Does change happen all at once, or little by little, each day? Yesterday, I discussed the first three tips by Margie Warrell in the recent Forbes article “Want to Keep Your Resolutions the Entire Year?” in regards to taking more multimodal transportation in St. Louis. The first three tips focus on inciting change, excitement and momentum, but as we know, real change usually happens gradually, with bumps in the road. The last four tips encourage us to gather ourselves up when we are discouraged, and to keep in mind what is important to us, and to take time to enjoy it.
4. Focus on one major resolution at a time. As Warrell points out, if you try to do everything, sometimes you end up accomplishing nothing. Trying to use more multimodal transportation does not have to mean selling the car, buying a fixed-gear bike, and while you are at it, biking 15 miles to work each way.
Focus on a realistic goal you can attain, and put your energy towards it. If taking transit from your home takes up too much time, try making a goal of biking to a transit center or to a MetroLink station once a week. Or, if you made several New Year’s resolutions, find ways they can complement each other. If you want to lose a few pounds, continue to focus on your weight loss goal, but consider walking or biking as part of your exercise routine.
5. View failures as a temporary setbacks that make your goal meaningful. Often, temporary setbacks and distractions are the nemesis of well-intentioned change, including using public transit, and biking and walking more often. A late bus or flat tire happens from time to time. A rainy day may be an excuse to use a personal vehicle, but it is not reason to give up your resolve.
When setbacks rear their ugly head, take a step back and remember why this is meaningful to you. Do you save money? Do you appreciate the quiet walk to the station? Do you like to read during your ride? Do you believe in walkable, urban development? Do you love and support bike infrastructure? Come back to the mindset and values that inspired you, and reach out for help, if necessary. Local organizations can provide tools and programs to be successful. Trailnet is featuring an evening pub presentation series on topics like winter bike commuting, and Citizens for Modern Transit offer a Guaranteed Ride Home program for free cab rides home for emergencies.
6. Focus on the process. Remember how many other activities in your life are all about the process – walking a long walk, reading a novel, holding your child, or preparing a home-cooked meal. The amount of joy and fulfillment I gain from these simple activities is often about taking the time and mind to appreciate the moments. Mindfulness, whether it is riding your bike or eating a healthful meal, can keep us in the moment and help motivate and engage us through distraction and obstacles.
Even on days when the weather is poor and the daylight hours short, I try to look around and appreciate the things I love about taking transit – the quirkiness of some fellow riders, the sense of community, the neighborhoods I travel through, and the smells of fallen leaves and backyard grills on my walk home. I feel very similarly when I choose to ride my bike to the store, or walk home from the market. Taking time to focus on the process reminds me that traveling is not simply getting from Point A to Point B, but so much about the path I take in between.
7. Do One Thing Every Day. To me, this may be the best tip for continuing any resolution, including taking multimodal transportation instead of always using a car. Doing one thing every day makes the exceptional ordinary and habitual, and that is a good thing. Ride your bike down to the local park. Walk home from the grocery store on a pleasantly warm afternoon. If you drive, combine multiple trips into one. Learn how to change a flat on your bike. Buy a warm pair of gloves. Map out a transit trip to the library. Encourage your friends to carpool to the bar. Take the long and winding way home from the bus stop, past your favorite tree. Each day is an opportunity to support alternative transportation, while enjoying your neighborhood, saving some money, or exercising a bit more.
Supporting multimodal transportation in St. Louis is like a lot of other commitments of civic pride. If we strive for perfection, or big, sweeping changes, we may encounter disheartening challenges. But focusing on our values and goals, and paying attention to the process, may just be the wave of change we wish to see in a multimodal St. Louis.