I'll always remember having Easter every year at my Aunt Carol’s house.
The backyard was epic - and perfect for an Easter egg hunt.
Over an acre of green grass surrounded by huge beautiful trees set the stage for the event.
Each time, my Aunt would follow me around as I searched high and low for the hidden treasure.
When I got closer to an egg, my aunt Carol would say, "Oh, you're warm." And then I'd get even closer and she'd say, "Oh, you're on fire." If I'd move further away from the egg during my search, she'd say, "Oh you're cold."
This would go on until I found all of the eggs.
The Easter egg hunt was so memorable because she would place some big time prizes in the eggs - like $20 bills. For a kid, that's like finding gold.
As I got older though, I began to find the eggs in less time as my process of searching improved. Each year, I made progress in shortening the amount of time I could find all the eggs.
Years later, after re-calling my Easter egg hunting days, I realized that there were three lessons that the egg hunting process taught me.
And instead of making progress year by year with a one time event, I soon discovered that these lessons can be used to make progress everyday with my current aims.
Even though you and I may not hunt for eggs every Easter as adults, these lessons can be applied to our present day health and fitness goals to ensure we utilize each day to inch us closer to achieving them.
Set a direction
My goal when I arrived at my aunt’s home was to find as many eggs as possible. Sure, I would make my rounds and say hello to all the family, pick at the appetizers, play with Scooter (the family dog) for a while, but in the back of my mind, all I could think about was conquering the egg hunt.
This gave me direction. I knew what my purpose was: I had to find all of the eggs.
Although this may be a little dramatic, the carry over is applicable: Have we set a direction for our action?
Without a direction, we drift. And when we drift, we end up wherever the horse takes us.
There's a story about a man riding a horse, galloping quickly. It appears that he's going somewhere very important. A man standing along the roadside shouts, "Where are you going?" The rider replies, "I don't know. Ask the horse."
Adopt a daily routine
Eventually, I set a routine with the egg hunt.
I would start at the patio and search the atrium. Then, I would wonder over to the bbq pit area that lead into the indoor patio that served as a home gym. Then I would head out to the garden, make my way around the perimeter and finally investigate the back area where the above-ground jacuzzi was tucked.
The routine allowed me to systematically and efficiently find the eggs in the shortest amount of time.
In our day to day life, living on "automatic" definitely has its benefits. If we were to consciously think about every little thing we had to do each day it would drive us mad. Physically and more so mentally, we wouldn't be able to hang.
The problem is that we stop at normal routines like brushing our teeth and taking the trash out. These automatic behaviors have pre-cursors that heave us into the habit. When we wake up we know it's time to brush our teeth. When Tuesday night rolls around, we know we've got to take the trash out for Wednesday pick up.
We can use this same framework to get an edge with our health and fitness goals.
To make it feel easier to make progress everyday, we need to automate the behaviors that push the needle forward everyday. This will look different for everyone, but what is the one thing we need to automate to make consistent progress each day?
Is meditating 10 minutes a day? (Potential precursor: Right before lunch time).
Is it doing a 20 minute workout each day? (Potential precursor: Right after you brush your teeth in the morning).
Is it doing 10 minutes of mobility drills? (Potential precursor: When you finish your workout).
The precursor is a trigger that reminds us of what comes next. Repeated consistently over time, the habit then becomes a subconscious behavior.
Once we make something a habit it doesn't require as much willpower to continue the behavior - inertia crumbles, and momentum picks up. At this stage, making progress on our health and fitness goals feels less like trying to break iron with our own bare hands and more like a riding a bike to get to our destination.
John Maxwell provides simple wisdom to this concept and says, "The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda. You will never change your life until you change something you do daily."
Even though I had developed a routine for my egg hunt, without feedback from my aunt telling me if I was hot or cold, it would have been a lot more difficult. Her feedback ensured me when I was doing well, and it also provided me guidance when I was way off.
Feedback is imperative not only for egg hunts, but for our health and fitness goals too.
Effective feedback helps us to course-correct when we veer off the path and get back on track faster when we make mistakes.
Instead of swimming in frustration trying to find the solution on your own, you can recruit feedback into your life that will save you loads of time and put you on the path to success. A mentor, a community or even a friend who isn't shy about kicking us in the pants when we need it, all can serve as feedback mediums.
That's the three part process to making progress on our health and fitness goals everyday. They're simple and effective. That's the thing about progress. Often times it's the easy things we neglect to do that can yield the most benefit. But they're also the same things that are easy not to do.