You might think this post is about Em walking. And in fact, it could be. She decided crawling was a bit labor intensive and proceeded to walking after a few short weeks. We call her Stumblina (which is maybe a step up from Drooela Devil.) But this post isn't about Em walking. It's about making changes without getting overwhelmed and giving up.
Have you ever seen the movie What About Bob? My husband keeps a picture of Bill Murray in his wallet, mostly so he can joke about how he keeps a picture of Bill Murray in his wallet. Great actor, great show. One of the leading characters, the therapist Leo Marvin, is the author of Baby Steps, a book he uses to encourage his patient, Bob, to overcome his fears by approaching tasks in small increments.
I know it's meant to be humorous in the movie, but I can't help but feel like the baby steps concept is utterly profound. I'm constantly tricking myself into accomplishing tasks and goals by breaking them into little steps. Do you ever get so overcome by the enormity of a task that you don't do anything at all? I once complained to a friend that I just couldn't make myself run on the treadmill, to which she responded: "You know, you can walk on a treadmill." Oh.
So I started walking on the treadmill, and then that turned into running, which turned into a marathon. (Just kidding--even the concept of a 10k terrifies me). On mornings when I felt particularly unmotivated I'd tell myself, "Just put your running shoes on. Just walk for a few minutes." Getting started was the hardest part, but once that was behind me, I'd usually end up running for a decent stretch of time.
On days when tackling the laundry seems daunting, I do a single load instead. Eating three healthy, well-proportioned meals a day feels impossible, but I can at least manage a healthy breakfast (most days...) I can unload the dishwasher, even if I don't have time to clean the whole kitchen. My husband and I can make time for a monthly date night, since a weekly date isn't feasible right now. I can call one friend I've been neglecting, and revive my interest in a hobby I've put on the back burner. Of course I can't do all of those things all at once. But every now and then, I can slip in something that will improve my life and increase my sense of accomplishment.
The hardest part is giving yourself credit for what you've accomplished. I once heard the idea of making a "done" list instead of always a "to-do" list. It's empowering to pause and recognize all that you've achieved. Earlier today I started feeling like I'd had an entirely unproductive Saturday, so I made myself create a mental list of everything I'd done. And it was more than I realized.
A few months back I came across a wonderful article, "10 Tips to Change Yourself from a Dedicated Couch-Potato to a Gym Enthusiast" by Gretchen Rubin. One of the strategies is: "Any work-out 'counts.' Give yourself credit for the least effort." This can apply to anything, not just physical fitness. Give yourself credit for having a desire to be healthier, even if it takes a while for that desire to transform into action.
Another challenge is having compassion on yourself when you don't accomplish your goals--even the small, should-be-manageable ones. The trick is not allowing yourself to become discouraged to the point that you give up altogether. Just try again. Always try again.