No Zero Days

I didn’t give myself an opportunity to think. This was key. I had made the decision and I stuck with it. Upon getting home from work, I changed into bike shorts, grabbed water and my iPod and retired to the basement. I promptly adjusted my bike, sitting on a fluid trainer, and started peddling. I wasn’t sure what the workout would bring, but I knew I had to do it. I had to get on and pedal. Turns out, I went for 60 minutes with incredible pushes up some long climbs. I went for the “as the spirit moves me” workout instead of following a prescribed regime and in this instance it worked out pretty darn well. I was completely drenched, spent and happy at the close of the hour.

It’s often this way. It’s the getting that first foot out the door. It’s getting on the bike. It’s sitting your ass in the chair to do the work that you’ve been preparing to do, that you want to do, but have all sorts of gremlins holding you back for all kinds of reasons. I could see this happening to me as I rebuild my training. I could see this happening as I hit the halfway point of a writing project. And so I did what I’ve learned comes very naturally — I stole a bunch of ideas I liked and synthesized them into my mantra of the moment “No Zero Days.”

First, credit where credit is due and a brief look at my inspiration:

  1. St. Bonaventure women’s basketball. I write often about this team which went from mediocre at best to a perennial 20-win team and post-season tournament contender. The prime reason for the turnaround? Head coach Jim Crowley completely changed his philosophy. He decided there would be a few core areas that were key for his program and his players. Things like effort. Things like teamwork. Far more than coach-speak, this was to be the foundation of the program. In fact, those things (along with a few others) are the only things they truly evaluate performance on. If they focus and work on those things other crucial items (like scoring points and winning games) will take care of itself.
  2. National Novel Writing Month. I’ve taken up the challenge of NaNoWriMo which is to write a 50,000 word novel between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. As with all really great things in my life, I signed up on a whim after having a particularly not-so-great encounter with a friend. One of the pieces of advice on the challenge was to have no zero word count days. To write 50,000 words in 30 days you need to average 1,667 words a day. Some days you will write more. Other days you will write less. The goal is to write something every single day.
  3. The Power of Habit. I’m about a third of the way through Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit and I’m fascinated. One of the main points is about changing habits by identifying keystone habits. There might be one thing which when addressed and changed causes a chain reaction throughout the rest of your life (or throughout the rest of the culture of a business or organization). It’s not about making wholesale changes, but about making small, focused, directed changes which over time yield big results.

With those three things on my brain at the moment, I devised my own plan: No Zero Days. It goes like this:

  1. Identify what’s really important to me right now. What are my foundations? What do I want to focus on? For me, the things which are most important and bring me joy are exercise/training and writing. Great. Those are the things which I will focus on. Now there are other things I love and want to work on. There are other things on my “should” do list. But I’ve made a choice to make these two my keystone components for the next few weeks.
  2. Commit to no zero days. This means every day I will do something to purposefully move my body and I will write. Some days will be brilliant. I may do an incredible long run and write a 2,000 word scene. Other days I may get in 15 minutes of yoga and struggle to pound out 300 words. Doesn’t matter. What matter is that I show up. Every day.
  3. Embrace the little things. In many ways showing up every day is forming a new habit. The more I workout and write the more I want to do other things which support those habits. As I train and enjoy pushing my body, I will automatically want to feed it better food. As I bring myself to the page every day, I will automatically want to read more, spend time in nature and do a million other little things which nurture my soul and my creativity. And I am a big believer that my creativity and physical exercise are complementary endeavors, both critical to our growth as individuals and as a community.

What would your No Zero Days challenge look like? What would be the key areas of your life that you want to focus on? What are you willing to commit to? You never know what other changes and opportunities might unfold with one small shift in your point of view.

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