I’ve been thinking about this a while. For me this year I’ve been focused on habits. I’m always thinking to myself what is it that keeps you stuck?
What are the questions that I keep getting over and over again?
What are the ways that I help clients?
And one of the things I see over and over again is that people don’t have good habits. What I mean by that is we always focus on things we aren’t –
I’m not a healthy eater,
I’m not a good sleeper,
I’m not someone who exercises, and you just focus on that, the not.
Or when you flip to say it’s time to get healthy it’s completely cutting out the things out of your diet wholesale, like no wheat, no dairy, no gluten, no this, no that, without really kind of looking at all of your habits, your good habits, your bad habits.
Programmed For Certainty
I want you to think about your current habits. Brushing your teeth, that’s a habit; how you take your coffee, it’s a habit; how you take your coffee, when and where you drink your coffee it’s a habit. If you think about it some of our earliest habits were started when we were babies.
You sucked your thumb or you didn’t .
You needed binky at a particular time and as a parent you kind of feed into that habit. Or maybe instead of having your kid suck their thumb you’re like, “Suck this binky instead.”
These are all habits. Habits can be considered good or bad habits.
One of the reasons we fail at habits, be it creating or stopping habits, is that they keep us safe. One of our primal instincts that we need is certainty – You need to know that gravity is holding you down. You need to know that when you take a step that you’re not going to fall off the end of the earth. You need to know that when close your eyes tomorrow, you’re going to wake up tomorrow. And that’s the kind of certainty that you know, you trust and we translate that into other areas of our life.
You want certainty if the person you’re in a relationship with loves you back. You want the certainty that if you start a new diet and it tells you that you are going to lose 400 pounds in four minutes, you better lose 400 pounds in four minutes.
I hear youm, you want the certainty that anything you want you’re going to get. And for a lot of people if they aren’t, I’d say 90-ish% sure they’re going to nail it, they’ll sit their butts right back on the sidelines. It’s a chosen few that even with that small percentage of not being certain they will accomplish or even achieve, however you want to describe it, will still go for it. What I want you to be able to do is if you’re that person who if you’re not 100% certain that it’s going to happen for you and you typically sit back on the bench, I’m talking to you.
I want to give you that extra boost, that extra kick in the pants if you will to go for it, because what I know is that sitting on the sidelines has that gotten you any closer to where you want to be?
And the other thing I know is that if you want something, you’ve got to move your feet. There are a lot of people out there that are like, “I’m going to manifest that.” Really? Well, let me just tell you, manifestation doesn’t work unless you do the work. And I know this is a little woo-woo and it’s going to be a slight tangent, but I’m totally going to bring the plane right back to habits. You have to have clarity about where you want to go and that’s where I’m going to.
You need to be so clear about where it is you want to go. And what I find with a lot of people is not only do they not have strong habits, they’re not clear. And because you’re not clear, you’re not creating the habits that are going to take you to the next level. Without this clarity the habits that you are trying to create aren’t going to be sustainable. The key to create habits that you are going to actually start and chip away at and see results.
If I’m going to start on the bad side of habits, one thing I think is that it starts with physical things. It could be too much exercise, too little exercise, too much food, too little food. It could be working too much, not working enough. Those are the kind of things where habits are formed.
It could be a mindset; it could be you’re that person who life is always happening to you.
It could be you’re always a negative thinker; it could be that you always see things on the bright side.
It could be that you’re a little too optimistic, a little too Pollyanna, a little too wearing rose-colored glasses all the darn time.
It could also be like a technology thing, you could be addicted to your cell phone, you could be addicted to Netflix and chilling, that’s your whole world; you could be addicted to social media.
Whatever track you’re moving down, if you’re moving down the bad habit track or moving down the good habit track, so many people are like, “If only I had more willpower. If I only had more willpower, you don’t even know how much I could accomplish.” And every time I hear that it’s just nails on the chalkboard for me, because willpower isn’t this superhero that’s going to swoop down and take the coffee out of your mouth, take the wine out of your mouth, push you to the gym? It’s not like that.
How Much Does Willpower Cost?
The best way I’ve heard willpower described – and it just like nails it – willpower is a battery and it’s a battery of choices, and the more choices I have to make that rely on my willpower, the quicker that battery gets drained. I want you to think about your cell phone. Here I am, it’s 8 p.m., and my battery is at 86%, and that could be I had a pretty easy day, I didn’t have to make any big willpower decisions. Now, I go home, I eat dinner, and after dinner happens, what if I want a sweet treat? So, now I have to start thinking to myself, “Ice cream, cookies, fruit, what do I go for?” That’s draining my battery because I spend a lot of cycles thinking about brownies, cookies or have the fruit. Then maybe I choose the brownies or the cookies, maybe I choose both, then I have a few rounds in my head beating the crap out of myself, and that will pop batteries down to like 50%. Now comes 9:00pm, I could watch a movie on Netflix, or I could go to bed. Then I decide I’m only going to watch 20 minutes and if nothing catches my attention I’ll go to bed. Oops here comes a binge-a-thon and I’m watching episode one, season one of (you insert the show) and next thing I know it’s 2:00 a.m. and episode 10 is rolling up and I’m dead on my feet. At this point my willpower is down to zero!
Now, if I didn’t hit my recharge button, do you think by the time I got up the next day I’ve already dead dog tired, am I going to make better choices tomorrow? Or am I too tired from the day before to make good choices?
There is NOT an infinite supply of willpower, the more you rely on it, the faster it will burn itself out. It comes back around to getting clear about what you truly want, what’s a true obstacle(s) for you. And so, what is going to be a willpower thing versus a skill power thing.
The Tortoise or the Hare?
If truly you want to live a healthy lifestyle you shouldn’t be white-knuckling it, you shouldn’t be pacing around like you’re waiting for your next fix. You want that ease; You want that flow for you that you’re not going to fall back into your old patterns.
Do you want certainty? Take the time and do the work. Is it an overnight thing? Nope. But if you, again, practice your skill power, you’ll rely less and less on willpower.
You’ve got to have a start date and I challenge you for it to not be on a Monday, because think about it, today is Tuesday, so everyone is going to be like, “I had a candy bar and some cookies today, screw it, I’m going to start on Monday.” What if you said, “You know what, I’m going to buck the trend and I’m going to start on Wednesday. And so, when I start on Wednesday, again, I’m breaking the habit of always starting on Monday, but I’m also giving myself this stake in the ground. And you decide what it is you’re no longer going to allow, or you decide what it is that you’re going to start taking on.
Keep it simple, I always ask my clients what’s one thing, that you can change. They’re like, “Well, if I have to say one thing it would really be to eat right and go to the gym.”
I’m no rocket scientist, but that’s two things. To get you guys to focus down into one thing is really hard for most of you, because you look at all the things that you need to change. You want to do all the things right freaking now!
I believe in The Tortoise and The Hare, that old fable. We all know the story, the hare is like, “I’m going to beat you.” And the tortoise is like, “Go for it.” And the hare runs himself ragged doing all these tricks, showing the turtle how fast he is, burns himself out, meanwhile the tortoise is one step at a time, one step at a time, and he ends up winning the race.
I want you to be that tortoise, I want you to be that so certain, you know where you’re going and you’re taking your sweet old time and you’re just making life happen.
So many of you struggle with setting goals. And one of the biggest things you struggle with setting is numeric goals. In order to achieve your goals they should be measurable.
This is a conversation I have with clients all the time.
Clients: “I want to start a new habit to eat healthier.”
Me: “So, how do you know if you’re eating healthier? How are you measuring that?”
Client: “”What do you mean?”
Me: “So, are you going to eat healthy on Monday, Wednesdays and Thursdays, are you going to eat healthy for breakfast, are you going to eat healthy X number meals a week? What is that quantifiable so that I can look back and say, ‘I did it. Look at me’”?
We all want to do that victory lap. Define it – if you say, “I want to work out more”, is it for duration, is it for a number of days at the gym, what is it? Classify what it is because, again, the clearer you are, the more defined you are, the more likely it’s going to get done. There’s a saying, “what gets measured gets done.”
There’s an app on my phone called Today and it’s a habit tracker. Jerry Seinfeld, when he first started as a comedian, knew he had to have a library of jokes in order to be able to go to all the open mic nights. He wanted a library so he wasn’t reusing the same material over and over and over again. So, he challenged himself to write a joke every single day. He got an old-fashioned calendar, and every time he wrote a joke, he put a giant X through the day. And his motto was, “Don’t break the streak.” So, he wanted to wake up every day and see that X on the wall, the X on the wall, the X on the wall.
So, think about your habits like this. I want you to see that X on the wall. Can you keep a streak for seven days? Can you keep a streak for 14 days? How long can you keep this streak? And a lot of people will talk about cold turkey. If it’s giving up wine or if it’s going to the gym, they’ll just be like, “I’m going in two feet and I’m making this happen.” I go back and forth. I believe there is a percentage of the population that can do that.
About 15-plus years ago when my husband and I decided that we’re going to live a healthier life, and we met with our trainer, we came home and literally cleaned out our cupboards. We were just like, “All right, this goes.” And we just cleaned out our cupboards.
Now, other people would be like, “Oh hell no.”
There was a weight loss show I used to watch on TV, I can’t remember the name of it, and the whole family needed to go on a diet. The nutrition coach moved in with them, and the first thing the coach said was, “Look, we got to get rid of the stuff in your house that’s going to tempt you.” She’s going through their cupboards throwing stuff away, the family is literally crying. The family is crying, the dad is swearing like a sailor. It’s so funny the attachment that we have around food.
Savor The Journey
So, I want you to just think, can you go cold turkey? Do you need to go cold
turkey? Here is where I ask you to take an assessment of where you are based on what you want to do. A lot of my clients, they like their wine, and I’m like, “Let’s start with where are you.
Are you drinking every day? Are you drinking two glasses, three glasses a day?
Can we scale that back to one glass a day? Can we scale it back to two glasses a day? Can we scale it back to a really great glass on a Friday instead of a glass or two every night or wine out of the box, Monday through Friday, can you spring for a really good $30-plus bottle of wine and savor it?
So, it’s looking at that kind of stuff.
It all comes back to where do you want to go. Think GPS if you don’t punch in the right address you are going to spin your wheels, or you’re going to land miles from where you want to be.
I talk about this regularly, but I’m the queen of baby steps. Back in the day I was so hardcore, and I want to apologize for those of you guys who worked with me back then, but I was so hardcore; now I’m about baby steps. It goes back to where are you, assessing where you are, and then seeing what’s possible for you. Now a days, everyone wants to immediately go from beginner to expert, but I always say to people, “Beginnings are messy, but it’s in the mess where you find your mastery.” It’s in the mess where you find your footing and how it’s going to best work for. Yes, it stinks, yes, it’s awkward, yes, it’s uncomfortable, but at the end of the day I know what always works out, I truly know that it works out.
Success is boring as fuck, and I want you to get comfortable in it being boring. I want you to get comfortable that there’s not going to be shooting stars and unicorns flying across when you’re hitting your goals. But if that’s something that motivates you that you need, I want you to set little mini goals along your path and celebrate the heck out of them, because the wins are what keep you going; it’s not the deprivation, it’s not the denials, it’s looking in the mirror and saying, “Hey, these pants don’t feel as tight”, doing your measurements and saying, “I think I’m down five inches.” It’s those kinds of things. It’s like, “I’m sleeping better. Look, my skin looks so much better.” “It’s your husband getting a little handsy”. Those are the things I want you to think about.
Willpower will only take you but so far. When you start learning stronger skills, you’ll have a better shot of knocking it out of the park. And just like good habits are triggered, there’s a trigger mechanism; bad habits have the same trigger mechanism. So, I want you to think about what kicks off the habit you’re trying to change.
Do you come home and immediately the habit is take off your coat, grab a glass and pour a glass of wine?
Is the habit after you get the kids down you feel like you deserve a snack?
Is it the habit that you only go to the gym on days it’s not raining?
What is that habit, what is that trigger that you seem to fall into?
And is there any way, is it your environment, is it someone who’s around you, what is the way that you can change that trigger so that it helps you to create the next steps?
The last piece is accountability. I can’t stress accountability enough. Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with an accountability partner and it’s been very eye-opening because — let’s just be honest — we think we are the bee’s knees… okay, at least I think I’m the bee’s knees. And it’s very humbling to open the kimono and be vulnerable to someone, to be like, “I can’t do this on my own.” And I totally get that, especially for someone in my position, I should know all this. But what I do know is that you can’t be objective about yourself. I know that wholeheartedly you cannot be objective about yourself, you will always think you are doing awesome. One of the best things by hiring someone is that they’re your second set of eyes, they’re the person who can talk to you objectively because there’s no emotional attachment. Their only skin in the game is to help you be your best. How can you set yourself up for success?
I’m just going to wrap it up. I want you to beware of trolls. Trolls aren’t just those people on the internet you don’t know; trolls can be people you know who when you try to better yourself they don’t like it, they want you to be you, the way you are right now, no changes.
It’s your accountability partners, it’s your circle of like-minded folks when it comes to making this change, they’re going to be your biggest and your best supporters. So, at the end of the day, there are good and bad habit. Both can be broken and strengthened, and it’s just a matter of you getting really clear on what it is you’re trying to create, the life you’re trying to create.