‘Habits’ and the Secret Ingredient That Makes Good Habits Stick
Last Month I Joined a Gym…
I haven’t been a member of a gym consistently for about a decade, maybe longer. I prefer the outdoor stuff and, having a dog, means I’ve always prioritised my running and cycling over indoor exercise. However, a series of injuries over many years has meant I’ve slowed to a walk.
And slowing down, plus the passing of years, has meant I’ve picked up a few aches and pains; old injuries that never seem to quite heal have been pushing other parts of my body out of alignment.
I’ve tried a few different therapies to sort things out and never quite managed to find something that worked. So, when a friend suggested I join a gym and focus on strength training, I thought,
Hmm, nothing to lose… maybe I’ll give it a try.
Well, normally life turnaround decisions like joining the gym come with a great deal of expectations.
It’s what typically happens at New Year: we see something about ourselves that we don’t like, and we resolve to change it…
…then ‘real life’ kicks in and the resolutions fall by the wayside. Without achieving the lasting change we desire.
What’s been interesting about my gym experiment, though, is the lack of attachment I’ve had to any results.
Sure, I joined because I thought (hoped, maybe) there was a chance I’d get some relief from the aches and pains. But I don’t think, deep down, I really believed it would make a difference. But I was prepared to go in, open minded, and treat it as an experiment.
I’ve noticed that when I’m at the gym, I’m at the gym. Full stop.
I’m not ‘at the gym thinking about my next target’, or ‘at the gym thinking about how many calories I’m using up’. I’m barely even counting my activity (although I do have a short routine I work through).
I genuinely feel as if I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. And that curiosity comes with a lightness and a playfulness that’s making me enjoy the process more than I expected.
The nature of an experiment is that we don’t know the results.
Maybe it will help, maybe I’ll love it, maybe I won’t, and I’ll want to stop. Or maybe it will be just something that melds into the flow of my day between the dog walking and my coaching.
And, as my month-long experiment draws to a close, it’s been pretty easy to make it part of my week and, don’t want to speak too soon (!), it seems to be having a positive impact on my injuries.
So much so I might even re-join next month!
It’s easy to look at someone else’s actions, results, or habits, and say,
Oh I’m going to do that!
…but it’s not always easy to see why it worked for them.
This isn’t as simple as me saying that I’m setting up an experiment, I really believed that’s what it was. I wasn’t trying to convince myself about anything, and I wasn’t trying to suppress deeply-held desires.
And there lies the crux with why most resolutions don’t work…
We have expectations, even when we tell ourselves we don’t.
Good habits become habits that stick because we do them, not because we want to do them. We’re describing a effect, not a cause.
The only thing that can make the difference is to know, at your core, that you’re OK in yourself, whether you get the result you’re aiming for, or you don’t. And whether you create a habit, or you don’t.
It’s back to that thorny paradox I talk about most of the time — wanting without wanting; knowing and letting go of knowing so we can immerse ourselves in the spectacular game of life.
And, sometimes, we get lost along the way.