How To Achieve Lasting Change
“I’m going to drastically change my life for the better. I will stop eating junk food, I will eat vegetables with every meal. I will exercise 5 times per week, and meditate daily… Starting tomorrow”.
How many times have you said something along those lines? More than once I’ll bet. And if you keep on saying it more than once, then I assume you haven’t had much success with the sudden change. That’s because we as human beings are not wired that way.
Have you ever seen Limitless? That movie where Bradley Cooper finds a magic pill by mistake? This pill basically gave him limitless human capacity. It all became clear in his head, he was motivated and did all the right things to achieve his goals, and none of the mistakes people usually encounter. When the dose wore off, he just popped another pill and everything was great again. Well, sudden light bulb life changing endless motivation moments only truly happen in Hollywood. In the real world we are faced with… the real world.
So how do we actually change? And more importantly how do we keep the change? The answer is actually pretty simple, consistent action. Without consistent action nothing sustainable will ever be accomplished. Consistent means doing it most of the time, not all of the time. Action means doing it, not just thinking about doing it. Just like saying “I’ll start tomorrow” it’s easy to say “All you need is consistent action.” So in order to not waste your time and give value to your read I will present you with a strategy for you to implement consistent action when working towards your goals.
Assuming you know what your goal is this will be very easy to implement. It has to be, or else it won’t be sustainable. Pick an action that is too much to handle, and when your motivation wears off so will your consistent action.
Meet Bob, Bob has had a gym membership for 3 years. Bob averages about 18 visits to the gym per year. These visits happen the first two weeks of January and a week in May or June. Bob visits the gym when he feels surges of motivation, these are few and far between, clearly. Bob wants to build the habit of regularly exercising. We will skip motivations and reasons on this piece and save it for another time. How do we help Bob achieve regular exercise for life?
We make it easy for Bob. Bob has proven to attend the gym about 18 times per year, that is more than once per month and less than once per week. Working out once per week would be a great improvement for Bob. Not the end goal, but great progress. We look at the days when he does attend the gym and look for patterns on why, when, and how he gets to the gym the days he does. Then, we work to replicate those days and circumstances.
Bob gets out of work early on Wednesdays. The gym is on his way home. Bob prepares his gym gear the night before and takes it to work with him. He knows Wednesdays he will be out early and can stop at the gym on his way home. Every Wednesday this will be Bob’s routine. After a few weeks Bob will find another gap in his schedule and add it to his calendar as exercise time. These are small and incremental additions. This is what we want, because this won’t overwhelm Bob. Bob will build habits by doing things that he can do even when everything in his day is going bad. There will be bad days, life will happen, but going to the gym once per week will always be doable for Bob. And if for whatever reason one week he can’t, he can pick right back up the next week.
If Bob attempts to begin exercising 6 times per week right off the bat, he will increase his chances of failure. We want to increase our chances of success, not failure. We are motivated by our wins more than our losses. If you workout 5 times but intended to do 6, you have failed. If you workout twice but intended to do so only once, you have won twice.
Pick a small action that almost seems impossible to fail, and consistently add it to your routine. After it becomes second nature and part of your lifestyle, crank up the volume a little bit more. Eventually you’ll reach your intended goal, but by that time you will have bigger and better goals to chase!