Baby or bold steps?

by Jan 26, 2015Health, Productivity

You are ready to make a change.
Do you start by baby stepping your way into exercise with five minutes at a time or do you sign up for a 10k race six months from now?

Do you start by turning off your email and checking every hour or go from constant notification to processing twice a day?

Knowing your habits and the performance and outcome goals will determine whether that step should be baby or BOLD.

BJ Fogg of Tiny Habits and Leo Babauta of Zen Habits are proponents of the baby steps approach. I agree with this for certain habits. They say if you want to start flossing, just start with one tooth. It's so ridiculously easy how can you not? Well, for some people, it's so easy that they don't feel it is worth the time or the floss to do just one tooth. Hopefully that means they floss all their teeth and not just opt not to floss.

I used to think unless I could work out for 45-60 minutes, it wasn't worth putting on my shoes. Now that I do more high-intensity and ancestral training, I look for opportunities throughout the day. Sometimes I only do 20-30 minutes, but I make it really count.

If a client doesn't exercise at all, I start with five minutes. Heck, I might even start with one minute a day! It all depends on where they are to start. Other clients need a BOLD goal like a race, in which case they need a more intense schedule where baby steps may not be enough.

I hiked the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim a few years ago. My friend and I could have taken our sweet time, camped at the bottom, stretched it out into two days as  most people do, but we made bold moves and hiked across the canyon in one day and then turned around and did it again.

Some habits require a leap across the canyon.

When you are trying to change your eating habits it could entail bold or baby steps.

My baby step when I was a few-vegetable vegetarian (I call this a grain-a-tarian because that's what an unhealthy vegetarian ends up being) was to start ensuring I eat one serving of vegetables EVERY DAY. After one week I went up to two servings. After another week I increased to three servings. Once it hit four servings I had to try to develop the habit in 2-3 weeks because it was much harder. Now, it is regular for me to eat 6-9 servings. Yesterday I had one serving of grains, stone ground grits in the morning, and eight servings of veggies which is now typical.

But, when I wanted to stop eating gluten after being diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease, I needed to take a GIANT LEAP and stop cold turkey. I started with an elimination diet which was super-hard for about a week. I was grumpy and tired and felt like I was going to go crazy and then it became easier until it was my new normal. I slowly added some things back in but my sugar cravings went away (rarely have them now) and I cut WAY back on grains and pretty much just have 1-2 servings a day. I am now more plant-based than I was when I identified as being a vegetarian! This took a giant leap and bold steps. It hurt in the beginning, but not for very long.

When you are considering a habit change that you want to implement, determine the performance goal and outcome goal and how you will get there. If bold steps didn't work before, try baby steps. If baby steps got you no where, go bold.

What is something that you want to change? Are you going to take a bold step or start small?

Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects