Getting My Butt to the Pool

On an almost daily basis I imagine what my life would be like if I were “That Person.”
The one who maintains all of the good habits, keeps the house organized, goes to the gym every day, goes to bed at a reasonable hour and takes vitamins and supplements on schedule.

I compare myself to That Person and say to myself, “If only I were as organized I would be happy.” At that point I take a deep breath and remind myself that although I may not be a paragon of perfection, I am smart, resourceful and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.

Following this conversation with myself for the nth time, I committed to working with respected coach Dr. Sydney Metrick, who specializes in personal organization. My hope was that I could learn some strategies for maintaining all of the healthy lifestyle habits that I value so much.

The holy grail of habits, as far as I am concerned, is exercise. I am utterly aware of the happiness and health that exercise brings to my life and yet I struggle to maintain this ritual. Finding the time and energy, a suitable activity or place, and then finally following through when the time comes are just a few of the challenges that I face. There is actually quite a bit of coordinating that has to take place for me to get some exercise.

Together, the doctor and I used a powerful series of questions that helped me identify what exactly I need to do. Here is what that dialogue was like:

“What do you want?”
Well…exercise. More specifically I want to go swimming at least 3 times a week.

“What things need to happen in order for that to take place?”
Hmm, quite a few things actually. If I want to go to the morning masters swimming workout I need to coordinate with my husband to find out his availability in the morning to take care of the kids, I need to pack my bag the night before and get to bed at a reasonable hour.

“What can you do to make these things easier to accomplish?”
I take some time to brainstorm some ideas: I could set a reminder in my phone to go to bed or get my bag ready, I could sit down with my husband and schedule a week at a time.

“When you are maintaining this habit, what is contributing to your success?”
This stumps me for a minute. Then I realize that the nighttime routine of checking in with my husband, packing my bag and going to bed is really the most important part of the puzzle. If I do those things the likelihood of me getting out the door at 5:30am to go swimming increases dramatically.

“When you are NOT maintaining this habit, what are the obstacles that are coming up?”
Well, that’s easy. My kids get sick, I get sick, my husband has to work early, I have too much work to do and don’t get to bed early enough, etc., etc. But most often it is simply that I don’t bother to check in with my husband about his availability or pack my bag the night before, or I don’t commit to getting to bed by 10:00.

During my time working with Sydney we analyzed many of my desired habits in a similar way. In going through this process I learned to identify the action steps necessary to support a habit, creatively brainstorm systems to incorporate these action steps into my life, and watch out for the obstacles that inevitably pop up.

Most importantly, I learned that I function much better when I cut myself some slack and actually PLAN for the obstacles. If I accept that obstacles will take me off track and I have a plan for how to get back on track when they do, drama goes away.

Life is not black and white. I am not someone who exercises everyday or someone who doesn’t. I am smart, resourceful, have a passion for a healthy lifestyle and am willing to do some planning to get my butt to the pool.

—Dr. Stoop

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