Daily physical movement is a life-long journey, and a big part of lifelong sustainability is adopting a learning mindset that allows us the flexibility to learn from our experiences and see each day as a wonderful new possibility. In this way, we learn to sidestep challenges, or discover creative ways to overcome them, walk around them, or dance with them. So, let’s talk about “Sustainability Training” – the simple strategies you can use to make sure that what you’ve learned during “Everything Counts” becomes a way of life.
Week 4. A New DO: Adopt a Learning Mindset for Lifelong Sustainability
There’s no target to hit – instead, we’re aiming for consistency. These scientifically supported and time-tested strategies will help you learn how to navigate and negotiate physical activity within your own lovely, complex life.
- Strategy #1: Begin with the end in mind. There’s no need to rush into fitness. Remind yourself that you’re on a lifelong journey of daily movement. You will change and grow in your interests and abilities, and the physical activities you choose to do on any given day will change as you change. Remember: Lifelong sustainability is powered by personal choice, enjoyment, and the understanding that you are fueling yourself for what matters most.
- Strategy #2: Pay attention to how you feel. Our body continually sends us feedback about what it needs: Pay attention to these signals, and make sure you are getting your fundamental needs met as consistently as you can. Pay attention to your body’s distress signals. If your body says: “I hate this!” when you’re on the elliptical at the gym, step off (carefully!) and do something you enjoy. It’s your move – own it!
- Strategy #3: Dance with your challenges. Life is crazy busy, plans fall through. It’s easy to get demoralized and give up. Be willing to be flexible with yourself, and expand your options. Instead of seeing obstacles, embrace challenges as opportunities to be creative. Surprise yourself. Remember that most days, you really can’t do it all. Just do what you have time and energy for, and be sure to give yourself the credit you deserve.
- Strategy #4: Remember that Everything Counts! Okay, this is my favorite part – finding new opportunities to move hiding in plain sight. Here’s just a tiny fraction of available physical activities, and they all count: Forego the elevator and walk up and down the stairs in your office twice. Take a leisurely window-shopping stroll (you are still walking!). Remember that gardening and housework and dog walking are necessities that also involve using your body. Play active games with your kids. Look around you: what activity is hiding right in front or you?
Keep playing in the Everything Counts playground. This is the perfect time to let yourself experiment with new physical activities. Continue to choose your physical activities to help you feel good and affirm who you are and what you most care about through the elixir-of-life behavior – movement.
Be compassionate with yourself. Many of us are very good at having compassion for others while being hard on ourselves. But it turns out that self-compassion – giving ourselves the same understanding and forgiveness we so easily give family and friends – is one of the greatest self-motivators.
Start believing that consistency trumps quantity when it comes to learning how to sustain a physically active life. We’ve been taught that “bigger is better,” but when it comes to sustainability, less is more. So start small. Consider everything you do (or don’t do) as successful because it’s teaching you how to negotiate your challenges and improvise with them throughout life. Once you can be consistent with smaller goals, increase incrementally.
This week, transform any unexpected “barriers” to your movement plans as opportunities for creative problem solving. Have fun with this process. Join the “Everything Counts” Facebook Event to share your strategies for working with your challenges.
Keep playing, keep moving, keep listening to your body, and keep enjoying what you do. And the next time you meet a challenge on your journey, remember to start dancing with it!
Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, MS, motivation scientist, is author of critically acclaimed “No Sweat! How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.” She is the Director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center (SHARP) at the University of Michigan, and Chair of the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan’s Communications Committee. No Sweat was chosen as the #1 book in Diet/Exercise in 2015 by the USA Best Book Awards, when released it achieved the #1 bestselling Exercise & Fitness book on Amazon, and it was featured in The New York Times. Segar lives with her husband and son in Ann Arbor, and she loves walking, speaking Spanish, eating great food, and hanging out with friends and family. She ran with the Olympic Torch at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
If the ideas in the Everything Counts Program and Giveaway resonate with you and you want more, get a free chapter of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness at: michellesegar.com/books/no-sweat/