You get what you aim for.
If your goal is health, then for you to get those results, your goal has to reflect in your actions. This means that each decision you make needs to be filtered through the question: does this support my goals?
For example: Nick just had a really long day, he’s mentally exhausted, and has been waiting all day to sit back, relax and watch some of his favorite TV shows. But there’s also that little voice in the back of his head that’s telling him: “man I should move a little bit after sitting all day at work”.
Nick knows that in order to get rid of his nagging back pain he needs to keep his body as limber as possible. But the other, more seductive, voice in his head is saying: “let’s do absolutely nothing for the first time all day”.
This battle of wills is where health is gained or lost, during these small decisions that you have to make every single day. Your area of improvement might not be moving more, it could be eating higher quality food, staying hydrated, or taking time to breathe and manage your stress throughout the day.
Everybody has their own mountain to climb, but the principles are the same. Your goals, those deep desires, determine your actions and your actions, over time determine your results, particularly with health.
How do so many high-level athletes, coaches, and fitness enthusiasts make living healthy lives look so easy? They know that small actions made day after day, AKA habits, produce the biggest results, so they’ve set out to make those actions as easy as possible.
How to Make Healthy Habits
1) Make it Obvious
The amount of time that we spend in autopilot each day is astounding. Studies have shown that at least 40% of the actions we take each day are habitual, meaning we aren’t consciously making the decision.
This means that if you don’t currently have the habits you’d like to have, and know you need to have to achieve your health goals, cultivating awareness of your actions is the first step.
The easiest way of doing this is to list the things you do during the day on a piece of paper. You can divide it into sections, one for the morning, afternoon and evening.
The goal here is to get a birds-eye-view of what your actual routine looks like. It’s very important to be honest with yourself when making the list, even if you aren’t proud of all of the things you do.
- wake up
- get out of bed
- take a shower
- make coffee
- check phone
- eat breakfast
- leave for work
Once you are aware of the habits that make up your daily routines, it’s time to decide where you want to insert your desired habits.
Take a look at your routine and figure out the best place to put that new habit.
For example, if your goal is to add more movement into your day you could schedule a walk around the block after you eat breakfast and before your leave for work.
If your goal is to begin managing your stress better, you could schedule in 2 minutes of mindful breathing while your coffee is being made.
Once you’ve found a spot in your routine that will work, it’s crucial that you are as specific as possible when writing down the where and when of the habit.
- I am going to walk around the block every morning after I eat breakfast and before I go to work.
- I am going to breathe for 2 minutes every morning, in my favorite chair, after I make coffee and before I check my phone.
Write this down somewhere that you will see it every day to hold yourself accountable.
2) Make it Attractive
Now that you have awareness of your habits and have gotten specific as to where and when you will perform them, let’s look at how to make these habits attractive.
Making new habits attractive increases the likelihood that you will follow through on them. A way of making any habit more attractive is to pair it with an activity that you already enjoy or that you look forward to. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, refers to this technique as temptation bundling.
For the meditation habit mentioned above, if you enjoy checking your phone for news, sports, or social media, temptation bundling would mean that when writing down the where and when of your habit, you would phrase it as: “My reward for meditating for 2 minutes after I make coffee is that I get to go on my phone and check the news.”
Another way of making a habit more attractive is to join a group, hire a coach, or work with a friend. Social accountability, having someone who is counting on you to hold up your end of the bargain, is a powerful tool for building new habits.
This can be as simple as arranging with a friend who also wants to build a new habit, to check in every day, with something as small as a text message saying, “I got my walk around the block in this morning!”
Knowing that you have to tell someone every day whether or not you stuck to your habit is a powerful motivator and is a tool that many high-achieving individuals use.
3) Make it Easy
The last step to streamlining your habits is to make them as easy as possible. The easier the habit is to perform, the more likely you are to do it. It’s as simple as that.
Especially when starting out, you want to make the habit you are working on so easy that you can perform it every day no problem, no matter what is going on or what you have to do.
The key to this is starting small.
Take our meditation habit for example. You might see people on social media talking about how awesome their 30 min meditation session is each morning, or others talking about their intricate breathwork practice, and you might be tempted to try and get on their level and go for that 30 minutes of meditation right out of the gates.
This is a mistake. We have seen time and time again that starting small and getting consistent wins every single day is the secret to long term success.
For meditation, starting small would look like 1 or two minutes of breathing every morning. Once you’ve done that every day for a few weeks then you can think about bumping it up. But again, make sure you are easing into it. Adding a minute or two every other week is a great strategy for easing into it.
Another way of making the habit easier is to reduce the friction needed to get started. If every morning you had to clean off clothes/books/etc from your favorite chair before you could sit down and meditate you are adding one more unnecessary step to the process. And funnily enough, that one extra step is often enough for you to convince yourself that you don’t need to do it. The solution to this is to prepare your environment the night before.
For the mediation habit, making sure that the area that you’re going to meditate in is cleared of unnecessary stuff and ready to go in the morning. For walking around the block, put your walking shoes and a pair of socks by the front door the night before so that they are waiting for you in the morning.
Because making big changes to your health can seem daunting and overwhelming, it’s important to focus on the small actions that you can take every single day to push you a little bit closer to your goal every day. Winning these small battles every day leads to amazing results in the long run.
How do you make these habits stick?
- Make it Obvious
- Generating awareness of your current habits.
- Being specific and strategic about when and where you will do your new habit.
- Make it Attractive
- Temptation Bundling: combine your new habit with something you already like to do.
- Get social accountability.
- Make it Easy
- Make your new habit so small that you can do it every single day no matter what.
- Get whatever you need for that new habit ready the night before.
How are these working for you?
Which of these techniques have you tried? How did it work?
Have any specific topics you’d like covered in a future article?
Let me know in the comments below!
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