By Kacey McCoig, Health and Wellness Coordinator.
Practice. Not just a word. Sit for a minute and contemplate its meaning.
The words that come to my mind: repetition, sweat, discipline, frustration and empowerment, growing, gaining.
In fact, this is the unique component that attracted me to Access in the first place. Sport. Not squash, the sport. But sport in general. What a powerful tool. I know it was for me…there’s no way I’d be who I am today if sport wasn’t central in my life growing up. Why? Because it’s a practice. Practice…period…no matter what type of practice, teaches lessons relevant and applicable to our larger lives, to the bigger picture. They can be amplified and used as an analogy to just about any situation and used to obtain perspective. No? Am I wrong about this?
As the Health & Wellness Coordinator here at Access, I dish out a lot of information, but what I really aim to do here is promote…personal practice. One way we’re doing this is through setting personal goals and designing personal implementation plans for big or small, easy or not-so-easy goals. I have students reporting progress in the form of: drinking more water, decreased stressed, improved organization, breathing, taking time for self, heightened levels of personal peace. How great is that? For me, the success isn’t when they get in their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Rather, it’s the experience of creating a plan, sticking to it and being able to grasp a higher rung on the ladder and say “I did it.” Like sport, this is a practice, and one that has no boundaries when it comes to applicability. Like practicing any sport, the process doesn’t necessarily get any easier, but it does heighten self-efficacy, a momentous means of breaking down barriers and looking up even higher on the ladder.
As a dietitian, one of my pet peeves is when adults comment that children can eat whatever they want…they’re young enough. On the flip side; however, we dish out really good advice that we are old enough to not take ourselves. (No judgment…most of us are at least a little bit guilty) But, isn’t this oftentimes the case? “Eat your vegetables.” “You shouldn’t watch so much television. Your brain is still developing.” I’m sure we could think of a number of them. The fact is that we do this because it’s hard to adopt or change behaviors, and goal-setting though effective, is a very systematic process that requires time, trust, repetition, and discipline (these words sound familiar?). It requires practice, and there’s not really a short cut. I say we’re not really serious about a goal until we write it down. So…we need to physically write down our plans, tell others about it for a means of accountability, anticipate and strategize a way around obstacles. And, (yeah!) we need to wisely select how and when to reward ourselves when we achieve progress.
This was like nutrition counseling 101 in college, and I was the goal setting, disciplined master of achievement. But years later in grad school, I took a class on behavior change (kind of the focal point of public health), which, through the semester, forced me to go through this process again. I use the word, “force” intentionally because…I didn’t want to do it. My mental talk sounded much like what I hear from some of the students… ”There’s nothing I want to work on.” “I’m not going to stick to this plan.” “It’s not my priority.” When, in fact, I was just out of…practice. Only when we truly practice and cultivate a new behavior do we develop a new mindset or evolve our current ones. And, if we choose wisely in what and how we practice, it is possible to cultivate a lasting state of awareness, a state of motivation and persistent and overriding consideration of “me.” Does that sound selfish? No way. What that translates to is a conscious state of choosing how you talk to yourself and how to make decisions that are in line with who you are, what your body, mind and spirit really wants or needs at that point in time.
Without practice, we will likely, as I did, forget what we “know” and repeatedly act or think in a manner that doesn’t quite align with our goals or with (on a deeper level) see ourselves to be.
Obviously, this isn’t just for kids…it may sound a bit drastic to some of you, but it’s really pretty fundamental. This process…this practice can be applied to simple, daily lifestyle choices or to very complicated and difficult to address issues. Now, this is the really important part. It’s not about the information, which we have or can get at any time. It’s about the practice: going through the motions, coming back to the intention, finding that discipline and experiencing…physical, mentally, emotionally, the sensations of growth.
So go get some for yourself, and if I can be of help anyway, please don’t hesitate. We’re a community supporting one another. Thank you for your continued support for these amazing kids and this program. Reach out any time, stop by the club and meet the students if you haven’t already. I wish you all the best in your practice.