Actual, Physical Steps
I use the Pacer App on my iPhone which records the number of steps I take. I assume this works by sensing the bounces in my strides. I came to this conclusion by observing that it continued to accurately count my steps when I was walking on a treadmill and not actually moving from one place to another. The goal is to take 10,000 steps every day. Overall I think this has been a positive addition to my life in that by using it I am probably getting more physical activity that I would otherwise get without it.
Using the app has changed my daily behavior. For example, now when I go to a store I will purposefully park far away in order to add to my step count. I have also noticed that if I have not reached my goal for the day every activity I engage in is valued to some extent through the lens of how many steps it will generate.
There is a significant downside, however, in that I do feel compelled to take my phone with me where ever I go so that I can get credit for the steps that I take. In this way my iPhone has further still intertwined itself with my daily existence which is something I struggle with and perhaps a topic for another blog post.
It is all about self improvement and partly inspired by a blogger I follow named James Altucher. He advocates engaging in what he calls a “daily practice” consisting of self improvement in four areas of life daily. These areas are (1) Intellectual (e.g., reading or learning something new), (2) Physical (e.g., going out for a walk), (3) Emotional (e.g., keeping negative influences to a minimum) and (4) Spiritual (e.g., praying, meditating, engaging in religious practice). I try to follow this practice and use the 10,000 daily steps as a means of improving myself physically.
This is important because I have a job where I spend a significant amount of time sitting at a desk. It is good to break up the day by taking a walk. I used to feel guilty about leaving my desk to take a walk because I felt that was time I could have spent working. But now I realize that if I do not take care of myself physically then the other four areas of my daily practice will suffer. For example, if I do not take care of myself physically I will have less stamina and concentration to perform my job or other pursuits. I will also likely feel more irritated and less fulfilled as well. For these reasons, I now feel entitled to my 10,000 daily steps.
Accomplishing Goals in the Now
I usually make a point of getting most of my steps in by noon. But some days are busier than others and I find myself thinking that I will put off taking my steps until the evening. Unfortunately, I have found that this to be a mistake because more often than not when I do put my steps off until the evening I never actually end up reaching my goal of 10,000. There is a lesson in this. It seems similar to the adage, “never put off until tomorrow what can be done today.” Only in this case it is, “never put off until the end of the day what can be done in the morning.”
Of course the goal renews itself daily so I never make myself feel guilty if I do not actually reach the goal. This would be counterproductive because if I do make myself feel guilty (aka employ shame as a motivating force) I will eventually become resentful with the goal in its entirety. When this happens I am likely to say, “To hell with it!” and give up on the whole scheme. Accordingly, if I do not reach the goal (which almost never happens) I know that the goal will be there when I wake up in the morning and that is the end of that.
Goals Should Be Daunting at First
I have a goal of 10,000 steps per day. It is said that people must practice a skill for 10,000 hours to master it. The journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step. There is nothing magical about the number 10,000. The nexus between these three ideas is that the goals are daunting at first but with persistence (that is, additional steps) the goals are eventually achieved.
When I first had the idea of taking 10,000 steps per day it seemed a little daunting. So I started out with a goal of 5,000 steps and every day after I tried to exceed the number of steps I took the day before. Using this method I eventually reached the real goal of 10,000 per day. Now a day does not seem complete if I have not reached that goal. It is a good thing that 10,000 steps seems daunting at first because that means in order to accomplish it I must push myself a little harder than I am used to pushing myself. There are probably 10,000 steps between the starting point and the achievement of any worthwhile goal. But I have found that most goals in life can be achieved eventually by continuously taking steps towards their achievement.