Little Stuff and Low Hanging Fruit:

Posted: May 2, 2012 in Articles

By Patrick M. Tracy

As summer approaches, a familiar refrain rings through the halls of offices, school rooms, and workplaces everywhere. “I need to lose some weight,” says Bill. “I’ve got to cut down on the candy,” says Alice. Maureen looks in the mirror and chides herself about getting back into the gym. These are the things that our resolutions at New Year’s, on a momentous birthday, or just when we can’t fit into our “chubby pants” anymore are made of.

We get fed up with not looking or feeling the way we want to, and we make big plans to change everything. We’re going to go at every source of our problem, hammer and tongs. We’re going to be at our high school weight by the time our class reunion comes. We’re going to join that rugby team. Hey, we’re going to fit into those jeans that we bought as a speculative gesture two years ago.

Then life comes along. We realize we can’t do everything we’d hoped to. Turns out, going to the gym at oh-dark-thirty isn’t always possible. Then there’s that staff pizza party and that unexpected late night. We can become frustrated with our inability to hit our goals. A lot of times, we quit. We may even lapse into a bit of a funk and end up worse off than ever.

I submit that, while big goals are laudable, they’re also very difficult to achieve, and can sometimes be destructive to our progress. With health and fitness, everything counts, and beginning to move in the right direction can be as simple as doing a few small things every day.

As a first step, think of five small things you can do (or not do) that will help you be healthier. None of these changes should take more than five minutes out of your day, and they should all be fall-off-a-log simple. Stuff you KNOW you can do, no problem. Stick with those small changes for a few weeks, until they become a part of your day. Now add one more. Perhaps this one takes a few more minutes, but it’s still not really aiming high. Let that one become a part of your daily routine. If you keep changing the easy stuff, little by little, the aggregate of those changes can be impressive.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • I drink too many sodas. I’m cutting down to a max of two a day.
  • I’m going to eat a decent breakfast at least four days a week.
  • I have a problem with snacking at night. No more eating after 8 pm.
  • I don’t get enough walking. I’m going to take a distant parking spot whenever I’m out, and I’ll walk every aisle in the supermarket, even if I only need Postum and marshmallows.
  • At work, if I’m only going up a floor or two, I’m going to take the stairs.
  • My sleep schedule is all messed up. I’m going to shoot for going to bed at (insert time) every week night.
  • I stress out too much about my life. I’m going to spend a few minutes every day doing something that I love, and that is calming to my nerves.
  • I’m getting soft around the gut. I’m going to do some sit-ups every night before bed.

…Easy stuff, yes. That doesn’t mean that these changes can’t be effective in improving your health. The synergy of many small changes can end up having just as much impact as a dramatic one. Because they are granular, you can move toward your goals in a measured way, with very little perceived hardship.

The list above contains just a few examples of things that you might want to incorporate into your daily grind. Everyone has different goals and different trouble spots, but accomplishing any goal is the end result of a lot of small steps.

Good luck to you all, and I hope to see you reaching up for some of that low-hanging fruit!

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