Postcard from the Parking Lot

As I turned into the parking lot of my local grocery store, I could see that competition for parking spots was intense. A snowstorm was in the forecast, after all. And there was a football game that afternoon.

Cars were jockeying for position with their blinkers on, waiting for other shoppers to load their groceries and pull out. Others were circling like sharks, hoping to spot and claim an about-to-be-vacated spot before others could react. I could almost see the cloud of stress and frustration rising over the lot and rolling toward me.

With a feeling of relief, I banked to the right, headed to the furthest corner and pulled into one of dozens of empty spots. I collected my empty grocery bags, locked the car door, and because I happened to be wearing tennis shoes, jogged the 200 yards to the door of the grocery store.

But so what?

Opting out of the parking lot drama definitely reduced my stress level. But, let’s be serious: Will the extra dozen or so calories I burned by jogging in from the corner of the lot make any meaningful difference in terms of my weight? Of course not. But it’s not about the calories I’m burning. It’s about the mindset I’m creating.

Every time I purposefully choose a farther parking spot, or take the stairs, or jog across the street, I subtly reinforce (to myself) my identity as someone who chooses to be active, who makes healthy choices. And that spills over into so many other aspects of my life. Such as which foods went into the grocery cart once inside the store.

What we do, say, and think really does affect how we see ourselves. And how we see ourselves affects what we do, say , and think. It can be a virtuous cycle or a downward spiral.

So, the next time you find yourself questioning whether a tiny thing like parking further away from the door can ever really make a difference, remember that all of these small decisions add up to the person you are becoming. Spiral up, friends.