How to Successfully (and Permanently) Change Your Lifestyle
Do you want to be a healthy person?
Someone who is in shape, without being on a diet or some crazy routine all of the time?
Do you want to make fitness a permanent part of your lifestyle?
Most people do. Creating a lifestyle that fitness fits into is the key to long term success.
You cannot be on a diet forever – but you can generally default to eating healthy foods. You can make working out a few times a week a habit that you enjoy and look forward to.
How do you get there?
How do you get over the hump and go from a fitness routine being something you are consciously doing, to part of who you are?
The key is to change your habits. To get to the stage where you are doing the things you need to do, without thinking about it.
No motivation or accountability is required – you just do it.
If you look at the four stages of learning, many of you will be yo-yoing between conscious competence (making yourself do the right things, following a diet, getting yourself motivated) and conscious incompetence (knowing what you should be doing, but giving up, ‘falling off the wagon’ and not maintaining it).
For long term success we need to get to the fourth stage, unconscious competence.
At this stage, doing the right thing is habitual. We do it, without having to think about it or make any particular effort. It is just part of who we are.
So how do you reach the stage of unconscious competence?
You Are Your Habits
Who you are can be defined as the actions and behaviours that you engage in. You are what you do.
When you consider that the majority of what we do is habitual and not something we consciously think about, you can say that we are our habits.
We get up, roll out of the same side of bed, eat the same breakfast, drive the same route to the office, etc.
We all have habits that define our lives, without us thinking about what we are doing.
What we want, is for fitness to become part of our habitual lives. We want to habitually go to the gym and workout. To achieve that we might habitually pack our gym bag the night before, habitually drive a different route home (via the gym) etc.
The way to create permanent change is to change our habits. To maximize our chances of being successful we should aim to change one habit at a time.
Trying to overhaul everything is overwhelming and most people fail in their fitness goals because what they are trying to do is too far away from what they are normally doing. They’re trying to change far too many habits at once.
Willpower and desire will work for a while, but not forever. If you’re trying to change too many things it will become overwhelming and you will never enjoy it.
The fact is, our habits are our comfort zone. It’s important that we are getting out of our comfort zone to make progress, but not so far out of it that we are constantly uncomfortable. That is a recipe for giving up and going right back to our old habits that keep us firmly inside our comfort zone.
Certain habits are more important to change than others. Certain habits are a trigger that lead to multiple other actions. If you can change these base habits, it can set off a cascade of other behaviours that we want to create.
For example, changing the food you put on a grocery list is more effective than making a decision every time you are going to eat about whether you should eat healthy or not.
If you only buy healthy foods in the first place, you don’t have much option.
This will conserve your willpower and avoid the temptation of junk food all together. Much easier to maintain than making a decision 3-4 times per day, every day, about what to eat.
When we’re stressed, tired, rushed, etc. it’s all too easy to fall back into the wrong decision in the moment.
By changing our grocery list and only buying healthy foods, we have completely eliminated that problem with one simple habit.
This is how you should approach all of the habits and behaviours you wish to change. Peel it back to the base habit that underpins everything which follows.
Changing this one thing can create a domino effect that leads to changing many other things which follow.
This is the secret to taking small, simple actions which create big changes. It is leveraging the odds in your favour.
This is the secret to successfully changing your lifestyle.
Do it in little steps; making changes to the few key habits that have a trickledown effect on everything else. Trying to change too many things at once will always lead to overwhelm, burnout and going right back to your old habits.