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"Have you really thought about how you start your day?"

Have you really thought about how you start your day? I mean really thought about it – Not, oh please that first cup of “joe” or that thought-provoking shower time.  I mean how you actually start the day.

As I have aged, especially the last ten years, I have written down goals at the beginning of every year. I know, I know you are thinking everyone does that, they’re called New Year’s Resolutions.  I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about just a few like 5 or 6 personal, professional, and even spiritual goals if you are so inclined. This has become a wonderful process for me especially as I enter what I deem to be my third grouping of careers.

What makes this undertaking so much fun is I reread these on my desk every several weeks. I keep these on index cards and I review them. What is surprising is not what you never attain like the old “going to lose 30 pounds”, although you just might. Heck, a gym might be in your future but more likely a Peloton today. No, I mean true life-changing habits.

To give you a few examples (I am not tooting my own horn here, just saying….)

Two and a half years ago I started early every day for ten minutes with an app called Duolingo trying to learn Spanish. Now I do 20-30 minutes every morning learning 4 languages. This year our church put out an online app to read a little bit of the Bible every day so that by year’s end, I will have read it all. Rather than watch television news, I read my local paper online {takes 5 minutes – HA!].  Comics and horoscopes are important!  Then I grab my coffee and do a quick 10-minute exercise/stretch routine from The Wall Street Journal.

Ok, I admit you can bust my chops because I’m no longer running to an office or the hospital like I used to. To some degree, I have found new activities to fill in my time.  But I get up early and accomplish these tasks in the first 2 hours of my day. Why is this important? Because if you take baby steps every day these can become life-long habits. I wish I had stumbled on this earlier but, oh well.

Heck, I have started writing two books and am learning languages I hope to travel and use.  I feel better about my self-worth and I appreciate more what my career and medicine meant to those around me.  I am even trying visualization and mindfulness to improve my golf game. Slow progress!

I guess what I am trying to say is you can achieve things too that you thought you never could by just starting small and building on it.  Small goals on index cards or stuck to your bathroom mirror works too! It’s like a 401K of life, those small habits lead to great growth and can change in your life.

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Rick Zollinger, MD, FACS

Executive physician coach, mentor, listener

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