Sometimes it can be hard to get myself to do things for their own sake. I know that they’re good for me and that I’ll like the results if I do them long term, and although My Brain is on board with the planning, it fights against me when I try to actually do them. Eating properly is like this. Cleaning the house is like this. Exercising is like this. I want to do these things in the future, and I want to have done them in the past, but convincing myself to do them right now is hard. Really, really hard.
At the start of a shiny new year, while I’ve still got the potential of “perfection”, it’s fairly easy to get myself to do things. But the shine doesn’t last long, and it’s far too easy to mess up, and to give up.
One way I’ve found to get myself to stick with something for more than five minutes is sticker charts. Because, apparently, My Brain is a five year old.
There are two ways that I tend to use sticker charts. The first is to have a chart designed for a set period of time (say, one month) and give myself a sticker for every day that I do the thing I was supposed to do. The second is to have a set number of times that I’m supposed to do something (say, twenty-five, or one hundred) and give myself a sticker for every time that I do it — this way works better for things that I don’t necessarily do every day, or that I might do more than one time in a single day.
I can’t fully explain the satisfaction that I get from putting a sticker in a little box, but it’s partly being able to look and see a concrete illustration of what I’ve been doing. To be able to look back and see at a glance (and in bright colours) I went to the gym 26 out of the last 31 days or I have read 30 books so far this year. Whatever I’m trying to achieve, sticker charts make my progress seem more real.
It can take a long time to see the results of eating well and working out. And once I’ve reached all my goals and I get to the maintenance stage the results will become invisible — I’ll no longer be building muscle or improving my stamina, I just won’t be deteriorating. And, as time goes on, I will eventually deteriorate in spite of all my hard work, because aging is a thing that happens, and even though I’ll be deteriorating more slowly than I would otherwise, it will be impossible to see.
But I can see a sticker chart. And I can put the stickers on it and watch it fill up with colour.
I can see that I’m making progress even when I can’t feel it.