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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, September 24, 2023

College 101: Turning Over A New Leaf

I’m a college senior graduating this coming May with a degree in anthropology. I don’t have a job lined up quite yet but I’m not too worried. My biggest concern is my health. I hate to admit it, but the last couple of years have been tough on my body.

Class and work obligations prevented me from exercising regularly. My eating habits are pretty poor, too. I mostly eat out for lunch and have microwavable meals for dinner. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol on the weekends with friends is the norm.

These things weren’t an issue until more recently. While at home for the holidays, my parents really encouraged me to make some lifestyle changes. They insisted that graduation means real-world opportunities and real-world problems.

The thought of changing all those things is really daunting. How realistic is it to tackle them all at once? Will I be more likely to fail?

Changing your ingrained lifestyle is neither an easy choice nor a simple feat. According to the veteran author, James Clear, about 80% of attempts to change your lifestyle will eventually result in failure. That’s a lot of failed attempts, and one of the primary factors revolves around trying to do too much, too soon. In other words, despite how tempting the promise might be, you should avoid a universal strategy in favor of a selective one.

In your particular situation, Clear suggests that you first choose a keystone habit to overcome. He defines a keystone habit as “a behavior or routine that naturally pulls the rest of your life in line.” This shouldn’t be too challenging for you. Consider the four aspirational categories at hand: (1) quit smoking cigarettes, (2) reduce alcohol consumption, (3) eat healthier, and (4) exercise more often. Each of them certainly merits attention but exercise is the only one likely to exert the most influence on all of the others.

Medical experts at the Mayo Clinic point to seven major health benefits related to regular physical activity. Unfortunately, even after choosing only one habit to overcome, the journey to success is still long, arduous, and ripe with obstacles. You can very easily become overwhelmed, but don’t succumb to the pressure. There’s nothing wrong with searching for some external inspiration. There’s no shortage of helpful resources like how-to guides to getting fit and healthy that you might tap into for motivational ideas. Another option is browsing these more detailed guides for improving your health and wellness.

Expect things to be relatively smooth at the outset but make no mistake: things will become gradually more difficult. Contrary to popular myth, forming a new habit doesn’t simpy take 21 days of active commitment, but there are recognized stages of progress that you ought to explore. Everyone is different, which means you might find certain aspects of your endeavor more or less grueling than what others claim to have experienced. Reflect on what you find, and take note of what seems most relevant to your personal situation.

“Good habits are worth being fanatical about.” -- John Irving

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