Building healthy habits that stick
iar? You’re all in on getting back in shape. You’re eating better. You’re exercising 4 or 5 days a week. You’re even juicing carrots and kale! Now that’s motivated.
You’re on a roll. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, you just stop doing all that healthy stuff. You got out of your healthy new routine and before you know it you’re back to your old habits. Does this sound familiar? Probably.
Why? Because habits, good and bad, have a strong tendency to take control of your life. If something is going well in your life, it’s most likely because you’ve got good habits in that area. And if something isn’t going well, there’s a solid chance your habits are what’s holding you back.
If you’ve previously struggled it’s probably not a lack of commitment, it’s over-commitment. You tried to do too much too soon. Creating a new habit requires focus. Trying to overhaul your nutrition, strength training, cardio, stretching, supplementation, water intake, etc. all at once doesn’t work. It’s the opposite of focus. And a lack of focus means you’ll probably fall back into your old habits as soon as willpower inevitably runs out.
So what’s the lesson here? Focus on building healthy habits one or two at a time. It’s not the sexiest fitness advice you’ve ever received. But it might be the most important. This approach requires patience, but like compounding interest, over time, the results can be staggering.
My challenge to you is to identify an area of your health you’d like to improve and pick ONE habit that will make you better. Not perfect, better. I promise if you do this it has the power to change your life for the better. Because a habit puts your health on auto-pilot and who doesn’t want that?
How to build a habit that sticks
For today we’ll use the example of getting in the habit of eating breakfast since this is a common challenge but has a significant impact on your metabolism.
1. Start with an incredibly small habit
Start with something so easy you can’t say no. Most of the time getting started is the hard part. So pick something incredibly easy. Start by eating a small handful of berries in the morning. EASY.
2. Increase your habit in tiny increments
1% improvements add up fast. So do 1% declines. Increase by small amounts weekly. For our example, you could add some nuts with your handful of berries.
3. As you build up, break the habit into chunks
After a few weeks, your new easy habit might be getting too big to be easy. Perhaps your breakfast is too much food. No problem, break the habit down into pieces. Let’s say you’re eating a handful of berries, nuts, and a protein bar. Eat the berries and nuts and save the bar for an hour or two later. The goal here is not to become overwhelmed. We want this to be EASY.
4. When you slip (and you will), get back on track quickly
Your new mantra, “never miss twice.” You will slip, it’s ok. The key is to be ready for it. When you falter, remind yourself of your new mantra. “Never miss twice.”
5. Be patient. Don’t try to sprint the marathon.
I’ve never tried to sprint a marathon, but I’m pretty sure it’s a bad strategy. Stick to a pace that feels easy and smooth. Be patient. And of course, ALWAYS celebrate your successes.
Follow this strategy, and you’ll be blown away by how easy it will be to create a habit that impacts your life substantially. Just like retirement, saving $5 a day is better than $100 a couple of times a year. Consistency ALWAYS beats intensity.