When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with my dad who has always been a fan of Westerns. By the time I was in middle school, I was not only familiar with the Duke but also the large cast of cowboy regulars, including (among others) Ben Johnson, Ward Bond, Richard Boone, and Jack Palance.
Jack Palance is probably best remembered in the Under-50 crowd for his last movie, City Slickers, for which he won a Best Supporting Oscar in 1992. (It’s also the one where he did one-handed pushups on the stage!) For those of you who haven’t seen this movie, it’s about a burnt-out executive and his friends (Billy Crystal, Bruno Kirby and Daniel Stern) who go on a modern day cattle drive as a vacation. They are going to play Cowboys and Jack Palance’s Curly, the real deal, offers Crystal some advice about the meaning of life: to paraphrase, it’s one thing. You find your ‘one thing’ and stick to it. Everything else doesn’t mean crap (Curly’s Law- One Thing).
While cowboys, cattle drives and crusty old actors might not seem relevant to weight loss, Curly’s Law has a lot to do with it! Most of us– me included– want to get to our goal weight RIGHT NOW! Yesterday is not soon enough for us! All of us have been guilty of trying to rush this but weight loss, health, fitness, whatever your goal is, cannot be rushed. Our bodies need time to burn fat, to build muscle or to repair the damage caused by a lifetime of poor eating and lack of activity. It doesn’t happen overnight or even over the course of a couple of weeks! So, in an effort to ‘speed things up,’ we try doing everything we can to lose as much weight as we can in the shortest amount of time. In short, we try to do everything at once!
Before we go loading up on all the supplements, protein shakes and filling our fridge with the latest superfoods, remember one thing, and that is One… Thing. Find the one thing you want to start with and that’s what you focus on! Before you start making excuses about how if doing one thing is good, then more things must be better and faster, it’s also harder! If your plan is waking up a half hour earlier so you can spend that time on the treadmill before you jump in the shower and go to work and you opt to have a protein shake for breakfast and then walk during lunch time and then prepare a healthy dinner in the evening, meditate for twenty minutes and turn off the tv or tablet an hour before going to bed along with drinking 8 glasses of water all day and journaling before you fall asleep, that really sounds like a great routine! I know a lot of people who would approve a healthy plan like that, focused on good nutrition, lots of exercise followed by quality rest and relaxation!
If you also think it sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is a whole lot of work! It also sounds really healthy so there are probably more than a few of us who are busy drawing up similar schedules to start on bright and early on Monday morning or even for January 1st. The problem is that after a few short weeks, whenever you start, you’ll find yourself falling behind on your new Healthy Routine. It’s not that you lack willpower or stamina or are lazy. It’s that Real Life gets in the way! Because you are starting so many new routines at once (even if you call it ‘one’), you haven’t had the chance to build them up into regular habits.
What happens to your Healthy Routine when you get stuck running an errand during your ‘meditation time’? What happens when you have to work through your ‘lunchtime walking’ to finish a project that goes to the client by mid-afternoon? What do you do when you sleep through your alarm or have to work late into the evening or anything else that happens unexpectedly in our lives? When we get knocked off balance and start missing our new goals, it’s easier to forget to get back on track or worse, we get discouraged and give up on them. No one likes to hear this either, but it takes time to develop a new habit, just like it takes time to lose weight and build muscle! Remember: One Thing.
One thing is easier to do than two or three or five. One thing is easier to keep track of than two or four, and when you focus on one thing, you can do your best with it instead of giving it a few minutes of your attention every day. When you are already in the habit of eating healthy, it’s easier to adjust when you are faced with non-healthy choices. When you are in the habit of waking up a half hour earlier, it’s harder to oversleep and easier to get back into your routine. When all of these new behaviors aren’t new anymore and are part of your normal routine, there is actually less to remember and much less work.
Think about it: you don’t make a list of things you need to do when you get up every morning, like shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, find your keys, find your phone, grab your purse/ briefcase, grab your coat, etc. Likewise, you don’t use GPS to find your way home from work every day either. In fact, these are the kinds of things most of us do on Auto Pilot because we have done them repeatedly. This is our goal with our Healthy Routine!
This is actually how I knew that my gym routine had become a habit: not only did I pack my gym bag in the morning on gym days without a reminder, I also drove to the gym without thinking about it! Yes, it took time to develop this habit, but once it became a part of my routine I had to remind myself not to bring my gym bag on holidays when the gym closed early! The gym is one less thing for me to focus on, which means I can focus my attention on something else I want to work on in my Healthy Routine, like going to bed on time!
There is a bonus once we remember to do One Thing and that is we keep making progress even if we aren’t doing everything we want on our Healthy Routine. While we may be struggling with the work outs or the meditation, once we’ve got the lunch time walking and the healthy dinners down pat, those habits are still moving us towards our goals! We are still making progress and the more we build on a strong foundation, the faster we progress to our goals. We just need to be patient and remember: One Thing.