When we are trying to get into a new habit, other people can be both our greatest supporters and our greatest downfalls. People don’t tend to like it when those around them change, even when we change for the better. They worry that our new behavior is going to affect them; that we are going to “move their cheese.” For example, my husband was not a fan my before-dinner walks at first, as I am the meal-preparer-in-chief in our household. It wasn’t that I was forsaking my commitment to feed my family–I wasn’t. But exercising before dinner does reduce our mealtime flexibility, especially when there are last minute changes to our schedule. For example, if one of the kids has a dinnertime soccer practice that isn’t on the calendar, it is unlikely that I’m going to have dinner on the table early enough for us to eat together and get to go for my walk.
To deal with this, I had to communicate clearly and calmly to my whole family my new exercise plan, and I had to ask them for their support.
Out of earshot of the kids, I firmly explained to my husband that he was hindering my success and I needed him to be a supporter, not a detractor of my new habit. I let him voice all his “better ideas.” He thought I should be able to exercise mid-morning when he works out (that doesn’t work for me since the morning is my best writing time or in the afternoon when my energy is flagging (nope, I’m either picking up the kids from school, or I’m at work—again, no consistent trigger). Once I listened to his ideas, he stopped trying to convince me that his routine would work for me.
Then, in a family meeting, I explained my new routine asked for everyone’s help. I asked each family member individually (e.g., “Macie, I need you to put your volunteer work on the family calendar from now on, even though you know when it is; Fiona, I need to know when you are babysitting as soon as you know,” etc.). I made sure that I had all the activities that might affect dinnertime on the calendar at least 2 days ahead of time. This enables me to plan when to leave work to exercise and to make sure that dinner prep is underway on time while I’m out walking. (We have four teenagers, and we eat dinner together as a family 5 nights a week; this is a logistical feat.)
Finally, we made a plan for what to do if someone needs dinner super early (i.e., while I’m exercising), and I haven’t planned for this. We now have a stock of burritos in the freezer, or the kids can make something for themselves out of leftovers or lunch stuff.
Throughout all of this, I emphasized the benefits of my exercising for them. Namely, I’m calmer, happier, more patient and less stressed if I’ve been able to do something fun for myself before dinner (which is exercise). This makes me much more pleasant to be around in the evening. Every single member of my family agreed with this; once I framed exercising in terms of positive emotions for others, their resistance evaporated.
What To Do Today
Task #1: Plan for your people challenges using the corresponding page in your workbook.
Task #2: Take your exercise habit for another spin. Does it still feel super easy?