Part of my job here at Meadowood is to create employee fitness and wellness challenges. Because we are a community that believes in the health and well-being of everyone who lives and works here, these challenges are a great way to involve our workers and keep them physically fit and well.
This month, the challenge is called “Plan to be Healthy.” The idea is to fill a calendar with healthy activities of the employee’s choice that address several of the six dimensions of wellness, and then try to complete the activities each day.
For example, if someone’s aim is to improve their finances, a goal might be to check the activity in their bank account once a week. If the goal is to reduce stress, perhaps the activity would be to meditate for five minutes each day. Physically, one might plan to do twenty-five pushups three days a week or make a point to floss every day. There are dozens of activities listed on a suggestion sheet, and the participant is free to create activities of their choosing, as well.
The ultimate aim is for the participant to spend a month creating a new habit. While the average amount of time it takes to form a new habit is 66 days, the month-long challenge will get us close to halfway there.
I love this challenge for lots of reasons. First, because it involves evaluating where you are with your six dimensions of wellness, and where you need the most improvement. Next, it allows you to choose activities you know you’ll stick with. Ones that fit your lifestyle and will, hopefully, motivate you toward permanent change. And finally, checking off accomplishments each day can be a great reinforcer, because it’s visual and tactile proof of achievement.
It’s my hope that it will help each participant make at least one permanent change. That would be a huge victory because, as we know, change is one of the most difficult things for humans to do.
Why is this the case?
For one reason, we humans are wired to default to negative emotions like guilt, shame and fear. The problem is that these emotions don’t motivate us to change, but rather keep us right where we are. Real change needs to be based on positivity and reward.
Also, we tend to think in “all or nothing” terms. “If I can’t lose 20 pounds, why bother? Five isn’t good enough.” Or, “Well, I tried and I failed, so I clearly can’t do this.” The Small Steps model of change can help remedy this. Instead of looking at the big end goal, create small stepping stones and rejoice in small successes. Remember, ladders have more than one rung.
Another reason we fail is because we don’t set ourselves up for success. We don’t get our ducks in a row, so to speak, before we swim out into the great beyond. For example, if you know a lack of support at home has sabotaged your weight loss efforts in the past, find a friend or a support group who will shore you up during tough times before you begin.
Or, if you know you can’t resist buying a new pair of shoes every time you walk into the mall, creating a strategy to combat this behavior ahead of time might just keep you out of the shoe stores.
We also tend to underestimate how difficult change will be. We don’t figure failure into our plans, although most endeavors fail multiple times before they are successful. The author Stephen King says his first novel Carrie was rejected by publishers more than 30 times before it was ultimately published. Chicken Soup for the Soul faced 144 rejections.
To be successful at anything, we have to commit to accepting failure. We have to commit to trying without success. Then, we have to commit to starting again.
Despite the odds, I still believe in this challenge. I know someone will make a permanent change for the better. Maybe more than one someone.
Perhaps you could, too. I encourage you to take this challenge yourself. Add wellness to your daily calendar. Commit to practicing these new behaviors. Commit to failing. Commit to restarting. And perhaps by the end of March, you’ll be halfway to forming a new habit.
Until we meet…