The Power of the Minimum Baseline

Seven days.  Seven days is the longest period of time that I’ve refrained from washing my hair.  Please don’t judge.  Here’s how it happened. 

You see, I have thick naturally curly hair.  Before you say, “lucky!”, let me tell you that it’s no picnic.  I could never take one of those ‘I woke up this way’ photos.  Unless that is, it’s for a contest for a lion’s mane.  Upon waking I’ve been called Bozo the Clown (by my Dad-thanks Dad), Medusa (you know, the Greek mythology monster), and other terms of endearment related to skydiving or electric sockets.  Got it?

It takes forever to wash, dry, and style this mop of hair.  So over the years I’ve noticed that I could skip a day or, ahem, three, and my hair styled better and I could get ready in a fraction of the time.  Win!  The day I learned about the messy bun changed my life.  The day I first used dry shampoo, I fainted.  Praise be.

Armed with my new tools, I now mostly wash my just twice a week.  Again, no judgement.  I am showering daily, ok???  However, once or twice I’ve accidentally gone over my minimum baseline of shampooing twice a week and I have taken an extended week to get back on track.  Now that is not optimal.  In fact, it gets gross.  So I pretty much do whatever it takes to get in my two washes a week.  I feel like an old woman at this point.   I wonder when I’ll just start going in once a week to my beautician for my hairdo?  Now that I think about it, that would be fabulous.  I digress.

Enter the concept of minimum baseline.  I know what works for me as a minimum to wash my hair, so why not apply it in other areas?   I started doing so last summer unwittingly with my workout routine.

Typically, I have enjoyed working out intensely.  One of my best friends told me if I didn’t puke at the end, it wasn’t a good enough workout.  So that’s pretty much where I lived most of my adult life.  Until I reached an age, and health status, that proved that practice stupid and useless.  I was injured more than I was working out.  And after several surgeries, I wasn’t in any shape for an hour long intense lifting session or run.  

But I knew I needed a daily routine because sometimes I went weeks in between workouts as I recovered from the last punishing session.  So, I started by adding a 10-minute yoga video every morning.  It was easy enough to implement and felt great to my creaky body.  No matter what, whether traveling or recovering from a late night, I hit play on that video because that’s what I said I would do.

After a couple of weeks of this, it was a habit.  I couldn’t miss.  It was a new minimum baseline for me.  So, when I added a 10-minute walk to that, it was no trouble, because I had already made time in my schedule for my ‘workout.’

A few months later, I was ready to add a more strenuous workout in.  I chose an 80-day program with online videos.  The workouts were an hour long.  There were some days I didn’t have time for the full hour because I got up late.  But guess what I did?  Yes!  The original 10 minutes, my minimum baseline.  I never got off track, and recently completed the 80-day program.

Now I didn’t know to call this process a minimum baseline, but I heard the phrase recently from Brooke Castillo, on the Life Coach School Podcast.  And it makes total sense.  She shares how setting a minimum baseline helps you learn to honor your commitments to yourself especially when its just as easy to NOT do the thing as it is to DO the thing.  You’re not doing the thing because it will bring huge results but you’re helping your mind be disciplined to do what you ask yourself to do. 

So how do you use the minimum baseline to your advantage?  Easy.

1)     Start small.  Make it ridiculously easy.  Choose the new habit you’d like to implement and make it easy to accomplish.  This will build your habit as well as trust in yourself that you can complete it.  For example, if you’re trying to add exercise, make it for 5 minutes, 3 times a week or whatever you can easily handle.

2)     Don’t focus on the results you’ll get.  Focus on honoring your word to yourself.  Focus on stopping the brain chatter about why you can’t do it.   

3)     Print a blank calendar.  Hang this on your fridge or somewhere you see it often.  Mark off the days you complete and get excited as you see your progress.

That’s it!  Keep up the minimum baseline for one thing at a time.  Commit to the minimum.  As you do this, you’ll learn how to honor your word to yourself.  You’ll build trust in yourself to accomplish more whether it’s drinking less, eating in ways that honor your body, or working on a project you’ve been putting off. 

What is a minimum baseline you already have in your life?  How can you use this simple principle in a new area?  I’d love to hear how you use it.