Proximity can be the difference between meeting and missing your goals.
Proximity can be the difference between having a dream and making it a reality.
Proximity is nearness in space and time. So what is the distance between you and success?
I tried to explain this concept to my husband as he was lugging a heavy and awkward spin bike from our basement into our kitchen at my request...yes into the kitchen. He was as confused as you may be.
We do not have a spacious kitchen but it fits our needs. There happened to be a space between our kitchen table and the deck door that looked just the perfect size for my experiment with proximity. See the spin bike fit nicely in our basement and I had the best intentions to use the bike while watching TV downstairs. I was excited at the possibility of have a consistent, easy to access workout option in our home that I could utilize despite the variable Minnesota weather.
As I've alluded to in previous blog posts, working out is not second nature to me like my dear sister Ashley Darkenwald. I'd go as far to say most of my life I have loathed exercise. It always felt like punishment because it was boring, hard, and painful...and honestly I never stuck with in long enough to see results which only has made me more discouraged from doing it. Fast forward many years of turbulent health challenges and dramatic changes to my daily nutrition, I've found myself exercising again but with a completely different mindset. Instead of thinking of exercise as a punishment, I seek out exercise I enjoy, find my "happy movement" as Ashley calls it. In addition to being much more mindful of what I like and dislike doing for exercise, I'm more aware of how much my body personally needs.
Let's get back to proximity and my random story about the spin bike. Well, my intentions of using the bike downstairs were good but not excuses quickly became easier than going down the flight of stairs. I always was able to find an excuse why I didn't have time or didn't want to go to the basement to use the bike. After feeling a bit like I was back into my same routine of failed attempts to work out, the Holy Spirit gave me a little nudge and I noticed that space between the kitchen table and the door. Just the size for the bike. And in the room of the house I probably use the most.
Proximity. See if I wanted to be successful, I needed it closer. I needed to remove the opportunities for excuses and surround myself with the tools to success. Literally, I needed to surround myself in my daily living space.
Now is it realistic for everyone to put a spin bike in their kitchen? No way. My 4 year old knows to not touch the bike, but two years ago that wouldn't have been the same story. One of my friends hates riding on a spin bike, would that been a good tool for success for her to have in her kitchen? Not a chance. My point is that you need to identify what tools do you need to be successful and how close are they to you? How easy to access are they? Building a new habit is super hard, especially if you have yearssss of excuses and disappointments for developing that habit.
Let me show you just how hard habits can be to form and how important proximity is for meeting your goals. So the bike got moved to the kitchen. Did I start working out more? Yes! But then I started to get lazy somedays..."oh I don't want to wake anyone up getting my headphones or my workout clothes or my shoes or my waterbottle...." and so on. How did I use proximity to my advantage? The night before, I would fill my waterbottle and set it in the bathroom next to my workout clothes and shoes and headphones. Sometimes? I'd even wear those clothes to bed, just so I wouldn't have any excuse not to get up and workout.
You know what? Two months later, my fitness watch notified me I've averaged 12-14 workouts a month! That's huge for me! Proximity has been the key to developing a habit and moving toward my goals.
What are some ways to use proximity to your advantage for your health goals?
- Place a calendar on your fridge or your phone to plan out which days of the week you'll work out, where and what type of workout you'll do. Put your goals on there so you can quickly see those and be able to keep track of progress. The Living Wellness Journal is a great tool for keeping track of your workouts too!
- Attire: find workout clothing/shoes you like, and if possible, that you love. I feel amazing when I put on my purple workout shirt and black pants. I love the color and the fit. It makes it that much easier to work out. You don't need a whole closet of workout stuff, even just one outfit will do to start! Other key tips: make sure your clothes are clean for the day(s) you work out, set out all of them out beforehand (no excuses then!), and even put them on early just to get your mind ready to workout.
- Accountability: In addition to maximizing proximity to my advantage, I started being accountable to a friend about my workouts. We decided a joint online calendar synced to our phones would be the best option for keeping track and then once a week check ins. I decided in order to really keep proximity working for me, I put our joint calendar in the same app as my primary, day to day calendar. I had a daily reminder of how often I worked out AND how often my friend worked out. That way if I was slacking I could see her progress and get a boost in motivation. I could also quickly see how she was doing and see if she needed some encouragement.
Stock your pantry and fridge with foods that support your health goals and slowly phase out, donate, or move to another location (see next tip) the foods that could limit your success. Need ideas for a pantry makeover? Type "pantry" or "eating healthy" into the search bar above to see several series of posts we've written on this topic!
Even being mindful of what shelf of the fridge or freezer you put healthy options on is important. Eye level, clear containers, and easy access is key.
- While your thinking about this, also consider if you could incorporate proximity into your meal or snack prep. While preparing your supper or lunch, could you throw some carrots into a snack size container for when you are hungry for something crunchy? Cutting up an onion for lunch or supper? How about cut up two to save one for later in the week when your short on time and are looking for excused for why not to cook.
- Consider having a second pantry (this also works well for a fridge or freezer if you have the space and finances). We converted part of our storage closet on our main level into a second pantry. Here we store bulk items that would take up way too much space in our primary pantry. This is also where I store items that I maybe can't eat due to dietary restrictions but my family members can eat, or where I store bulk items of stuff I loooove but don't want all of that temptation in my view everytime I open the pantry. By moving these items slightly outside of my reach, I've found myself more consistently sticking to my goals.
- Hydration: Keep your waterbottle within eye sight throughout the day (if you are allowed to have it near you at work this is great to stay hydrated). Like I suggested with clothing, make sure you like the waterbottle you're using and the water! I prefer our water from home so I bring 2-3 waterbottles to work so there is no excuse. Place it by your bed at night or by the sink in the morning (and make sure it is clean and ready to go!).
- Always forgetting to take a drink? Set a reminder on your phone, watch, computer, or go old-fashioned and use something like a little kitchen timer. Place a few rubberbands or hair ties on your wrist and take one off after your finish a waterbottle to keep track of how much you are drinking. I've never personally used this waterbottle but it sounds like a really cool concept! And this waterbottle helps you keep track of your intake while also naturally flavoring your water with your favorite fruits.
- Maybe on the same fitness calendar or a separate one, plan out when you could spend some time reading the Bible or using a devotional book. Make these reading options accessible: do you prefer to do it on your phone or a book? Put the app on your main screen, set the Bible out in the area you want to read or on top of your phone at night as a reminder :)
- Are you needing some connection with others? Add a Bible study or accountability group on to your calendar.
- Plan out what your going to wear to church so it's one less thing that could keep you from going.
- Prayer: Make a list of favorite Bible passages you would like to pray through, write out key concepts or people you'd like to pray for, and get any items like a cozy blanket or worship music that help you to relax in order to spend a few moments conversing with your heavenly Father.
- Worship: Buy some worship music you love, bookmark YouTube videos of favorite songs, buy sheet music for songs you'd like to play, or make a playlist for your commute.
- Memorization: Just as you may have fitness or nutrition goals, challenge yourself this season to memorize one Bible passage a week or even one passage per month. Having these truths readily accessible in your mind can be a powerful tool for calming, mindfulness during a busy day, or even lifting up a friend.
Proximity can be for or against you. Use it to your advantage to surround yourself with healthy foods, routines, habits, people, etc.
Be mindful though of things in your proximity that could thwart your success. Example: I took out a 5lb bag of chocolate chips from our second pantry (see suggestion above) and set it on the counter. I did this to remind myself to fill the small jar we keep in our primary pantry for chocolate chips. Proximity worked against me. How many times that day did I sneak just a small handful of chocolate chips? I mean there were 5lbs of them, so one little handful wasn't much right? Wrong! Three, four, five little handfuls added up and I felt frustrated that I had side tracked from my goals.
Proximity. What is that distance between you and success?
Caitlyn J. Hanson
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any illnesses or disease. Please always check with your doctor before beginning any new nutritional or fitness program or before making any nutritional/fitness changes.