Step 4: Make Gradual Changes
The Wisdom of Baby Steps
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and TomorrowYou know Thomas Jefferson's saying: “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Jefferson certainly accomplished a lot in a lifetime, yet most of us are prone to procrastinate. Why? Because putting off a task delays the effort we must make. Making no attempt to get something done completely eliminates the chance that we'll fail. We tell ourselves we'll be in a better mood to do it later. We still have plenty of time, we say. We are comfortable in our warm, fuzzy old routine and doing something new is a risk—however small. READ MORE
Even when there is a task we really want to accomplish, our short-term decision-making doesn't always match up with our long-term needs. You set out your exercise clothes and shoes before you go to bed, but you hear the alarm the next day, click it off and go back to sleep. You can start working out tomorrow! Joseph Heath, a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto who has written extensively on procrastination, points out the value of acknowledging procrastination as a self-control problem and strategizing to overcome it. He says chronic procrastinators should draw on “the extended will,” predicting their procrastination and endeavoring to outmaneuver their future self. When you put your exercise clothes out for an early morning run, put them across the room from your bed—with your alarm clock on top. No reaching over to turn it off and snooze. It just might work. LESS
Do One ThingMichael D. Stein, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Community Health at Brown University, was seeing a patient who needed to exercise and change his diet to avoid serious health complications from diabetes. He did not hand the man a list of foods to avoid or an ambitious workout plan. He asked the patient this question: “What is one thing you can do tomorrow to start moving toward this goal?” Overwhelming grand plans are easy to reject out of hand, but a series of small changes is easier to accomplish. If you are trying to improve your health and well-being, here are some changes to try, one at a time:
- Add extra vegetables to your soup or pasta sauce
- Take the stairs, not the escalator
- Take two minutes to write down five things you have done well today
- Put your fork down halfway through your lunch and take a deep breath. Are you really still hungry?
- If you work at a desk, make a rule to always stand or pace when you're on the phone, rather than remaining seated.
- Lower your thermostat by 5 degrees at night to encourage better sleep.
- Replace dairy products with fat-free versions.
- Walk for 10-20 minutes each day before lunch, even if you're getting exercise at other times of the day.
- Angry or stressed out? Counting to 10 before reacting is an old trick, and a good one. Try doing it while smiling.