Yesterday, Oprah posted a short interview on twitter, (see my feed to the right.) She and this “happiness expert” were discussing how 2 simple steps can drastically affect how you feel about life. One of the steps was to establish a short and manageable exercise routine..not just for the obvious health benefits and immediate good feeling produced by endorphins, but more importantly, to
“train your brain to believe that your actions matter.”
I could not have said it better myself.
For the past (almost) month I have consistently done three simple things; taken all my vitamins every day, drank 68oz of water every day and gone to the gym three times a week to exercise my “ticker.” Thinking back, I have no idea why I picked those three specific things, but they are three habits that I have never been able to stick with in the past.
Oprah’s happiness expert is absolutely right when he says that “training your brain to believe that your actions matter” can lead to personal well being; it REALLY does! The sense of personal empowerment that I have felt as a result of sticking with my three tiny goals for a month has far exceeded whatever physical benefits I could possibly have hoped to attain.
There may be other experts who would look at me and say “well, you feel great because you are taking a multi-vitamin..” but I would have to disagree. I believe that the real source of this feel-good energy is the realization that I am capable, I can do this- my actions are having an impact on my life! And frankly, if I can do these small things, I can do other things as well!
The friendly guy who runs the front desk at our local YMCA complimented me last week when I came three days in a row. I told him “you know, it almost doesn’t matter what I do after I arrive.. I may not see physical evidence of these work-outs for a while, BUT it’s the getting here part.. that action is changing me- and I see that evidence of that change every day.”
Oprah’s expert also asked one other very important question, “Is the bar low enough?” For me, the answer has been “umm, yeah!” High achievers (God bless ’em) would probably look at my puny little goals and laugh, but the truth is that success, no matter how it is achieved, is critical to happiness and further success.
Now don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to make the case that there’s anything wrong with “aiming high”..I’m just evaluating the psychological risk of repeated failure associated with goals that we continuously fail to achieve. Could it be, that the guy vigorously training for a marathon every day goes to bed with the exact same level of personal satisfaction and sense of achievement as I do right now?
If you are running into walls over and over again and finding it impossible to stick to your own goals, maybe the bar isn’t low enough. In as much as each success is a building block to personal empowerment and wellbeing, I also believe that repeated failures can be profoundly damaging to our sense of self and the belief that we can actually control and manage our own mind and body.
So lower the bar, just to start, and allow yourself to experience the empowerment and happiness that comes from “training your brain to believe that your actions do indeed matter”…Create an avenue to success by crafting reasonable, attainable goals- and slowly, (SLOWLY!) build on them.. because success truly IS the secret sauce.