We all have daily routines.
Wake up, get pretty, commute, work, lunch, commute, kids, dinner, relax. Repeat.
Now it might vary from person to person, but a lot of us have one unfortunate thing in common. Our daily habits and overall lifestyles take a compounding toll on our health, stress, and waistlines over time. Yet perhaps the worst part of it all is that these negative changes occur in such small, consistent increments over the years that we barely notice them. That is, until one day you look in the mirror and say, “What in the HOLY HELL happened to me?!”
Your waistline has expanded several inches, posture has gotten worse, and your eyes have upgraded from having bags underneath them to a 3 piece luggage set.
“Enough is enough!” you say to yourself. “I need a change!” And with each word added to your motivation laden inner monologue, you vow to be better.
And it’s precisely at this point where most people start making goals and setting new standards for their lives in order to make positive changes. A fire has been lit and they are READY.
No more soda! Workouts four times per week! No more desserts! Alcohol? NO MORE!
And with this an unmatched enthusiasm, you start your health and fitness journey ready to kick ass and take names.
Until about 10 days in and most of your “old ways” have resurfaced, once again wreaking havoc on your lifestyle.
So what the hell happened?
Well, when it comes to habit changes and lifestyle overhauls, far too many people out there simply bite off more than they can chew initially. They let their newfound motivation fuel their ambitious goal setting and it results in a complete flip of their life. There are too many extreme changes going on to deal with appropriately and it simply becomes too much to handle. So for a lack of better terms, you fail, feel like shit, and go drown your sorrows with the help of Ben and Jerry.
So how do you fix it?
First off, you need to make a list of everything you want to change. Sleep better, eat less crap, exercise more, start meditating, learn how to finally make a twice baked Stilton soufflé… whatever floats your boat.
Next, pick the ONE thing you want to focus on. Just one! Doesn’t matter if your goals all feel equally important to you, just pick ONE.
This will be the thing you focus on until you have successfully created a habit change. Until then, put all your other goals on the back burner. Why? Because it’s been statistically proven that for every habit you try to change simultaneously, the higher your chances of failure are. In simpler terms, try to change 100 things, fail 100x faster.
FAIL. via GIPHY
Here’s where lots of people can screw it up. If they want to stop drinking soda, they’ll go cold turkey. This is a mistake. If they want to start working out, they’ll try to go from zero days per week to four. This is also a mistake. These changes are too drastic and too sudden.
In order to create successful habit or lifestyle changes, your initial goals for change should be so minuscule they’re barely noticeable.
For example, if your goal is to stop drinking soda, don’t go cold turkey. Don’t aim to only drink five, three, or even one soda per week. Aim to replace just one sip of soda at dinner with water. That’s it.
If your goal is to start exercising, don’t be a hero and try to start working out three times per week. Not two days, not even one. How about doing just one set of ten squats two times per week?
“But those goals are a joke, you’ll never see results like that!” says the internet troll who is an expert on all things fitness.
Internet troll hard at work. via Medium
Very true. But we’re not looking to create results initially. We’re looking to create compliance and consistency. With those two things in your corner, results are almost guaranteed.
After a couple days of replacing just one sip of soda, you will ABSOLUTELY be ready to replace two or three sips. After one week of ten squats, you’ll be itching to do more.
And this is how we start to create change.
By utilizing these very small, very non-drastic changes, your ability to stay on track and never ‘screw up’ will be incredibly high. You won’t feel discouraged, unmotivated, or like you can’t do this. You’ll continue to build off these small changes, making slight increases in difficulty until one day, one replaced sip of soda has turned into only having one sip of soda and ten squats has transformed into five sets of ten squats.
The only trade off? This’ll take time and you’ll need to be patient. This is not an overnight fix. But you know what? Your weight gain, high stress, or lack of mobility didn’t happen overnight either. Remember, it likely took you months and probably years to get to where you are now… reversing these things will require persistence and more time than you’d like.
But slow and steady wins the race, especially when it comes to creating new habits that stick.