or, you just don't feel like it right now!
That was my dilemma and so all efforts to turn the tide were sporadic and eventually doomed to failure as the long arm of conditioning took control, and restored the status quo. I might persist for several days, but the thermostat would eventually kick in and order would be restored. Eventually, I realized that if I were ever going to be successful with this, then my exercise schedule would have to be the FIRST thing I did in the day, i.e. before I did absolutely anything else. That's a nice theory.
However, when you are already an established coach potato like I was, getting up at the crack of dawn for a well-intentioned workout was not my idea of a good time! I had been pondering this idea for quite some months without ever doing anything about it. However, I do believe that when you are committed to an idea, an idea whose time has come, that idea will find a way! So it was that I was listening to an excellent Tony Robbins program, Get The Edge! (highly recommended, if you have not already studied it), and this was precisely what he was talking about in one of the first sessions. Tony Robbins calls it the "Hour Of Power", and recommends that everyone should establish this routine in their lives. In fact, he even said that if you act on nothing else from the course but this one idea, it would totally transform your life beyond all recognition.
Of course, he was preaching to the converted, at least mentally anyhow. The thing that finally got me to really sit up and pay attention though was when Anthony Robbins mentioned how his wife had been letting it all slide, but she kept telling herself that she was not too far gone, and could always "turn it around" if she really wanted to. That was a real wake up call for me, because that was EXACTLY what I had been telling myself! (Maybe you are doing the same?...) Anyway, that night I resolved to do the Tony Robbins Hour Of Power the very next morning. Without going into too much detail here, there is more to his system than just exercise, although physical exercise is definitely a key component of it. There is also expressing gratitude, visualization, stating affirmations, and deep breathing.
Sure enough, I arose early the next morning and before I did anything else, even breakfast, I went out and did the Hour Of Power. Of course, I felt great afterwards, and much inspired to do it again. I think that what made it really possible for me to keep this up though is that before you do anything else, you first have to go out for a walk for 10 minutes. If I had had to start exercising right away, it would have been hard to find the motivation to fall out of bed just for that. However, what is nice about beginning with the walk is that it really IS a very pleasant thing to do.
Where I live, and depending upon the time of year, you are either walking in the early dawn to the loud chorus of chirping birds, or else actually strolling in eerie silence under the moon and stars (in winter)! Either way, it is an extraordinarily enlivening experience. Hence, even if you feel too tired to exercise when that alarm rings, you can just persuade yourself to do a pleasant leisurely walk. By the time you are time I am done with that, the body is then awake and lively enough to give the exercise session a go. I personally alternate; one day I will do Yoga and the next will work out with my little exercise machine.
Now, according to the findings of Maxwell Malz in his famous Psycho-Cybernetics, we have to persist with a new practice for 21 days or more in order for it to become established as a habit. Hence, despite a heck of a lot of resistance at times (including having to do my walk with an umbrella at least once), I DID make it through the 21 days. Happily, one year later, I am still doing my Hour Of Power exercise schedule most days of the week. I say most, because I do not feel it necessary to be legalistic. If I feel too tired one morning, I will definitely lie in and miss it. Yet, I think it's fair to say that I do it at last 3-4 times a week at a minimum.
Moreover, I am definitely a lot fitter and healthier now than I was just one short year ago, with a lot more energy and positive motivation. A new habit and paradigm have been established and this new way of doing things is almost certainly permanent. So how about you?...
If you are someone who is in the same dilemma that I was in a year ago, you may wish to take heart from all of this. What I can do, you definitely can do too. What is key is finding something that will work for you. I personally found the Tony Robbins, Get The Edge! Hour Of Power to work well for me. You may too. However, it's not essential to do THAT specific routine, just so long as you find SOME routine that you like and commit to it.
Sometimes, just the fact that you "ought" or "should" do something is simply not enough. You need more positive motivation; more reasons to do it. For me, the fear-based reason was that I wanted to stay healthy and well to be able to still be around for my two lovely cats (okay, in your specific case, replace with "my family"!). The pleasure-based reasons were to feel better and more energetic... AND, I came to look forward to the early morning walk!
The point is that at some point in your life, you have to realize that if you do not do something to stop the slide, it will not stop. It will just continue until you are past the point of no-return. The sad thing about the point of no-return is that you do not really know when you are past it... until you are. In theory it is never too late to do something, but in practice it often is. So, if exercise has been on your mind but not in your body of late, make it a MUST. Devise strategies to make it happen. I suggest first thing in the morning before you do anything else, because then you CANNOT defer it for something "more important" because once this is a part of your routine, nothing else happens - period - until you have done this!
If his style works for you, try out the Hour Of Power from the Anthony Robbins program, Get The Edge!, or else simply devise what makes sense to you. Read appropriate health magazines (e.g. Prevention) and books that give you ideas on how to eat and exercise properly. Get yourself the education you need in the most important subject of all - your health and wellbeing. The important thing is that you do SOMETHING. It is when you do nothing that the slide continues by default. The most important leverage that you can get personally and professionally is the leverage of your own health. So, do it now, for your sake as well as for the sake of your family.
Copyright 2008. Asoka Selvarajah. All Rights Reserved.