A Reality Check on Baby Steps


True confession time: Sometimes I practice due diligence in various areas of my life and wonder what it’s all for because, really, is it actually doing anything?

Life circumstances lately have put me in a position to see the answer so clearly in one area of my life – health and exercise. It’s almost like someone wrote the response in big puffy writing in the sky:

“Sister, seriously? You didn’t know all those ab crunches were making your stomach leaner? Or that the elliptical machine you love to pound into submission while Lady GaGa and Pink keep you on pace was whittling down your thighs? Well, I guess you know now.”

Indeed I do. Two-plus months of being off my workout routine has made it abundantly clear that it was doing a whole lot. And not just giving me benefits visible to the eye, but in ways of how I hold myself and move in my body.

My life coaching clients are in deep trouble now. Because if they thought I was a preacher of “baby steps” and “habits” before, they have no idea how relentless I’ll be about it now.

In the weeks prior to having arthroscopic surgery, I was going to the gym and doing a routine that would keep my upper body strong. The 25-pound bar felt terrific in my hands as I worked on my biceps. I’ve been relying on upper body strength a lot since incurring the knee injury in February.

But what dawned on me as I stood before one of the many gym mirrors was the difference I could see in my lower body. Week after week, month after month, I had been doing cardio and ab work and I could see how soft I’d gone in a few short months of not doing it. Blessedly, I’m at a confident place in my life and not attached to perfection, but I made a mental note and, post-surgery, will begin a nice upward trajectory in addressing it.

It got me thinking about all those other due diligence areas of my life, though. Those habits that occasionally make me wonder, “Why oh why am I doing this?”

Take, for example, the routine of doing Morning Pages each day a la The Artist’s Way. This is three pages of stream of consciousness writing each morning, pen to paper, skimming the “fat” off the day to put it in author Julia Cameron’s words. I enjoy getting out my notebook each morning and riffing in my pages, but certainly on occasion find myself thinking it’s a luxury. Until I stop doing them.

Every single time I take a “break” from Morning Pages for a few days or a week I find myself a little off kilter. I rarely realize it’s the journaling at first, but then it hits me that this morning meditation is not some frivolous exercise but a valuable habit that makes my life better.

So much of what I work on with life coaching clients is getting them into habits. Exercising or journaling, sure. But also keeping their desk in some kind of order or meditating or putting away even a little bit of money each month.

The list goes on.

The idea, of course, is to improve our --  that’s theirs and mine -- quality of life by staying on top of things. Keeping up in small, steady increments that lead to big change. This is the secret to so much because it requires repetitive action that, in most cases, must continue for the rest of our lives if we’re to get and then maintain results.

It’s the “rest of our lives” part that hangs up most people in one area or another. We seem to have a more temporary mindset, as in, I’m going to eat so well until I lose those pounds and then I can go back to eating the stuff I had eliminated while practicing due diligence. I think we all know how that works out. Pounds come back and the cycle starts all over again.

And while the habits I’ve spoken of here might sound like the mundane stuff of life, what about a more pleasurable example? If you like to read but have very little time for it, yet manage to read a chapter a day on your daily train commute, doesn’t that get you through books at a nice clip?

This is one of those lessons in life that needs repeating regularly. I mean, I’m a life coach who pretty much has these principles down and I just had a major comeuppance looking in the mirror after a knee injury. That feels strangely good. A friend says sometimes these moments in life are like hitting a “reset” button. That is dead on.

I am embracing the desire to once again be in a routine and I don’t care how repetitive or mundane it is. How about that.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.