Building Habits Slowly is the Foundation for Success

A story related to me from a friend. When I worked in New York City, I found myself getting into some bad habits. I took the train to work and got off at the station that was closest to my office. I had a checkup and my doctor was not very happy with my numbers. I needed to change my ways. She said I needed to get more exercise and eat better.

I did some research on diets and found that adding more fiber to my diet was a great way to be more full and hence eat less. I started eating oatmeal frequently for breakfast and increased my intake of fruits and vegetables. I didn’t give up sweets altogether but scaled back on them significantly. But I didn’t do this all at once. I incorporated these diet changes over several weeks.

As for my exercise, I decided to start walking. Even here, I started out slowly. For about a week or two, I decided to get off at the train station that was a couple blocks away from where I worked (both to and from work). As I got used to the pace, I started taking the train station two stops away from my work. Since this took longer to walk, I had to increase my pace a bit in order to make sure I wasn’t late for work.

I continued this process of choosing train stops further away from my office until I was walking about three miles per day. I was also power walking because of the distance. Because I built this up slowly, it became a natural part of my routine and I found myself eager to walk.

In my next checkup, the doctor was amazed at my results and told me to keep doing what I was doing. My results weren’t just an improvement. She told me the results of my checkup were fantastic.

The point is not necessarily to go to work in New York City (unless you want to). It’s that I was able to build up good habits by doing so in a slow and steady manner. Had I tried to walk three miles in that first week, I don’t believe I would have been successful. By making small changes over the course of several months, it became a part of my life and something that I enjoyed doing.

Of course, during the times when there was bad weather, I did scale back my walking on those days. But it just made me more willing to get back to it the next day.

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