It comes from doing the right, often small, things regularly and habitually.
Probably I’m not blowing your mind with the above statement. If you’re like most of us (definitely myself included) your first instinct upon reading that is to nod along, say that you already knew that, and keep rolling.
But is that actually what you do when you want to change something in your life? If you’re like me, and I bet you are, then instead of making those small, gradual changes you want to do something drastic. You want to start a new, ass-kicking exercise program, cut your carbs down to zero, live off of salads, give up all liquids except clear water, start shoveling down all kinds of supplements with pictures of hot bodies on the label, and start planning your all-inclusive mountain retreat so that you can commune with a Yak. THIS IS THE MOMENT AND YOU WANT IT NOW!
For about a week. Then you crash and burn.
Am I right?
We all know that real change comes from long-term progress. Moving more and making better nutrition choices, frequently and consistently, will result in a net result of less body fat, more muscle mass, greater health, and more athletic prowess. Period. It doesn’t happen in a week, even if that week was really hard.
In my studies of motivational psychology and practical experience helping hundreds of clients in my Bangor, Maine personal training facility make these changes, I have stumbled on a trick that works better than any other I’ve found: Gaming the system. Everyone loves games, in some way, shape, or form. Changing habits isn’t always easy, but it’s easiest if the changes are small and you turn them into a game with yourself. Stop looking at the result you want as giving up some of your favorite foods or punishing yourself with exercise. Instead look at it as a challenge of “can I plan and eat three healthy meals this week?” or “how can I add an hour total of exercise to my week?” and turn it into a game with yourself.
There’s another component to this: Since it’s your game, make sure (especially initially) that it’s a game you can win. Success leads to more success. If you have been sedentary for the last ten years, trying to add an hour of exercise per day, every day, is probably going to be very hard. Again, you might be able to pull it off for a week or so, while your motivation is high, but soon there’ll be a busy day at work, a weekend wedding on the road, or you’ll simply feel too beaten up and sore to make it to the gym. Just like success breeds success, failure often breeds failure, and soon it’ll be right back to the couch.
So set yourself up for an easy win: The first week, just add an hour or two of exercise, TOTAL. If you think you can do three, realistically, then do two. It’s still two more hours than you did the week before, and you should easily win that. Give yourself a pat on the back and know that you’re absolutely better than you were last week, even if you could have done more.
Then you can up the ante a bit. Let’s do two hours and 15 minutes. When you achieve more success then you can keep building on it over time. Soon you’ll be regularly hitting whatever would have been your ambitious goal in the first place and it won’t be a struggle, it’ll be what you do. It’ll be HABIT.
All because you were playing a game, and winning that game.
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