"Motivation is what gets you started; habit is what keeps you going.”
– Jim Rohn
The quality of your habits will determine the quality of your life.
Habits are the daily processes that help achieve goals. Think of them as vehicles driving you to your destinations. The vehicles are the habits, and the destinations are our goals. Too often, people embarking on a fitness goal worry too much about the destination and not enough on the vehicle that carries them there. They tell themselves to work out and eat better but fail in initiating HABITS that allow themselves to do that CONSISTENTLY.
It starts with awareness.
Our behavior patterns determine the quality of our finances, relationships, and & fitness. The lack of awareness of our spending patterns results in a lower checking balance. The lack of awareness of our negative relationship patterns results in unhappy relationships. The lack of awareness of our nutrition and fitness habits results in a lack of health.
To build awareness in any of these areas, you must first AUDIT YOURSELF. Identify the habits that are setting you back from who you want to be and have negative consequences in the long term. Eating a whole bag of cookies may be pleasureful in the moment, but down the line can cause obesity and other health issues.
What are the habits that don’t align with the identity you want to grow into? What are the habits that align with the identity you want to grow into?
In other words, if you are unhappy with your current health and fitness, you have to start to see yourself changing into someone fit and healthy. It’s a subtle shift but can have a drastic impact on whether you stick to your habits.
A smoker who is trying to quit is less likely to stop smoking cigarettes than someone who quits and considers themselves a nonsmoker. A smoker’s identity is to smoke cigarettes, whereas a nonsmoker doesn’t partake in that activity.
In his book, Atomic Habits James Clear outlines four stages of habit formation: cue, craving, response, reward.
These are the steps required to form or break a habit, any habit. The stages for habit forming and breaking are the same, however, the tactical steps you take in each stage are different.
· Cue: make it obvious
· Craving: make it attractive
· Response: make it easy
· Reward: make it satisfying
· Cue: make it invisible
· Craving: make it unattractive
· Response: make it difficult
· Reward: make it unsatisfying
To FORM a habit, having an obvious cue to help initiate the desired behavior will make it easy to repeat every day. Something simple like leaving your running shoes ready at the door to initiate a run. Or laying out your gym clothes the night before to remind you of your workout. Creating obvious cues in your environment will help build your new habit.
To BREAK a habit, hiding the object or trigger that initiates the pattern you want to change will prevent you from engaging in it. Avoiding the purchase of unhealthy snacks will prevent you from eating them at home. The first step in breaking habits starts with removing the triggers from your environment that cause you to slip into those negative habits.
Cravings are the urges that cause you to repeat a behavior. When you feel hungry, you satisfy your hunger pangs with food. Making your cravings attractive will make it more likely to engage in the behavior. To make the new behavior attractive, highlight the benefits of the behavior. Such as the dopamine high after going for a run.
To break a habit, you want to do the opposite. Make the behavior unattractive! Anti-cigarette campaigns make smoking EXTREMELY unattractive. Images of tar in the lungs, bad breath, bad skin, lung cancer, etc. made smoking cigarettes an unattractive behavior to engage in.
To engage in the desired habit, you must make it easy. Reducing the friction of performing a new habit makes it more likely you will actually do it. Many people are trapped in analysis paralysis, making things more complicated than they need to be. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Instead of worrying about the details of your workout, just go for a simple run. Instead of worrying about the perfect diet, make sure you get some additional protein with each meal.
The opposite is true for breaking habits. Make it difficult. INCREASE the friction between you and the habit you wish to cut out. An example would be to hide your video game console in the closet to make it harder to initiate the habit of playing every evening. If you get distracted by your phone during work time, place your phone on do not disturb and leave it in another room. Increasing the steps between you and the habit you wish to break will make it harder to engage in.
Make completing a new habit satisfying. You want to do this through positive reinforcement. Reward yourself for performing a new habit. Be careful your rewards don’t conflict with your end goal. You want them to align with your goals and habits you are creating. For example, to reward yourself for going to a yoga class, you can buy yourself a new piece of athletic clothing. This will be a positive reinforcement that aligns with your goal to be more active. However, rewarding a workout with a pinto of ice-cream conflicts your end goal.
Breaking a habit requires you to make the behavior unsatisfying by using negative reinforcement. Having accountability from a friend/group or setting a negative consequence to make the engagement of the habit painful in some way. An example would be a cursing jar. Someone looking to use less profanity must place money in the jar to give away every time they use profanity.
When deciding what habits to start with look for the lowest hanging fruit.
The habits you can cut out or add-in that are the easiest to do with the largest impact on your life. It's important to look at habits like compound interest. You slowly add in new habits, and over time they compound into massive results.