One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is readiness. I look back on successful attempts to change anything in my life, and it seems as if there’s some hard-to-define but important attitude shift that makes it possible to at least get started and endure the preliminary discomfort of making sacrifices and adopting new habits. And there are so many more unsuccessful attempts, where that attitude shift wasn’t there, and I spun my wheels for a while and then just gave up.
Take now, for example. I’ve been pretty focused lately on getting myself to the gym as many nights a week as I can. Something in me just clicked and allowed me to march myself into the gym, pay the signup fee, buy the clothes and the bag and the water bottle and the iPod and risk looking like a big, chubby, uncoordinated dimwit 3-5 nights a week as I attempt to work out. Something has made that possible.
And, just as interestingly, right now I seem to lack the indefinable something that I would need in order to get my eating into a principled and controlled place. I haven’t been at all careful about what I eat, and while it’s certainly not as bad as it’s been at times in the past, I’m aware of eating less well and healthily than would be ideal.
So what is it? I think after a time it becomes momentum, where the changes take on their own weight, and the change barrels down the hill on its own. At least for me that seems to be the case—whether it’s weight loss or exercise or some other life-change, I can feel the different behaviors become habits after a time. But what about the very earliest stages of change, where you not only decide you want something to be different, but you actually act on that desire and see it through until the momentum can take over? That’s the part that feels like kind of a mystery to me.
In my Great Weight Loss Experience of 2000, I remember approaching the whole thing like a time-limited experiment. I chose to use the Atkins approach, and I remember thinking that I’d give it a couple of weeks, eat according to their crazy plan and see what happened in my body. And then I could stop if I felt like it. Two things happenend: 1. I lost 12 lbs. 2. I felt good. At that point, both of those things gave me the motivation that I needed to continue. But I don’t for the life of me remember what gave me the gumption, the courage, the motivation, the whatever, to make all those changes before I knew what was going to happen.
So what’s the difference between then and now? I could embrace a particular kind of eating back then, but now I just can’t be bothered. And yet I seem able to make another kind of change in my life by exercising regularly. I’d hate to think that I have some finite amount of change-readiness in my psyche, and I can only take on one thing at a time. Or, worse yet, that I am only able to choose one healthy lifestyle behavior at a time. All I know is that there’s some kind of a click, and sometimes I get there and sometimes I don’t.
Oh, and I weighed myself this morning, and my digital scale told me I weighed 4 lbs. Either it’s time to buy a new scale, or this gym thing is REALLY working for me.