When I found my Word of the Year (it would be more correct to say that it found me), I didn’t realise what a big call being “bien dans ma peau” actually is.
At one point I had to admit – reluctantly – that being well in my skin included being well under my skin and that my early morning walks were not enough to that effect.
Being a femme d’un certain âge with a fragile back, a healthy dislike of gyms and a complicated relationship with anyone who tries to tell me what to do promised for a difficult search …
How I found the right Thing
I had been wrinkling my nose on quite a number of classes, trainers and courses when I heard about individual sessions with a lady who is both a Pilates trainer and an osteopath. That sounded like quality!
The first time I saw all the Pilates machines with their bars, wires, steel springs and screws, I felt that I had just stepped into a state-of-the-art medieval torture chamber :))
But the therapist was calm, friendly, knowledgeable, precise. To my immense surprise I found that it was an altogether pleasant experience, and more importantly I felt great afterwards!
I had found my ‘thing’.
On I went, diligently familiarising myself every week with the secrets of the ‘Reformer’ and the ‘Cadillac’ and giving myself brownie points for showing up week after week.
How I lost the Right Thing
Then summer happened. Did I mention that I am not a summer person?
It was hot. There was construction work on our train line during the whole summer, so no trains into the City.
It was too hot. There was construction work in the streets of Paris during the whole summer, so driving became an exercise in kamikaze.
It was way too hot. My beloved Paris became ’that sticky City’, the last place on earth I wanted to be.
I cancelled one session. Then the next. Oh well, I had been really regular so far, hadn’t I? Didn’t I deserve a little break?
Coming back to the studio after a not-entirely-planned 6 weeks’ break, I was surprised – again – how good it felt, and promised to not let myself being influenced by stupid excuses in the future.
And then, between one pull (“Let’s take the red steel spring, you can manage”) and one push (“All the way until the end, Rima!”), I had an epiphany: I would do it again (finding excuses, that is). There would be travel coming up, stressful weeks, unexpected work obligations, train strikes, rain, snow and all the flotsam and jetsam of life. They all would whisper into my ear that just this once was a legitimate reason to postpone my session and before I knew it, two months would have passed …
When you want to create a new habit, the first thing you need to do is to make it easy and obvious for this new habit to become part of your life. I had ticked all those boxes: cleared my agenda, found the right form of exercise and a practitioner I liked, the studio was not too far from home, the sessions at a convenient time…
But sometimes this is not enough, as I had just proven to myself. Clearly, even with all the goodness happening, we were still a long way from being an inseparable pair, Pilates and I.
The next level to anchor a new habit is to make it really, really hard to _not_ do it.
How to create stick-to-itis
Given my innate laziness when it comes to working out, I had to do something drastic (#knowthyself). Since these are private sessions, I couldn’t ask a friend to come with me and keep me accountable. Since there is sophisticated equipment involved, I couldn’t just hire the therapist to come to my house and force me out of my office chair.
So I did the next best thing: I wrote a check then and there for 6 months worth of sessions and we are not talking here about a discounted gym membership for 19,99 a month: private sessions with a PT in Paris are NOT cheap, what is more, those sessions have a limited validity.
In short, I had just laid so much money on the table that even my well developed inner resistances didn’t stand a chance. In six months’ time regular Pilates exercise will hopefully have become a no-brainer. And if not, well, then I’ll pull out my checkbook…
I’m telling you this story to make you chuckle. But also to make you think just in case you started something good and then ‘somehow’ fell off the wagon:
Where do your resistances sabotage you? Which habit or practise do you struggle with to keep going, although you know perfectly well that it is good for you, that it pulls you into the direction you want for yourself, that it is necessary for the better version of yourself?
Yes, motivation, alignment with our values, the big Why, enjoyment are all necessary ingredients. But: have you ever experienced that they are not enough? (Of course you have!).
Then it’s time for the next level: make it impossible to not do it!
Before you even start, get rid of two notions:
- drop any notion of ‘should’: I should be able to do this easily, naturally, without having to trick myself, everyone else on Instagram can do it etc etc etc. That is simply a trick of your mind to delay action.
- Drop the idea that you have to feel ‘right’, as in 100% ready, motivated and happy to do it. No one does, and certainly not in the beginning. Decide once and for all that you will not let your momentary disposition get into the way with what you have decided it right for you, period.
How to make it impossible to drop out
Accountability: Some people thrive on public accountability. Is that you? If so, announce your intention on FB, tell all your friends and especially your snooty frenemy about your plans, make as much noise as possible.
Buddy up: Find a friend with whom you can team up and who would be really disappointed and/or give you a hard time if you dropped out. Or find a group or a team who would be in the lurch without you.
Money: When it comes to money, it is so much better to invest into a person: a trainer, a coach, a teacher, a professional rather then in a thing.
Even the most sophisticated class or tool or equipment will not have the same impact, because there is always the risk, no likelihood that they’ll end up in a dark corner before you sell them on Ebay, something that is much harder to do with a sentient being :).
Design your environment: When you have no telly and are surrounded by books, you have every chance of becoming a reader. When you have only high quality and well fitting clothes in your wardrobe, guess what you’ll wear? When the first thing in the morning you stumble upon are your sport clothes, you have every chance to putting them on and head out of the door.
Know thyself. When you know yourself, you’ll also know when you are at your best and when you are at your weakest. Are you more likely to wolf down chocolate after 4 pm, browse the internet to buy useless appliances for your kitchen at 2 am or being no good for anything, least of all a 5K run before 9 am? Plan accordingly instead of telling yourself that really, you ‘should’ …
Build in reminders. Do not believe for one minute that you won’t at times ‘forget’ to drink your water, note your expenses, cook your veggies and yes, go to Pilates class. Turn off all those other notifications on your phone and put in reminders for the few things that really matter!
Start again. When, not if, life happens, you forget, are tired, are fed up, are bored, drop the ball – start again. And again. And again. Don’t even waste your time blaming yourself, your partner, the weather, your boss or the politics. Don’t go for lengthy analyses about why and how you ‘failed’. Get up, dust yourself off and start again.
Done is better than perfect. So whatever you want to create until the end of the year and beyond: make it easy and if possible fun. And then make it really difficult and unpleasant to not do it.
Just in case :).
I’m off to my Pilates lesson.