Diet and Exercise Motivation Productivity

Building Habits with Paper Clips – Day 17

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 9 days since I’ve updated you on my walking habit and tracking it with a paper clip chain. I haven’t taken my walk for today, but it is a high-priority task for this evening after it cools down a little. I didn’t get to walk in the cool of the morning and it’s currently 93 degrees here!

This past week I was traveling for four days, teaching a class near Nashville, Tennessee. I’m usually there at least once, and sometimes twice, a month, but I rarely leave the little area between the hotel and the office because they are right next to each other. Since I had four different walks this week, I trekked out in a different direction each day. It was really nice to explore the area and see some area I’ve never seen before. I even found some new restaurants that are within walking distance–of course, as Stephen Wright says, “Everything is walking distance if you’ve got the time.”

When I’m at home, I usually walk the same route, and walk it in the morning. When I’m traveling, I typically walk in the evening. This affords me some time to change gears after teaching all day. I also tend to walk further when I walk in the evenings because I don’t usually have time-sensitive things to do in the evenings. I walk in the mornings on my last day because I know I won’t have any other opportunity to fit in an hour for walking that day. Because I have to be in class at a certain time, that walk is usually only an hour long. When I walk in the evenings, it’s not uncommon to walk for two hours or more.

Overall, I don’t feel that I’ve changed much in the last two weeks, but when I look at those things I can quantify, I can see a lot of changes in a small amount of time:

  • I’ve lost five pounds.
  • I haven’t made a conscious effort to change my eating habits, but I’ve noticed that I’m eating less and making healthier choices. If I really want a desert, or a bigger portion, I’ll get it, but I find that I want these much less than before I was walking daily.
  • I’m sleeping better and sleeping less.
  • I’ve shaved 8 minutes off my regular 2.7-mile walk around my neighborhood–what used to take me an hour now takes me 52 minutes.

I’ve been thinking about some of my reasons I’ve been particularly successful with this goal. I think the biggest reason is because I’ve made it the perfect size for me. I’ve allowed a lot of flexibility as well. I think that most of us make our goals far too rigid when they don’t have to be. Then we beat ourselves up and get discouraged when we don’t meet those goals. My overall goal is to, “Walk for 45-minutes for 40 days in a row.”

  • It includes a relatively short time frame that I ought to be able to work into most days, regardless of how busy I may be.
  • I can exceed the specified time frame if I want to, and I have exceeded it every day, but the minimum that I allow myself is very doable.
  • It’s not dependent on any particular location. If I had added, “on a treadmill” to the goal, then I would limit myself to only those times and locations where a treadmill was available. By keeping the goal flexible I increase my options and also the likelihood that I’ll be successful.
  • I can walk any time that works for me. If I had added, “first thing every morning” to the goal, then that would also be a limiting factor that would discourage me the first time I over slept.
  • The goal isn’t dependent on many external pieces. I don’t need much special equipment or a special location. I do need to travel with my walking shoes, athletic socks, and t-shirts now, but other than that, I don’t need much else to be successful. I’ve already proven that I can walk in the rain (after last Friday’s thunderstorm), but I could also walk the halls of a hotel or a local mall if I needed to.

I think there is a clear lesson here that when we are building a habit, we need to be very careful to make those steps the perfect size for us, with the perfect amount of flexibility so that we will stick with them. What have you discovered about  the flexibility with your own goals?

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  • Reply
    8/6/2007 at 11:29 am

    Hey, Ricky, this sounds great!!

    I’m having success with the daily T’ai Chi Chih, too. I gave up the idea of the calendar image on my desktop as motivation. It was just not a pleasant thing to look at for the most part. I decided instead to join the August Challenge at All I do is post that I’ve done the workout each evening. So far so good. I’m down a little over a pound after two weeks.

  • Reply
    8/6/2007 at 1:50 pm

    Anita – I’m excited to hear about your success! Keep up the good work!

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