Changing habits, changing lives.
If you think about the tasks we perform daily, it’s often on autopilot. We wake up, we clean our teeth, we shower, we get to work, etc. We don’t even think about these things, they just happen.
We have a mix of good habits and bad, and when we want to build good habits we often hit the wall.
At the very start of your health and fitness journey, you hit the gym 3 times a week make a few healthy meals, join dry July and then suddenly there you are watching Netflix with a gin and tonic.
You tell yourself off and then start all over again.
What If I told you there is another way?
- Values and beliefs drive behavior.
- Common mistakes such as going all out immediately could be your undoing.
- Micro habits are the key.
Having been a personal trainer for nearly 20 years I have met hundreds of people who are very keen to start exercising, really psyched to lose weight and change their eating patterns.
We start with an initial consult where we discuss their goals, their eating habits, we put a plan together and they are set, ready to begin.
- About 60 % of those I never see again.
- 15% I see a few more times.
- And 10% stay clients and many become great friends.
Why do so many people fail at this stuff? The health fitness and weight loss industry is a billion-dollar business because so many people give up.
Is it because:
- They don’t really want to change?
- They are lazy?
- It’s just too hard?
- They don’t know how?
Is there something else that prevents someone from sticking with a fitness plan?
The focus usually starts with the end in mind, to lose weight – the goal, but there are a few steps in between that are missed.
Here is an example
- Step 1
- Decide what you want to be. Believe it. Identify with it – values drive behavior
- Step 2
- Act with small steps which support your beliefs- don’t take the gung-ho all in approach
- Step 3
- Set up your environment for success – its not just about willpower
Decide and Believe
You may find you start a habit out of motivation, but the only way you will stick to it long term and make it part of your life as if it becomes part of your identity. Its easy to go the gym regularly for a while and eat well here and there, but if you don’t change the belief behind the behavior, you won’t stick it long term.
Values and beliefs are two important concepts that govern our behavior and attitudes. Although values and beliefs are interrelated since they collectively affect our attitudes, perceptions, personality, character and behavior, there is a distinct difference between them.
Values are principles, ideals or standards of behavior while beliefs are convictions that we generally accept to be true. It is these ingrained beliefs that influence our values, attitudes, and behavior.
What are values?
If your value was to have a clean, tidy home, one of your habits would be making your bed each morning, packing up the dishwasher the night before, putting the dishes away, hanging the clothes up in the wardrobe etc.
You don’t even think about it, these habits are automatic.
If this wasn’t of high value, you may leave the house as-is and not even think about it. if you are living with someone who thinks differently you may find yourself in some strife!
If we take the weight loss example, what is required to lose weight?
- You would agree that exercise and a healthy balanced diet are the two things you need to start doing to lose weight. And a healthy person does these things regularly.
- What you would tell yourself is “I am a healthy person”. Say it as if it has already happened. If you trained each day and ate well, you would embody the identity of a healthy athletic person.
- Then the more you repeat the behavior i.e. exercising and putting good food in your mouth the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior
- So you start saying “I am a healthy person” and ask yourself when you need to make a choice what would a healthy person do
As most of us want instant gratification, what I am about to say will not please you.
This belief value thing takes time and effort.
You don’t just click your fingers and start exercising and eating well and the weight drops off, even though that would be excellent. We don’t just decide we want to play the guitar and the very next day we are given a guitar and we become Eric Clapton.
We have to learn. [10, 000 hours to mastery]
It appears people who want to lose weight don’t think of it as something we need to learn. They think of it as something that should just be and this is why people fail. Social media, advertising, and the health fitness and weight loss industry don’t help with stories of quick fixes and unrealistic diets.
Tips to help this process you can start telling yourself that inner voice that is already true.
Affirm: each day I am getting better
Write down your goals every day
- Place Post-it notes with your goals or affirmation around the house
- I have my daily mantra on my bathroom mirror, so I remember to say it every day
Small things daily
This reinforcement of behavior not only takes you to where you want to go, but it also helps you learn to trust yourself…hey I am really doing this, you believe you can accomplish this, the evidence starts to stack up and you are changing.
Small steps to one person could be big steps to another so best to start where you are comfortable. The goal is to create consistency. Each vote counts towards you believing what you want, what you are doing is true. New identities require new evidence. If you keep doing the same thing, casting the same vote, you will get the same results. If nothing changes, nothing is going to change.
Some make the mistake of diving in.
I am going to go the gym this week 5 times, I am going to eat 800 calories for the next 3 days, I am going to cut out alcohol for the next month…..
Whereas you could start with
- I am going to train in my lounge room, on Monday at 7.30am.
- I am going to start a food diary and log my breakfast and 9 my lunch at 2 and my dinner at 8.
- On Tuesday I will meet my friend Anne at 9am in the park and walk for 30 mins
- On Sunday I am going to make 3 healthy meals for the week and freeze them
Note how I am saying these steps.
Studies have proven if you write down when you are going to work out, and where and be specific you are more likely to do it.
Want to become strong?
Identity: Become the type of person who never misses a workout.
Small win: Do push ups every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
No one is perfect and it’s important to realize that. However, 2 rules
- Don’t miss two days in a row – Wherever possible don’t miss your habits two days in a row. If you veer off in the wrong direction, course correct and get back on track. Get a buddy and get support.
- Don’t let one bad choice/decision ruin everything – You’ll make bad choices every now and then, but the trick is to not let that consume you and affect everything you do for the rest of the day. Descending into a “fuck it” mindset can unnecessarily screw up what would otherwise have been a positive day.
Much like the money you invest in the stock market, the energy your put into your habits, will compound, and build over time, over days, weeks, months and years and you will become what you wanted to be.
Setting up environment
‘The environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior’ said James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. The most powerful of all human sensory abilities is sight. So it’s no surprise that visual cues are the greatest catalyst of our behaviour.
- If you want to remember to take your medication each night put your pills next to the bathroom near your toothbrush
- If you want to drink more water fill up a few exercises water bottles and place them in locations around the house
- If you want to read more you would put the book on your pillow or bedside table
My story of journaling and meditating
I decided I want more personal development in my life. I wanted to create a morning ritual. I wanted to spend at least 30 minutes each morning on myself.
- I asked my husband, Peter, to wake me up (he gets up super early and wakes me with a coffee every day)
- I bought a pack of different color pens,(my fave is purple), and a journal and placed them on my bedside table
- I joined a law of attraction /self-help book club
- I downloaded the calm app
Small step, cues that set me up for to do this long term. And I am seeing the result of these habits and pleased to say I have been doing this every day since February
Another great story of cues is
I had a client who wanted to exercise by walking her dog every day when she got home from work . She worked long hours starting early and when she got home, her first stop was the pantry. She would make herself something to eat, sit down, start watching tv and before she knew it, she was too tired to take her dog out for a decent walk and she missed getting her exercise in once again.
What was her automatic habit?
- Going to the pantry.
- What good new habit was she trying to create?
- She wanted to walk the dog and exercise daily
- If seeing is the most powerful sensory ability, what could she do.
- Put the dog lead in the pantry.
Which is exactly what she did!
To build good practice we want to make our habits, obvious, easy, and attractive.
How to make it obvious
One way we can do is something called habit stacking.
Let’s say you want to start a gym habit. We attach this to an obvious habit that will happen such as waking up
Your gym appt has been made right after you wake up so you are not going to forget.
Lets see how we can make it attractive.
Choose something you love, if going to the gym and doing a session on your own is not your thing but you love basketball, then perhaps you could organize some friends to play with before work
Next, we want it to be easy.
You can pack your bag the night before so its one less thing to worry about in the morning. Then you are ready to go.
The easier and more satisfying the reward, the easier the practice will become, and the habit formed.
Most people start with the outcome in mind. eg I want to lose weight and they miss the steps in between. Our beliefs determine our behavior, so if we don’t change our beliefs, its hard to stick to the habits long term.
Lastly by making your new habits obvious, attractive, and easy they will soon become effortless and over time become automatic too.
Femme Fitale has 20 years’ experience and can offers the type of coaching to lead you to long time results.
I recorded this presentation at my networking group recently which you can watch below.