When I sit down to write a new blog, I do it with pen and paper first. Then I have to type it out before it makes its way to your field of vision. Productivity and efficiency experts would likely tell me how much time I’d save if I cut out that first step.
And they’d be right.
So why do I do it? Well, for starters you could say I’m old school or analog, and you’d be partially right. But more than anything, I write things out with pen and paper because it helps me slow down, organize my thoughts, and clarify what I want to say. I’m also more focused since I’m not distracted by an infinite amount of digital notifications.
What does this have to do with the title of this blog, ‘Expand Your Time Horizon?’ It’s simple really -> it’s just a little phrase to help you rethink expectations.
Let’s apply it to health and fitness:
The health and fitness industry is full of fast track, short-cut solutions:
- 30-day detox cleanses
- 6-weeks to the body you’ve always wanted
- 8-minute abs (come on, you older and wiser folks remember this one, right?!)
The problem that I have with this messaging is that it preys on the surface level desires that consumers have. There is lots of breadth there, but no depth. Lots of black and white solutions, but no grey area. Choose to do this or that, but no room for context and nuance.
Oftentimes in the setting and pursuit of a goal, our expectations of how long it should take are informed by the marketing all around us. This means that our expectations are set within a vacuum, not taking into account all the things that got us to where we are, that allow our lives to operate as they do today, and that ultimately make us who we are. (Quick disclaimer: This way of thinking isn’t meant to deter anyone from setting big goals. It’s also not to encourage complacency or laziness. It’s simply a shift in mindset, one that centers on patience. After all, what’s the hurry?)
Here’s an example:
Imagine you are a 39-year old female that has decided it’s time to take better care of yourself. You’ve tried a few things over the years, but the result you’re after doesn’t seem to last.
And you are frustrated!
I mean, come ON, how hard can it really be to just eat out less and workout 2-3 times per week! It’s not like that is a big ask, right?
After all, you have the same 24 hours that everybody else does.
Now let’s paint a bit clearer picture of this example woman:
You have 3 young children: an 8-year old, a 3-year old, and a 1-year old.
You work part time (in addition to the full time mom duty!) and your husband works full time.
For at least the last 8 years you’ve been blessed with the greatest responsibility on earth; your routines and rhythms of life have adapted to put your children and family ahead of anything else.
It’s time for a change, so let’s expand your time horizon a bit:
What if, instead of trying to totally overhaul your family’s eating routine, along with adding in exercise a couple days per week, you resolve to take smaller, dare I say baby, steps? Hear me out – the expectations I laid out earlier above may seem completely doable and small for some, but using history and experience as a great teacher, I can tell you that those are BIG asks for a LOT of people. So what could you do instead? It might look like this:
- Drink a bit more water than you currently do
- Chew your food (whatever that is that you are currently eating) 20-30 times per bite
- Go for a family walk for 10 minutes a few times a week
I know, I know – “How is this going to help me achieve X?” I’m sorry, but that’s simply the wrong question to be asking first.
You want to ask: “Is this doable indefinitely?”
(And if you’re already doing the above then ask yourself this: “What’s the next, almost imperceptible, step I could take?”)
Ok, then what?
Once you start taking these teeny tiny steps, the speed bumps and obstacles (aka life) that we all deal with suddenly become much less troublesome and don’t derail you long term.
Missed your water upon waking up? No worries, just pick it back up at lunch!
The chaos of back to school and sports restarting made you miss some family walks? No worries, just walk the dog a bit further next time she barks at the door.
Why does this work? It allows success to snowball, leading you to enjoy the journey (because it feels good to know you’re progressing), which positively reinforces the small actions you’re taking, creating a feedback loop. This is the idea behind our often used phrase of ‘success breeds motivation.’
I’ll leave you with a final thought:
If you hopped on a plane in Los Angeles that was headed for the east coast, it would take just a 3.5 degree change in heading to determine if you’d land in New York City or Washington, D.C. Imagine how unnoticeable that difference would be at takeoff, or really at any time! (Thank you James Clear for this illustration)
The moral of this story? Little things, done over a long period of time, can make a big difference. Be patient, take smaller steps, and expand your time horizon. You’ll find more meaning in the journey and end up with sustained success as a bonus.