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Learning to start with the end in mind

What was once a negative habit was soon turned into a forever friend.

Morning walks aren't just exercise, but chances to clear my thoughts for the new day
Morning walks aren't just exercise, but chances to clear my thoughts for the new day

In the past, I had learnt to make procrastination a good buddy.

When faced with an unpleasant task, I would hold off doing it until the last possible moment then burn the midnight oil toiling on that presentation or report, with the tiredness to show for it the next day as I went to work.

When COVID-19 hit Singapore, I got a rude awakening. With many of my favourite pursuits such as meeting friends and relatives, and watching movies, out of reach, there was little to do to pass the time and maintain my sanity save for doing the tasks that needed doing.

It was not long before those tasks were done too. With reduced advertising revenue, my job in the media industry was at reduced productivity.

I had never been a fan of exercise but two years ago, with growing concerns about hypertension and diabetes ( a serious health problem in our island nation) , I signed up to join a gym and went for regular workouts.

I wondered how I was going to make my subscription worth my while until I read about two sayings that helped me set the path – eat that frog, and begin with the end in mind.

Eat that frog refers to the productivity maxim of beginning each day buy doing the hardest or most unpopular item on the to-do list, as you would be able to devote your prime energy to it and therefore complete it effortlessly.

Begin with the end in mind hearkened back to the lessons of the late Dr Stephen Covey and his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. By Beginning With The End In Mind, he meant that visualising the successful result of a task would help fuel our resolve to completing it with little or no interruption or slacking.

I applied both the maxims to my exercise routine. As the gym I attended was open 24 hours daily. I began my workouts early in the morning before work, or in the early morning hours of each weekend, when the air was cool and crisp.

It was tortuous getting out of bed at 5am or 5.30am each day, but then I applied the beginning with the end in mind – I pictured the slim and lithe body that I would get at the end with no health problems and slimmer waistlines accompanying the changes too.

I would be lying if I said that it was smooth sailing all the time but the bad days soon became fewer and fewer. The workouts under the watchful eye of the personal trainer were tortuous at first but I later grew to love them and the accompanying treadmill sessions too.

I turned to Youtube and Spotify to create a gym song list that would keep me powering my way through each workout and soon I was hooked. It was not long before I saw the changes – my pants and shirts became loose and I dropped a shirt size from L to M!

Soon, I began to crave each day as my workout session day and felt withdrawal pangs if I could not do a workout due to inclement weather or other reasons.

When COVID-19 hit Singapore and the gyms had to close, I turned to daily morning walks and those did the trick perfectly! After each walk, I would post a Facebook video with an encouraging message. I soon had a small but steady following.

Everyday. someone would ask “Ready for your morning walk?” and I knew it was time to make my move. Sometimes I was not in the mood, but all that changed as soon as I hit the track. At the end of an hour, I had worked up a healthy sweat and treated myself to some black coffee sans milk and sugar.

It was not long before I was soon less afraid of unpleasant tasks. Where I used to avoid them until the last minute, I now began to tackle them early and saw the benefits of beginning such work early, when I was able to iron out potential problems earlier and thus get better results than before. Soon, these ‘unpleasant’ tasks became less onerous.

It took a universal scourge like COVID-19 to change my attitude for the better. Frustration was the initial feeling but now, I feel more positive and am more confident that we will get through all this much better. How ironic that I have a virus to thank for my change in outlook and perspective! All’s well that has ended well!

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