Baby Steps for Change

I have been mulling over this blog post for quite some time.  I may have even written notes on it but getting it written hasn’t happened until today.
Why today?
Because yet again, I was reminded of it while watching a friend’s live video on Facebook.  She is trying to change some things in her life and asking for accountability to help make it happen.

Change is hard.  At least for me, change doesn’t come easily.  I doubt I’m the only one.  In fact I would guess that’s true for most of us.  Especially if the unwanted habit has been cultured for years.  A great example of resistance to change would be my first-born son.  I breastfed him and the experience was really great but there was not a lot of education back then on how to incorporate bottles of breast milk into his eating repertoire.  So consequently, he only had breast milk from the source for the first 6 months of his life when I decided to wean him.  There weren’t the options that are available now for breast pumps.  So I never left him longer than 3 or 4 hours at a time in the first six months.  At age 6 months, I tried weaning him to a bottle.  He would not take that bottle.  No.  My mother told me he would eventually get hungry enough to take it.  12 hours later, he did.  But again balked after being fed from the breast and trying another bottle, so I had to just cut him off cold turkey.  Had I started introducing a bottle to him much earlier as my daughter in law did, I feel he would have been a little easier to wean.  Maybe a lot.  But that pattern continued with him.  Every time I tried to introduce a new food, he wouldn’t eat it at first. It took days of patience trying to get him to try something new.  After a while, he would accept it, love it, and then not want to take the next new food.  I remember one very frustrating session of trying to get him to eat something, that I ended up in the next room crying, while he was sitting in his high chair crying. Other than that, he was a perfect baby.  Ha.
I am also change resistant.  I like continuity and predictability.  I love waking up in the same bed everyday, drinking the same cup of coffee every morning.  Routine. Yes, please!
While this can be a good quality in some ways, it also is much harder for us to give up negative habits.
Now I know a trick, or a “life hack” as they call them today.
Baby Steps.
Yes, that’s right.  Baby Steps.Baby Steps.jpeg
Think back to a time when a baby in your life was trying to learn to walk.  Did they just bounce out of bed one day and start walking across the room?  No.  I have never heard of a child doing this.  Instead they first learn to crawl which is a very slow way to get some where.  After they get the crawling down pat, they start to raise up and pull themselves up on furniture, their crib, etc…  They do a lot of standing before they can ever take a step.  The next thing they do is move side to side.  Again, no forward motion.  They walk around things while they learn to balance themselves.  Eventually they can stand up, and take a few steps probably to Mom or Dad who is anxiously encouraging them.
Finally, they take a few more steps and before you know it they are walking across that room.  Again to a lot of accolades.  So what do we learn from this?  That the whole walking thing is a slow process.  Small, minute changes, that eventually translate into positive change.
That is exactly what I mean when I say Baby Steps.

So how to use this concept in your efforts to change.   While some people can go cold turkey, walk away and change their habits,  I have a very addictive personality.  I believe it is an inherited trait.  I come from a family of alcoholics.  While I can have one drink every 6 months and not miss it, all that means is alcohol is not a trigger for me.  I have other triggers.  Any time I try to change my diet, my most successful changes have come about with small steps.  Like taking a tablespoon less of food at meal time.  Then after that becomes your normal, you take a little less.  Cut back on snacks.  Instead of having 3 treats a day, cut it back to 1 1/2.  Then eventually you can cut back to one and end up either cutting them out altogether, or living with one snack a day.  Which you could make a healthier snack.  Want candy?  Sugar is a big addiction for me.  I have found if I start eating fruit instead of candy, the sugar cravings go down.  By making small changes this past Fall, I was able to drop 10 pounds.  And it didn’t seem like I was making a huge effort.

Exercise is the same thing for me.  It doesn’t come naturally anymore.  I’m assuming it did as a child.  I have vague memories of playing outside a lot and being active roller skating, riding bikes, hula hooping, or even just walking everywhere I wanted to go.  When I became an adult, married with children and a house to take care of, meals to cook, and several more responsibilities, the time I was able to be active decreased greatly.  It was then that exercise really didn’t appeal to me.  Because it was exercise for the purpose of exercising.  Not socializing. I really believe that is what changed it for me.  It was no longer fun.  So I have struggled most of my adult life with getting enough exercise.  I guess if I’m being completely honest here there were some years where I didn’t even struggle.  I just gave in to no exercise.
Now I’m in my mid 50’s and I know how vital exercise is to keep me mobile, help with pain, and to stave off diabetes and other dreaded complications that come from not moving and gaining weight.  I can honestly say right now, not only is exercise no fun, but many times, it hurts.  I have fibromyalgia and the daily conundrum with this is trying to exercise to get relief from pain, but hurting during and after exercise.
As an aside, I’m a walker, not a runner.  I haven’t got an athletic bone in my body.  Truly.  I never did like running.  A friend and I went out for basketball in junior high and after about 2 weeks of practice realized, it’s a lot of running and not much ball handling.  We quit.  So I need to walk or ride my bike everyday to get the good stuff exercise gives you.  It lowers your blood pressure, your weight, your blood sugar, and releases feel good endorphins in your body which can counteract depression as well.  Wow.  I could be a salesman for exercise.  ha ha
Okay so no argument about it being good for you.  Where do you find the time?  How do you make yourself do it everyday?  These are questions I’ve asked, and I’ve heard others ask.  Time, is something you’ll have to decide on for yourself.  No matter when you do it, you need to plan it for when you’re going to be the most likely to follow through.  My current exercise has been walking.  Keeping track of my daily steps by using an app on my phone.  The recommended daily activity level is 10,000 steps for adults.  That wasn’t happening on a daily basis for me.  There could be a couple of days a month where I was extra active and hit that, but more than likely, I was down around 3,000 steps a day.  Pathetic, I know.  So I happened on an idea that has been working for me.  I lowered my goal!  I employed the baby step philosophy.  I changed my goal to 5,000 steps a day.  Yes.  half of what we’re “supposed to get.”  But I wasn’t getting that and I was falling very short of it, so towards the end of the day, it looked impossible and I stopped trying.  5,000 is very do-able.  I have hit my goal probably 90% of the time, or more, since I’ve implemented the new goal.   I start watching my steps about halfway through my day and take steps to reach my goal.  Do a few laps back and forth across the length of my house.  Or drive to a store and park as far from the store as possible and walk inside the store as well.  There have been several days where I’ve exceeded my goal.  This is all a win/win!  I’m moving much more than I was before which has resulted in my body feeling better and stronger.  The next step in this process will be to up my goal by another 1,000 steps a day.  Once I’m hitting that more times than not and feeling comfortable with it, I’ll increase another 500-1000 steps.

This works with anything you’re trying to change.  Want to read more?  Read every day for 10 minutes.  Then after a month, increase that time.  Bible study, prayer time, cleaning?  Set small goals and you will reach those.  Success breeds success.
So let’s get started taking those Baby Steps!

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