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The "Magic Trick"

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

It's been said before. It will be said again later by others. It bears repeating.

There is really only one "Magic Trick" to improving our lives, and that is embodied in a single word:

CONSISTENCY

It is the magic behind Spark Streaks. When we start with emoticon it is so seemingly small.

What will one 10-minute workout do? What will one day of eating within a reasonable calorie range do? What will one night of 7-8 hours of sleep do? What will brushing our teeth twice in one day do?

It can feel like nothing much. There's no big flashing lights to celebrate that we did one small thing good for us for one day. There's no obvious non-scale victories that we can see and measure out of one time.

But then we apply the "Magic Trick" of CONSISTENCY.

Day 1 becomes Day 2 becomes Day 3. Even if we only make it to Day 7 before we slip, if we start right back over at Day 1 as soon as possible, it starts to add up in tremendous ways.

Day 1 is a snowflake. emoticon Beautiful and solitary, but not having much power beyond its uniqueness.

Day 31 is a snowball, able to carry an amount of force if thrown, holding the promise of a snowman.

One month of 10-minute workouts can have measurable results. What had us huffing and puffing and perhaps even cussing on Day 1 is likely to feel surprisingly easy on Day 31. (On my Day 1, I walked less than a mile in 15 minutes and danced 10 minutes. On Day 31 I walked around a mile-and-a-half in 22 minutes and spent around 20-30 minutes doing a small Strength Training workout.)

Day 100 is the snowman's lower body, a clear idea of the size and shape of things to come.

A season (thirteen weeks) of consistent healthy habits can have very visible results. For some that is weight lost. For others it is more energy, better ability to handle stress, getting sick less often, being able to walk further than the end of the driveway, or just feeling mentally alert. Depends on the habit, depends on the starting point, but Day 100 is almost certain to reward us.

Day 473 and I think I've almost got the head to set on top. I think I've only missed doing some sort of physically active thing one day - back in December 2011 when my foot was hurting badly.

Now, that's not Day 473 of being perfect.

Far from it.

I've had numerous days where I didn't eat as reasonably as I planned. I've overeaten by 3000+ calories OVER my range on a few occasions.

I've had days where I didn't really put my all into my workouts and was more on cruise control.

I've had days where I didn't get more than 1 or 2 hours of sleep.

I've had days where I totally failed to clean my teeth.

BUT, I never stopped through all those 473 days. I always accomplished at least something. I tracked every one of those days. Well, not even that perfectly. There are two recent days that my tracking was slipshod. I got completely behind on everything I needed to do and by the time I went to track I couldn't begin to guess if I'd had 3 of something or 4 or 9. I just estimated reasonably high (1500 over calories) and tracked what I could remember.

Consistency does not mean perfection.

If Day 7 is a complete wash, we have two choices.

The choice that emotionally destroys people over time is giving up because the streak ended. We quit. We don't try again until something motivates us - often something that hurts (physically or emotionally) more than "failing" at our streak did.

Think of those snowflakes combining together and building up in a snowball. Something happens that makes us feel like we'll never get it big enough - perhaps it rolls off the snow and onto bare cement. So we turn our backs on it and walk away. The seasons change and what we had accomplished melts away in the sun.

The better choice is found in consistency. Day 8 becomes a NEW Day 1, a fresh start to the streak, but we don't give up. Now we have a 7-day streak as a goal to beat. (Or it could be a 300-day streak we break. It doesn't matter which day, only that we get right back to it.)

Again those snowflakes. Instead of walking away completely, we get that snowball back on the snow-covered ground and keep rolling. We aren't starting fresh with a single snowflake (or handful) - we're starting with all the progress and momentum we have so far. It might be called Day 1 of the streak, but it is still Day 8 of the overall journey.

emoticon and build your future through CONSISTENCY emoticon

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And one last thought - CONSISTENCY needs to be about DO, not SAY. No matter how many times we tell others or ourselves we will do something, it won't get done until there is CONSISTENT action.

Ending with a semi-relevant quote:

** What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. **
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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