I’m sure you’ve heard the adage that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step, or maybe you prefer eating an elephant one bite at a time. Either way, the principle is the same: don’t be overwhelmed by what’s in front of you, just focus on the next step, the next bite. This is absolutely true for trying to get healthy; instead of worrying about how to eat perfectly, it’s more important to make small consistent changes.
What very few people really bring into the discussion with the journey or the elephant, is making sure that it is really the journey that you think it is, or that it’s the right elephant. This falls under the saying “better the devil you know.” I don’t know that anyone rationally agrees with this idea, but we all viscerally do. It’s a lot easier to stay in a painful-but-known situation than switch to an unknown situation where we hope that things will be better. A lot of times, we don’t even really believe that it could be better, unless we have actually seen someone else survive the journey.
But maybe things aren’t really THAT BAD. Maybe I just need to make a few changes and it’ll turn around.
The unseen danger with this, is that I stop trying to change my destination: I’m just trying to make the journey more pleasant. So maybe I start tracking my calories and drinking a gallon of water a day, because that’s what “they” say to do. And maybe I start losing weight, but then I’m hungry all the time instead. So then I catch myself eating more donuts from the office break room. Well, that’s not working. And on and on. Three months down the road, if that long, I’m right back in the same spot I was, except I have a harder time not grabbing a donut when I see one. The problem with that is I am trying to tweak my health instead of making significant changes.
You see this tweaking occur with exercising, medicine, diet, jobs, and life in general. When you get caught in the trap, you don’t usually realize that you are spinning your wheels. It’s like playing the same course in Mario Kart a thousand times – you can get really good at it, but you’ve never made real progress in the game.
The key to avoiding or getting out of the trap is having a dream and laying out way-points to stay on-course. Then you can take those steps, those bites of the elephant.
It’s hard though, if you feel like you are doing it all alone. You’ll see your old friends staying on the same old path, or you’ll see them sitting over there eating a buffet of pizza while you are trying to eat your elephant, and without someone there to encourage you, to remind you of how much benefit you’ve already received, and to remind you of your dream, then you’ll probably put it all aside and go back to your old friends and your old “devils” until the pain becomes too much again.
If you want to succeed, find new friends, a mentor, a coach, maybe just a Facebook group – capitalize on the fact that we are herd-creatures, and see how easy those first steps can be when you are part of a herd moving in that direction. A small step out of your rut can feel as hard as a giant stride in your rut, but when you are part of a group that are forging a new path it gets easier – plus it is comforting to be following someone’s footprints.