I’ve become one of those people. The ones you see when you’re driving down the road who are walking with determined strides and annoying smiles on their faces, reminding you that your exercise regimen could use some attention. The very people who used to instill guilt each time I saw one of them briskly covering ground while I sat on my backside.
On 11/1/11 I received my osteoporosis diagnosis. The next day I implemented my plan to regain bone health through regular exercise.
I’m happy to report that I’ve exercised at least 30 minutes a day for two weeks running. Not only that, but I’m actually having fun. I was seen walking along the trail yesterday wearing a grin, and I bounded into Curves for my circuit training the day before.
I’m proof it’s possible for a person to undergo significant change. Before the diagnosis I durn near despised exercise, but look at me now.
As I walked, I got to thinking about my main characters. Like me, they can be resistant to change. My job is to force them out of their comfort zones, help them face their fears, and take them to new places in life where they are ultimately stronger and happier.
To help my main characters complete their character arcs, I send each of them on a journey involving five steps.
1. An interruption in life as they know it. This is what some call the “inciting incident.” Something happens that forces a character to deal with a situation, shaking things up.
2. The realization that they can cling to the status quo and remain in their comfort zones or plot new courses and gain the promise of achieving something more valuable.
3. They reach a point where they realize their ways of approaching life is no longer working and they have no choice but to adopt new ways of dealing with the situation.
4. A futile attempt when things look the worst of going back to old ways of coping, only to discover that those methods no longer work because their situations and, more important, they have changed dramatically.
5. Ultimate acceptance of a new way of dealing with the world around them, resulting in the completion of their character arcs. They are different people with new traits and deeper levels of maturity, which have shaped them into stronger people as a result of the hardships they’ve endured and challenges they’ve overcome.
I raced through the first three steps in this process. Upon receiving the diagnosis, I quickly accepted the need to change, the short-term goal being improving my bone health and the long-term goal being avoidance of a life-threatening hip fracture later in life.
I’ve had two weeks of success, but I’ve lived long enough to know my determination will be tested. I’ll wake up one morning and find it’s raining when I’m scheduled to take a walk. The temptation will be there to skip a day of exercise.
What I’m counting on is that I will reach a place when I feel the desire to workout or walk even on days when it would be easier not to. At that point I’ll know my character arc is complete because I’ve undergone lasting change.
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What steps do you put your characters through as their character arcs are completed?
How do you deal with the need to make significant changes in your own life?