Reframing toward habits
Acknowledging your current habits and how we picked them up are the first few steps of your personal developmental journey. It allows you to accept where you are, and there is something that you can change in order to improve. As long as you have this belief of otherwise, you won't be able to practice the full power of habits that will help you function and be successful in your craft.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit" - Aristotle
The Highlight Reel
Our modern world led us to believe that success is always right around the corner, that there is supposedly this one big moment; or forever-inducing feeling waiting to happen. Who can blame us when we see this portrayed in movies and social media which conditioned us to operate on feelings than action.
Iconic movie Rocky IV shows a training montage of him chopping trees, pulling a horse sled loaded with rocks, and sprinting in more than 3 feet of snow to the top of a mountain. This 4-minute clip is meant for us to get excited, motivated, and urged for action just like Rocky. We think this is all there is and how he was able to perform tremendous feats when in reality, it's his perseverance of doing it every day, even on the days he didn't want to.
Vacation photos, concerts, new cars, promotions, and successful startups... Social media only shows what our friends want us to see. We all do this because who wants to post about struggles, failures, and hard work especially when there's nothing yet to compensate it with. It's boring and depressing. Our brain likes to put these bits and pieces together with stories concluding that these things happen spontaneously.
These are the highlight reels; designed to give you a temporary boost and unrealistic expectation. That is why a lot of people wait for the new year before making any health resolutions. They feel this excitement, motivation, and sudden urge for action, only for it to fade away after a few months. When they don't see the big results and all that's left is pure work, we see the majority (especially those without a personal trainer) of them give up prematurely.
My point is, you don't have to wait until the new year to depend on some false motivation, instead focus on developing good habits because it's what keeps you playing the game. If you decide to make fitness your resolution, make sure to focus on building these habits, or get a personal trainer to help keep you on your toes.
What are Habits?
Habits are the automatic things that we do in our daily lives. We adapt them little by little through our environment and don't often recognize them. It's a routine of behavior formed as our brain's way to increase efficiency by saving us lots of mental energy. Think about how mentally draining it would be if every action and decision we take were conscious.
We can look at habits as a component of a larger system that could either work for us or against us. The outcome of this system is determined by the lingering effect of our habits with time.
System: Habits x Time = Outcome
Your account balance is the lingering effect of your financial habits, your room's appearance is the lingering effect of your cleaning habits, and lastly, your weight is the lingering effect of your eating habits.
Having this system allows you to have a strategic approach and an outer perspective of what daily choices you need to make to get the desired outcome. Establishing a system plays a far more important role than your goals because it answers the "how" question. It's the process that closes the gap between you and your goals.
Like investing, you need patience and consistency with your system. It's what gets you 1% better every day until the power of compound interest brings you significant changes. Letting your system play out is important because it allows you to track, reassess, and improve continuously past your goals.
Trusting the process is what separates those who succeed from those who get stuck and unfulfilled.
How to build good habits?
Building good habits is like learning how to drive.
At first, it's hard and requires our conscious effort to apply the right amount of pressure on the pedals, maintain good distance with other cars, and how much to turn the wheel. However, over time these things just become easier and second nature to us.
When building habits, you must first ask yourself. Why am I doing this? Is this important to me? Will this benefit me? Will this make me happier? Find a motivator behind those actions. When someone says they don't have the time they're essentially just saying it's not their priority.
Next, focus on consistency rather than quality. Choose to do it every day. It doesn't matter how you do it, or how long it takes for you to do it. Once you have the momentum, it will give you the self-efficiency to keep going.
Then you could move on to more specific things from the knowledge gained in the process.
Consistency allows you to align your actions to this ideal person you set out to be. It shapes your identity and becomes the ultimate intrinsic motivator. Ask someone why they're a certain way and you'll hear "this is just the way I am".
1. Habit is a feedback loop that consists of cue, response, and reward. We can manipulate our response by changing what's available in our environment.
When you're hungry, make it easier for your brain to respond towards healthy eating habits by making them more available in your surrounding. Buy your favorite healthy foods, snacks, and fruits. Avoid buying junk food - don't trust willpower alone.
2. Track your progress on a physical object because it makes it feel more real.
Buy a small notebook; write down 3-5 daily priorities every morning, including the habits you're trying to build. Once finishing the task, cross it out. It gives you a sense of productiveness and a state of flow that is quite satisfying.
3. Get support from your peers!
If you're trying to eat healthier, but are surrounded by people that eat junk food, how hard do you think it is to build that habit? Ask for support or meet people with the same goals as you; have a friend to go with at the gym, or even better, hire a personal trainer to hold you accountable, motivate you, and keep you on track.
I always encourage my clients to build good habits because that's what will sustain their goals and continue for them to improve with or without me. One of my long-term clients came up to me after losing 25 pounds and told me he was happy to keep doing this even if he didn't lose any weight. The concept of letting the system play out for him was satisfying because it allowed him to prioritize other things in his life. It was also applicable in other areas leading him to a more balanced lifestyle.
It makes me happy to be able to help people through fitness as a gateway to their personal developmental journey. This is what high-performance living is all about, being effective, balanced, and always improving to be your best version. And it all starts with you. Don't be fooled by the highlight reel by waiting for that one big moment or life-changing feeling to happen. It'll never happen unless you start now.