Like most of the Greek islands, Paros has many footpaths. Many of these paths were created before the arrival of cars. People walked and, in doing so, created these paths.
Luckily, there’s a well-defined path on the promontory to Krios which makes walking there much easier.
A path is created by walking repeatedly in the same place. Like a habit.
Habits are neural pathways we’ve created by doing something over and over again. Habits produce automatic behavior. Some habits need to be broken and some habits need to be made.
Aristotle said that we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act but a habit.
Much has been written lately about neuroplasticity —the brain’s ability to change. It’s no longer believed that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. You can change but it takes intention and effort. Research indicates that you need an average of 66 days of continuous activity to create a habit.
My walks to Krios are also meant to help me with my habits.
First of all, I promised myself I would do 30 days of walking. And when I fulfill this promise, my brain will reward me chemically. It’s a cycle—I visualize a project, make the effort to actualize that project, actualize it and voilà, my brain rewards me with a bunch of dopamine. And this feeling good because I’ve completed a project is the beginning of a neural pathway. The more projects I actualize, the more the path becomes defined. And in the end, finishing a project becomes a habit. And so does feeling good.
Second of all, walking alone on the promontory gives me a chance to be alone with my thoughts. “What you think, you become” so it’s important that I try to keep my mind positive.
Once I saw an episode of “The Dog Whisperer” with Cesar Milan that impressed me. A couple had a dog that, when out walking, would go into tilt every time a car would come from behind. The dog would go around in circles barking and the couple couldn’t get the dog to stop. Cesar said the solution was easy: don’t let the dog get started. When a car comes from behind and the dog starts to turn around, simply pull the leash to keep the dog from turning.
There’s a logic to this that can be applied to the way we think. Sometimes we start thinking over and over again about something negative and it becomes a non-stop refrain in the brain. And this repetition creates a path. So the best thing to do is to stop it before it gets started. For example, when the thought surfaces, block it immediately with a personal mantra. The mantra doesn’t even have to be profane. It can be something stupid like “Ice cream won’t melt with the snow”. What’s important is to stop the thought before it stops you.
Today’s mantra comes from “Mustang Sally” sung here by the Commitments. Sally’s been driving around too much so her boyfriend tells her to walk.
Put your feet on the ground. Put your feet on the ground. Put your feet on the ground. OM.