Making a change

Greetings and salutations.

This whole running process is a part of a larger process to make a positive health change. Again, it’s just trying to make a bunch of little decisions that will look like a bigger decision later on. Plus, I like reading, so how can I not share books that I think helped out?

A couple of books I’ve enjoyed before I started this journey are The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. They take different tacks, but they are both about the process of making a positive change.

The Willpower Instinct provides practical applications of research dealing with self control (McGonigal is a Ph.D. who teaches a continuing education class this book is based on). Basically, there are times we do things we shouldn’t and there are times we don’t do things that we should. We know what we’re supposed to do, generally, but we still mess up along the way. What you can get from this book is ways to short circuit your ability to cheat yourself and ways to better incentivize or practice making good decisions.

Looking at an application to running, I would much rather sit on the couch than run. There are a couple of things I do to keep myself on task. For the day-to-day goal-keeping, I keep running gear at home and in the office so that I can’t forget them one place and use that as an excuse. For the bigger picture, I tell people about my goals. And they then ask me about these goals. Some people are positive and some aren’t, but either way I know that they’re paying attention and that little bit of shame/guilt helps keep me on task (this is a trick I learned as a teenager to make me do something I might chicken out of later). Neither of these things will get more to put my shoes on and go outside, but they still help.

This is just a brief summation of the book, and I may come back to the book later to provide a better outline of what includes because it has a lot of information.

The Happiness Project is a bit broader. It is what it’s name implies. Rubin decided to document a yearlong happiness project where she set new goals each month, one of which being to boost energy, which included exercising better. What she does that others might not is take a very meticulous perspective on tracking change. She sets goals and tracks whether or not she met them every single day. Her website also provides resources for people looking to make a similar change.

Rubin’s book takes an individual’s view, so you’ll find things you like and things you don’t. But it’s still an interesting read because you’re getting someone’s thought processes as she goes about trying to make a bunch of little decisions that hopefully equal a broader outcome. She has other books, but I can’t vouch for them. They’re staying on the same track, though, in terms of focusing on happiness.

Both of these books really come down to mindfulness, if you’re looking for a common thread. When we pay better attention to our feelings and behaviors, we give ourselves a better chance to make good decisions. We can’t always win, but we’ll do a lot better if we understand why we keep trying to eat the last piece of cake.

Because I like to discuss things I read, you should expect me to talk at some point about The Blerch by The Oatmeal, which relates to my own little beast that I’ve named (Fatty) and relates pretty well to some concepts in The Willpower Instinct. All of these readings come back to motivation and why people do what they do (whether it’s good or bad).



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