A Simple Tweak that Helps Me Exercise Every Day

Yesterday it was here again. 

The exhaustion and fatigue were back. From the moment I woke up, all I wanted to do was crawl back in bed and go to sleep. All I wanted to do was to forget this feeling. This is the kind of exhaustion that makes me sit in a chair that it will take me two hours to get up from. The kind that will make every movement a calculated, pre-planned event. I went to my room to change my clothes for a quick walk and I could not resist the urge to lay down on the bed. Just a few glorious minutes to rest. But I knew if I did not get back up quickly I would not get up for hours. 

This was a day for minimums. 

What are minimums? 

Minimums in goals are baby steps. They are ways to start goals and to maintain them even in the midst of sickness, busyness or emotional resistance. I think the first book that helped me see this was The Miracle Morning where the author talks about what you can do in the morning to set yourself up for greatness. He talks about devoting at least an hour each day to six practices (silence, affirmations, visualizations, exercise and reading). I loved the idea. But he also talked about something he called The Six-Minute Miracle. It was a way to spend 1 minute on each of the six activities when you are just too busy or too pressed for time. 

A One-Minute Miracle
That concept opened up my mind. My usual course is to create the “perfect schedule”; but then my perfect schedule would get infringed on somehow such as:  I would get up late, or have to leave for work early,  or I was traveling, or sick or horribly exhausted. Then my perfect schedule, my plans, my goals would go out the window. And the next day I would be back at the drawing board trying to create my “perfect schedule” anew. 

Those problems messed up my attempts at consistency. But not a six-minute miracle. I could spend ONE minute doing each of the most important things to me every morning. In fact, I could usually spend 10 minutes doing each of them. Suddenly as my time commitment contracted, it became possible for me to meet my goals without having to hit perfection every day. Wow, was that freeing. Total game changer for me. 

It allowed me to create goal minimums. Yes, I want to walk or exercise every day. But there is a whole lot of habit formation that goes into exercising every day for 30-60 minutes. And most often I was failing at that habit formation, meaning I wasn’t exercising. But I could walk for 10 minutes any day. Or do yoga for 10 minutes. Even on my worst days I thought I could reach 10 minutes. But if not, I could do at least one minute. I could manage ONE minute of exercise even on the bone-tired exhaustion days. It released me from the pressure of my “perfect schedule.” It suddenly turned goal setting from likely failure to a probable success. It freed me up to play around with goals rather than assign them to myself as some sort of heroic drudgery. 

I only work on one major goal each month but I might be fine-tuning and playing around with a five or six. But those other goals are just in my sandbox and they have minimum firmly attached to them. Even one-minute minimums. 

Don't Break the Chain
You have heard the Jerry Seinfeld trick of “don’t break the chain,” right? The way to learn to write is to write every day. You write one day and put a big red X with a marker through that day on a wall calendar. The next day you write again and another red X on the calendar. After a week, you have accumulated a chain of red Xs. Your only goal after that? Don't break the chain.  Goal minimums are the way that I “don’t break the chain.” They are the way I show up to the most important goals in my life each day. They are the key I have found to staying consistent. 

Like walking. I started walking every day several weeks ago and my only goal was to go for 10 minutes a day. It seems almost ridiculous to walk for 10 minutes but on a day like yesterday it didn’t seem so ridiculous. Even in my I-just-want-to-lie-down-and-never-get-up-again exhaustion, I could convince myself to go outside for just a few minutes for some fresh air and a change of scene. Those 10 minutes turned in to 20 minutes and I felt amazingly better after that walk even though it was short and sweet. I had met my goal, if only its minimum. Success!!

Now I have spent several weeks walking every Monday to Saturday. I have several weeks of habit formation under my belt. I have several weeks of daily exercise. My only goal is to get out their for 10 minutes each day. The fresh air, the sunshine, and stretching my legs have all become enticements to continue my walk each day. And I usually end up walking close to 30 minutes every day. I can feel myself getting stronger, more agile and more adept at this goal, and as those feelings continue, I find myself wanting to go a little farther or a little bit longer.

Additionally, I find myself doing some yoga and some stretching for 10-15 minutes after my walk. I love stretching and getting in tune with my body this way so it is like a treat after a walk. In just a few short weeks between my walk and my stretching, I am spending about 45 minutes "working out" six days a week. Who knew? And it has all begun from just one little minimum goal: to walk for 10 minutes a day. 

What are your keys to building habits? How do you motivate yourself to practice good habits? Would goal minimums help you like they did me? I would love to hear your insights. 


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