Thursday, June 7, 2007

The One Percent Solution

We all face it from time to time. The insurmountable task. The “should” that looks like Mt. Everest. We know we should do it. We may even want to do it. But it just seems like too much to tackle. Maybe it is a goal to exercise, to save money, to make time to create, to file the mountain of paperwork that threatens an avalanche. Whatever it is, we each face our own Everest at times.

My challenge right now is getting fit again. When I last wrote about this topic I was gearing up again. Getting my head ready to take on this insurmountable task. Well, here I am, three months later, and having made very little progress. I have excuses…..don’t we all! But re-read that sentence….”having made very little progress.” Did I say no progress. Nope. I have made some progress.

As I finished my session on the exercise bike this morning I felt good for doing it. But then the judgement started to creep in. “Yeah, but you haven’t exercised since last Wednesday. Who are you kidding?” You know the drill. A minimum of three times per week for at least thirty minutes, right? Ideally five or six hours per week, with a mix of aerobic, strength and flexibility training. I know what is “supposed” to happen. I have been there. But I am not there now. And it would be easy to beat myself up for my failures.

But I didn’t. No. I decided to celebrate the fact that I had exercised at least once a week for two weeks in a row. I decided I needed a new approach to this whole enchilada. No three days per week, or five hours, or whatever. Not yet. All that works great for people who are already in shape. And for those of you who are, congratulate yourself for taking care of yourself. But stay tuned. This is not just for dieters and exercisers. This is for any challenge we face.

Years ago, after I got out of college, and I was struggling to get myself established far from home in my first apartment, I knew I needed to start saving. But how? It seemed like outflows could easily exceed inflows for ever and ever. And they could have. But they didn’t. What did I do? I read an article in a magazine about what I now call the One Percent Solution. I don’t know what they called it, but that is what I am calling it now.

The solution was this. The first month I would save one percent of my income for that month. That was it. No more. Just one percent. Think how easy that sounds. And by doing it, you suddenly feel like you are doing something about that impossible task. The next month, make it two percent. Still sounds manageable doesn’t it? And it was. It was easy. I knew I could do it. And I did. And I continued this pattern for each month till I was putting at least ten percent of my income into savings. Any large, unexpected chunk of money that came my way, I would put into savings, except for ten percent. That was my “wild money”. I could spend it any way I wanted. No need to justify or explain. Just have fun with it. It is amazing how much thought you will put into spending wild money!

Similarly, my husband and I did a mini-triathalon many years ago. I had been working out regularly then, but not feeling very motivated or inspired. My husband was even a little less motivated than me. I was reading an article in American Health magazine (no longer in print) about their Conch-a-thon. It was a triathalon that was being held in the Bahamas in November. This sounds pretty sweet when you live in New England. They mapped out a complete six month training schedule. Start here. Follow the schedule. And end up being ready to complete a triathalon. A Conch-a-Thon is unlike a regular triathalon. No one keeps track of times or places. There is a big clock at the finish line for those who absolutely must know their finishing time. There is a photographer taking pictures as people cross the finish line. But that is what it is about. Getting across that finish line. Accomplishing the goal. No matter how slow or inelegantly. I embraced this philosophy whole-heartedly. I had a secret desire to do a triathalon for years, but was intimidated by the running part. I hated to run. I could swim and bike. But running was a struggle. I looked at the training schedule, and suddenly the unattainable seemed entirely possible.

The first day all we had to do was run or walk for half a mile. That was it. And it started out at only three days per week. The progression was gradual. I never grew to love running, and I found my comfortable limit was four miles. Beyond that I had pain in my hips and knees that stayed with me all day long. But I did run up to six miles in training. Before I started the program I did not think I could do it.

None of these accomplishments were easy. They all had their struggles. But they were easier. I was not asking myself to go from zero to sixty in mere seconds. It was a gentle ease into the process. Making it as painless and doable as possible.
So I now am looking at the one day a week as an accomplishment. Next week two days. That’s it. And I am only asking myself to do fifteen minutes each time. Eventually I will get there. Five days a week for thirty minutes or more a day. But right now, I have to ease into it. I have to be gentle to my body and my psyche.

So what is your Mount Everest?

More time for your art work? How about ten minutes once a week. That is it. Make it so easy you can hardly believe how simple it is to accomplish.

Starting to sell your artwork? Pick one thing to research and understand better. A shop near you. A show to visit, or learn about on-line. Esty. Take the baby step forward to learn a bit more about one thing. One way to begin to move toward your goal.

Whatever the goal, break it down to them most simple, doable step possible. Something that you can slowly build on over time.

Revel in your achievement. Even those itsy bitsy baby steps. They count. They are movement. However glacial. And they are the momentum that will continue your forward movement. I dare you. Give it a try.


Linda said...

Hi Judy,

When I started working out again for the umpteenth time at the age of 46 I got a trainer. She was 20 something and did the whole "at least three times a week, at least 40 minutes hard cardio each time" What my best bud, Alicia pointed out that there are days when getting the exercise clothes ON is a major accomplishment. Getting my fat fanny to the gym - HUGE. It is all perspective. Give yourself lots of space and respect. Please note, I no longer see that trainer and my fanny is still fat!

Love, Linda

Judy said...

Thank you Linda! It is all perspective isn't it? And I am not looking to get back to triathalon shape.....just make life a bit easier and more comfortable than it is out of shape. But shutting out that 3 x's per week mantra was huge, and lifted a big burden from the process. I will get there eventually. But it will be kinder and gentler. I appreciate your experience.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the new philosophy and idea about the small chunks a week at a time. I too have been struggling with my weight and this idea is the best I've come across. It's also good for poly clay work too.