When our daughter Brooke was a tot, she loved me a lot. I mean she really loved me and couldn’t function unless I was within a four-foot radius of her tiny body. No doors could separate us. Ever. Gone were my days of peeing alone. When I tried to leave the room, she would cling to my leg like a Downy sheet stuck to warm jeans just out of the dryer. I called it love. Dr. Spock called it separation anxiety. Can any of you parents relate?
About the time she was a year old, I decided it was time for me to try to lose the 70 pounds I gained consuming countess Dairy Queen Mint Oreo Blizzards during pregnancy. So I joined the YMCA. It was close, convenient and had a reputable on-site child care center called The Kid Zone.
On day #1, I stuffed myself into ratty, gray sweatpants, packed up the diaper bag, and loaded the baby into the car. We arrived at the Kid Zone check-in area and I filled out the appropriate paperwork. When it was time to hand her over to the Miss Mary, the sweet, soft-spoken, child care provider, Brooke’s little lip began to quiver. And then she let loose. Crying—okay screaming hysterically, actually—and clinging to me. We hadn’t even begun and I was ready to throw in the towel.
At that point Miss Mary gave me a knowing smile.
“Can I offer you some advice?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said. “Please do.”
“Kelly, it will take you three weeks of consistently coming here to get into the habit of a fitness routine,” she explained. “Likewise, it will take Brooke three weeks to become comfortable leaving you and joining us in the Kid Zone.”
I nodded, doubtfully.
“You have to just trust me and do it consistently for three full weeks,” she continued. “I promise it will be okay. I know what I’m talking about.”
So I did. I placed my sobbing, snot-smeared baby in her arms and my trust in her words. Then I turned around and walked down the hallway toward the locker room, listening to Brooke scream the entire way. I could still hear her tantrum as I went up the stairs and climbed up on the StairMaster. Fortunately, I brought headphones, which drowned out her cries.
We repeated this process each morning, peeling a hysterical baby off my body and handing her off to Miss Mary. And each day, Miss Mary would give me her sweet smile of support.
One day, as I was steeling myself for the morning hand-off and outburst, Brooke turned her head toward me, her chubby baby fingers waving with enthusiasm.
“Bye-bye, Mama,” she said.
That was it. No tears. No shuddering. Absolutely no drama.
Do you want to guess what day it was?
You guessed it! Day #21, exactly three weeks since we’d started at the Y. Miss Mary was absolutely right. It took me three weeks to develop a loving relationship with the StairMaster and it took Brooke three weeks to make The Kid Zone her routine.
The reason I tell you this story is to illustrate the importance of consistency and patience in developing a new habit or breaking an old one. There are various studies claiming different amounts of time—some say it takes much longer than three weeks—but in my experiences since then, three weeks appears to be the magic number.
Yes, folks, I’m going with the Miss Mary school of thought on this and encourage you to do the same. Want to make a change for the better? Give it three weeks, my friends!
In last month’s blog (Tame Your Inner Grinch – click HERE if you missed it), we talked about seeking solutions and taking action. I encouraged you to write down 2-3 actions you can—and will—take to improve the energy, attitude and habits you are bringing to your life in 2019.
But don’t stop there. The next step is to put your list in a place (mirror, kitchen cabinet, car visor) where you will see it every day. This is a way to keep yourself accountable and keep your commitment top of mind.
Lastly, you need to block 30 minutes every three weeks to check in with yourself and see how your consistent, small steps are turning your fatigue into fulfillment. It is the gift of time to celebrate your successes. You can note what is working and what is not. It is when you can choose another action item or cross off one you’ve turned into a healthy habit. Don’t wait! Start today! Grab your calendar and give yourself the gift of precious time to focus on you.
You deserve to live a life of healthy habits and personal fulfillment.