The Piggyback Principle (patent pending)

I so totally want to be a better person. There are all these things I know I should do. Things that would make me happier, less stressed, and maybe even thinner. Things I do that one time, vow to make a habit of, and never do again.

There’s a list of things I don’t do (I will not bore you with them), but there are two things I actually do on a pretty regular basis: meditate and exercise. Yes, I am superhuman.

I manage to do these things because I stumbled upon the Piggyback Principle, a practice I just made up.

It started with Studley going out for swim team. I sat and dutifully watched practice for several weeks before I couldn’t take it anymore and joined the pool so I could swim laps at the same time. I had forgotten how much I love swimming and I figured I was there anyway so what the heck.

I join gyms and then don’t go. It’s what I do. But I am religious about getting the kids to their assorted practices. I succeeded in swimming because I piggybacked something I was doing for someone else into something I needed to do for me.

Before long I buddied up with a friend who suggested we swim on a Friday morning and oh my stars it was heaven. There was no shouting. There was no splashing. There was no one watching when I clambered out of the water, landing like a drunk walrus on the pool deck.

It was so quiet I found myself counting my breath, clearing my mind and listening as I swam. It was like a walking meditation. I should probably mention that I am not a competitive swimmer. I am more of a tai chi swimmer.

Like companion planting or complementary proteins, some things are better together. There’s this little thing in our brains that’s like “oh, I don’t have time to do this because I have to do that.” Brains are always giving us choices. Do your homework or make a pan of tater tots. Swim or meditate. This practice completely short-circuits that process. It’s as if making tater tots actually is your homework.

If I don’t feel like swimming, I go meditate in the pool. If I don’t have time to meditate, I go swimming. I’m really quite flexible.

The mission critical component is that the decision happens before I am capable of making a decision. Instead of showering, I put on my swimsuit. The next thing I know I’m half way to work, unshowered and barely dressed. Obviously I can’t go to work like that, so I have no choice but to follow through and go swimming.

The other genius part is that I was back at practice with nothing to do, except I’d gotten used to getting something accomplished. So I took my laptop and ostracized myself from the mom pile while I tackled whatever deadline was looming nearest. I finished projects in record time because the clock was ticking and people were looking over my shoulder busting me for scanning Facebook. There are things you can get away with doing during your kids’ sports and apparently Facebook is not one of them.

I have absolutely no idea how you can apply this to your own life, but I’m curious if you do. The most critical piece is finding something you’re already doing, and tagging along with it. What is it you want to do? How can you fit it into something that already exists? Let me know how it goes.

Meanwhile, my tater tots are ready.

Above: “Freya” by Katie Trinkle Legge