Here’s a super inspiring story I just read that I felt like sharing:
Beverly was a salesperson for an educational software company for which I was doing a turnaround. One day she told me about her friend who was running a half-marathon the upcoming weekend. “I could never do such a thing,” Beverly, who was significantly overweight, assured me. “I get winded going up a single flight of stairs!”
“If you want to, you can choose to do what your friend is doing,” I told her. She balked, saying, “There’s absolutely no way.”
My first step was to help Beverly find her motivation. “So, Beverly, why would you want to run the half-marathon?”
“Well, my twenty-year high-school reunion is coming up next summer, and I want to look fabulous. But I’ve gained so much weight since I had my second child five years ago. I don’t know how I can do it.”
Bingo! Now we had a motivating goal. But I proceeded with caution. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you probably know the drill: Buy an expensive gym membership, drop a fortune on personal trainers, new equipment, spiffy new workout clothes, and great athletic footwear. Work out vigorously for a week or so and then turn your elliptical machine into a clothes-drying rack, ditch the gym, and let your sneakers mold in the corner. I wanted to try a better way with Beverly. I knew that if I could get her to choose just one new habit, she’d get hooked, and all the other behaviors would naturally fall into line.
I asked Beverly to drive her car around the block and map out a one-mile loop from her house. Then, I told her to walk the loop three times over a period of two weeks. Notice that I didn’t ask her to start by running the mile. Instead, I started with something—a small, easy task that required no major stretch. Then I had her walk the loop three times in one week for an additional two weeks. Each day she made the choice to continue on. Next I told Beverly to start a slow jog, only as far as she felt comfortable. As soon as she started feeling breathless, she was to stop and continue walking. I asked her to do this until she could run one-fourth, then one-half, and then three-quarters of that mile. It took three more weeks—nine outings—before she could jog a full mile. After a total of seven weeks, she was jogging the whole loop. That might seem like a long time for such a short victory, right? After all, half of a marathon is 13.1 miles. One mile is nothing. What was something, however, was that Beverly was beginning to see how her choice to get fit for the reunion—her why-power (as I’ll soon explain)—was fueling her new health habits. The Compound Effect had been set in motion and was starting its miraculous process.
I then asked Beverly to increase her distance an eighth of a mile each outing (an almost unnoticeable length, maybe only 300 steps further). Within six months, she was running nine miles without any discomfort at all. In nine months, she was running 13.5 miles regularly (more than the distance of a half-marathon) as part of her running routine. More exciting, though, was what happened in other areas of her life. Beverly lost her cravings for chocolate (a lifelong obsession) and heavy, fatty foods. Gone. The increased energy she felt from the cardiovascular exercise and better eating choices helped her bring more enthusiasm to her work. Her sales performance doubled during the same period (which was great for me!).
…the ripple effects of all this momentum raised her self-esteem which made her more affectionate toward her husband. Their relationship became more passionate than it had been since college. Because she had renewed energy, her interaction with her children became more active and animated. She noticed she no longer had time to hang out with her “Debbie Downer” friends, who still gathered together after work for greasy appetizers and drinks. She made new “healthy” friends in a running club she joined—which led to a whole host of additional positive choices, behaviors, and habits.
Following that first conversation in my office and Beverly’s decision to find her why-power and commit to a series of small steps, she lost more than forty pounds, becoming a walking (and running) billboard for fit and empowered women. Today, Beverly runs full marathons!
Hardy, Darren (2011-11-01). The Compound Effect (p. 50-52). Vanguard Press. Kindle Edition.