In my book, I have little “Action Plans” you can do if you want concrete steps on how to retire. The first Action Plan is to picture what you want your life post-retirement to look like. You have to understand why you want this because it has to matter to you on a deeper level. You’ll be turning to this reason a lot, so it has to be a good one.
When I was working, I constantly imagined what I would do when my days were my own. I wanted to wander, own my sleep schedule, take long walks, read every book that sounded interesting and craft words on my computer. I wanted the freedom more than the paycheck.
Sorry, I know I keep telling you this.
I’m repeating this because I think understanding your why is the first step in accomplishing most things in life. You have to actually want it. You have to want it more than the status quo.
Understand your why
What’s the story you tell yourself? The overarching theme? What kind of person do you want to be?
Currently, I’m working on Life Bucket List items #18 and #19 – maintain my body so that it’s healthy enough to see six individual abdominal muscles. I’m reading a lot of fitness transformation stories lately and every person seems to have their own why that’s more than superficial. Their why goes to who they fundamentally want to be.
I wanted to be a good influence for my son; to instill in him the ideals of a healthy and active lifestyle.
I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and feel 100 percent comfortable in my own skin.
My family is my motivation. I want them to see Mama as a doer…
Your why has to be strong enough to bat down life’s obstacles. If you can’t think of a reason to keep going, you’ll pitch a blanket on the side of the first roadblock. *Why* do you want to keep going?
The first thirty-five years of my fitness journey involved a lot of meandering in blissful ignorance. I’ve been thin all my life, size zero tiny without much thought. I had no real goals or grand ideas in my head about why I should fitness. The verb. To fitness. Exercising was a chore on the to-do list that I occasionally crossed off when life didn’t get in the way. As a woman in my world, thin didn’t feel like a negative. I had nothing driving me, so I languished.
Now that I have the time and mental energy, I’ve spent a bunch of brain cells formulating my why for fitness, telling myself a story of what kind of life I want, what kind of person I want to be.
I don’t want to be thin. I’m tired of feeling scrawny, weak and little. I want to feel and to look and to actually be tough. Competent. Healthy. Capable. I want to startle in delight upon seeing my muscles. The Universe gifted me my body and I want to use it and I want to love it. We will be hanging out together for the rest of our lives, so I want our relationship to be a good and happy one.
Let your why guide you
I’m actively learning and using my why for directions. Now I’m understanding how different exercises will influence my body in different ways. Cardio is good for endurance and strengthens your heart. Weight training will shape your muscles and make you strong. Circuit training will train your heart to deal with stress.
If I want to be a strong person, I have to make my body do things a strong person would be able to do. Lifting heavy things. Opening jars. Punching bad guys.
Did you read the book Grit? I told you about it nearly a year ago, but I still think of it often. If you want to be successful at something, go about it in a gritty way.
I want to be gritty in exercise because I want to make it a lifetime habit that I enjoy, so I reread my article and expended more brain cells.
The gritty components of success
1. Find something you like to do.
Know yourself. Learn about yourself. What do you like doing and what can you not stand?
The goal of running a marathon never wormed its way onto my life bucket list. I’m usually attracted to the cliché items, but this one I never wanted to touch. Running is terrible and I hate it. I could never be gritty at running.
But I do like Pilates. I like weight lifting and getting stronger. I like body weight exercises I can do anywhere.
2. Do it every day and 3. Get better at it.
When you find something you like to do, think about your why and do it. Learn about it and actively try to get better at it. Jump into the flow of it. Be mindful when you’re doing it. Battle through the plateaus. It’s about trying to do something just a wee bit better the next day. Make your present self better than yesterday’s self. Just a smidgen better is enough. It builds up over time.
I think about my why when I’m actually working out, getting stronger and pushing myself.
4. Believe what you’re doing matters to other people.
Okay, this is always the part that I struggle with.
But if I can get strong, I pinky-swear promise that you can get strong. I tell you about it because I’m so flabbergasted that this stuff works. I have a long way to go, but it most definitely is working.
All the information is out there, you just have to take the mental space and time to learn about it and figure out what works for you personally and specifically.
And then you succeed by just doing whatever you need to do every day. When you encounter an obstacle or unexpected detour, you brainstorm ways around it instead of succumbing. Do that enough times and it becomes second nature. A good habit!
This frees up more time and mental space to learn about and experience anything else.