Meet Rae. For the last year, I’ve been watching her powerful, limber, 90-year-old self do yoga in front of me every Sunday morning. Yes, you read that right. NINETY. And this isn’t a gentle yoga class. It’s my favorite workout of the week—an hour of power yoga that combines everything I love about yoga with cardio and a medley of pop, R&B, hard rock, punk and Latin vibes. A workout so challenging that I have to will myself to get through each week, after which I have nothing left but a sweaty mat and a huge feeling of accomplishment.
And every week Rae not only makes it through, she does every single pose, squat and push up and looks much less spent and disheveled than the rest of us when it’s over. I’ve been in awe of her, and on several occasions simply glancing over at her tiny-yet-muscular frame prompted me to change my thinking from “I can’t” to “Of course I can.” Our yoga instructor has bragged on her often, talking about all she does to stay in shape: biking, walks, swimming, weights and yoga.
Since she recently had a birthday, I got up the guts this week to approach this amazing creature and give her my best wishes. I looked into her sparkly eyes and asked her, “How do you make yourself exercise, even when you don’t feel like it?”
Rae smiled and said, “That never happens. I always feel like it. I look forward to it because I’ve been doing it so long that it’s a part of my life. I can’t imagine not exercising.” And with that she threw her mat over her shoulder and rushed off to get to the next part of her full Sunday.
I just stood there watching her, letting what she told me sink in.
She’s been doing it so long, she can’t imagine not doing it. It’s not just a habit, “it’s a part of my life.”
Rae committed to something so long ago, to regularly move her body no matter what, that over time it transcended from a mere habit to a part of her life. She’s not choosing every day between exercising and not. She knows it’s part of her daily existence. It got me thinking about how many things we don’t commit to fully or long enough to take them from a habit to a part of our lives. To something we can’t imagine not doing.
So how long is long enough? I’ve read a lot of books on habits, and experts disagree on how long is enough to make a habit stick. I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone talk about how long it takes to turn a habit into a non-negotiable, of-course-I’m-doing-that-just-like-I’m-breathing part of our lives. For me, it seems like a minimum of a year is required, and if the habit is broken, I can’t let it go for more than a day or two before I return.
It took me about a year to turn my daily commitment to eat mostly plants from a new habit to help me return to vibrant health into a lifestyle. While it requires planning and effort, it no longer requires daily choice. It’s not merely something I do, it’s who I am. It took me a year to go from someone keeping the habit of doing the daily activities required to build my business to become an entrepreneur who touches her business every day. It’s no longer a choice of whether I’ll put in the effort or not. It’s part of who I am.
I’ve been frustrated with myself that I’m currently not exercising, reading or writing as much as I want to in my daily life. But the truth is, while I have habits that I play the hokey pokey with, I haven’t committed to making these things part of my daily existence. I haven’t elevated them from things I do to part of who I am. So this week, inspired by beautiful Rae and her sparkly eyes and stick-straight posture and still-high booty, I vow to expand my description of who I am.
I am a wife, mom, entrepreneur, plant-eater, reader, writer, exerciser and self-lover...and a work in progress. Just like Rae. And hope to be one at 90.
Tell me what things you want to transform from mere habits to a part of who you are. Declare it to help you commit and so I can cheer you on!