Marc and I went downtown yesterday and walked along the riverfront. Our original idea was just to ride the Ferris wheel that has taken up temporary quarters near the banks of the Ohio River. As we rose into the sky, though, we kept seeing things along the river’s edge we didn’t know were there. A myriad of paths darting between trees and flowerbeds, a maze tucked a little ways away from “Carol Ann’s Carousel.”
So, we went exploring. We saw the oversized “piano keys” that played sonorous bells as kids jumped on them. There were adult-sized swings reminiscent of the glider swing that used to grace my grandparents’ back porch. Every seat was filled and I wondered if the people swinging in them were imagining that this was their own backyard. The paths meandered, encouraging us to be lazy and just soak everything up.
It was so nice to see all the families and couples young and old. There were three wedding parties getting their pictures taken, and a whole contingent of women mysteriously sporting brightly colored, poufy net skirts.
When I first moved to Cincinnati in 1979, the riverfront didn’t beckon anyone. There was a concrete serpentine wall and that was about it, except for parking lots and industry. Over the years, we slowly saw the riverfront being developed. Sawyer Point, just to the east of downtown, was an early family-friendly arrival, with a playground, beach volleyball and a stage set at the bottom of a hill for open air concerts. That was just the beginning, the whisper of the promise that has now been realized. The Cincinnati banks are absolutely beautiful. Ten years ago, I would have scoffed if someone had predicted this transformation of our town.
It takes incredibly hard work and politicking, funding and vision to create such a transformative change. It takes debating and zoning changes and sheer determination. It takes genius. Everything along the riverbank, you see, celebrates what Cincinnati is—its history and its culture.
If change is possible across a city, it certainly is possible in each one of our lives. We can probably even skip the politicking. But, what do we need to make positive change, to decide we are taking a different direction, one we’ve never taken before? What does it take to transform our lives?
Psychological theories tend to cite the application of knowledge, attitudes and beliefs. We need to have the knowledge about how to make a lasting change in our lives; we need a positive attitude towards making that change; and we need to believe, with all our hearts, that we can do it.
In my journey to adopt my healthy lifestyle, I think I had two of those elements. I was happy with the changes I was making and I believed—well, I mostly believed—that I could be successful making those changes. But, the knowledge of how to do it? No, not really. I had to try a series of small changes that gradually built upon one another. I had to learn new skills and those skills had to become deeply ingrained habits.
Whatever kind of change we want to make, it starts with the dream. It starts with asking the question, if I could make one change in my life, what would that change be? It takes changing that dream from a wish to a goal. It means taking that first step and feeling good about doing it, even though the course ahead may not be completely clear.
Most of all, it takes believing in yourself and holding that course, day in and day out.