Reading ‘The slight edge’ by Jeff Olson made a huge impression on me last year. Olson asserts that life is all about making the right choices on a consistent basis, day after day. He describes how the seemingly small, almost inconsequential choices we make each day either lead us upwards towards success or on a more destructive downward trajectory. There is no such thing as standing still.
Most people don’t realise which path they are on until it’s too late. The problem is that all the little day to day decisions we take don’t create noticeable results immediately. It is only over time that we become aware of the consequences of our actions. It is essential to be consistent in doing the sometimes monotonous, unglamorous things that need doing in order to succeed in each area of our lives.
Here are some positive and negative examples from my own life:
Daily stretches – I had a spinal fusion operation at eighteen. My spine was almost totally fused by attaching each of the vertebrae to a metal rod. When I recovered from my surgery, I was given a book of stretches and told to do them daily for the rest of my life. At eighteen, I didn’t take this seriously and I never got into this important routine. Five minutes, twice a day was all that was required and yet I failed to find a way to build it into my life. This year I turned fifty and I am frightened by how my flexibility is deteriorating. Picking things up or doing up my shoe laces are difficult and I am getting some back pain. It is not too late to start stretching but I wish I had done it earlier. I am trying to build this into my life. BJ Fogg author of Persuasive Technology, suggests that the easiest ways to make changes is to tag them onto existing habits so that these serve as a trigger. I brush my teeth twice a day without fail. I am going to tag stretching for 5 minutes onto this habit and see how things go.
10,000 steps a day – On a happier note, last year my partner and I bought a step counter with the intention of walking 10,000 steps per day. We chose 10,000 steps because this is the number that health professionals recommend people should aim for to improve their health and reduce the risk of heart disease. Walking this distance takes quite a big time commitment so perhaps it isn’t the perfect example of a tiny daily habit. Never mind, it has had such a huge positive impact on my life. My pedometer is designed to encourage the 10,000 steps per day and when I achieve this, it rewards me with a little man waving at the bottom of the counter.
This simple measure has increased my awareness of how much I walk. If I am down on my steps for the day, little decisions make a big difference. If I am going to the supermarket and park at the far end of the car park, I can achieve 1,000 steps just shopping for food. It makes me feel I am doing double duty on a mundane task, which I love.
The results have been astounding. I am feeling so much happier, losing weight, feeling more connected to my partner and appreciating the gorgeous countryside. Here’s a picture of one of our gorgeous canal walks this winter.
I will say more about ‘the slight edge’ in future posts. Quick fix solutions don’t work for me. I like the gentle, steady approach of the slight edge. It really is the story of the tortoise and the hare.