How to Be a Creature of Habit to Achieve Your Fitness Goals and Beyond

In our last blog, we enlightened you on how to change your perspective to better stick to and achieve your fitness diet and goals. We mainly discussed and framed the right mindset you need to have to begin living a healthier lifestyle. But to make your fitness goals and healthy lifestyle a reality, you’ll need to Become a Creature of Habit. Below are Five Quick Tips to get started.

Tip #1 Make it easy to start.

We all have the tendency to try and achieve a new goal by going full-bore and attempting all approaches we learn from our one-day of Googling. By doing this, we immediately start with the hard approach and wrong footing every time. Let’s try the opposite, by breaking down our diet or fitness goal into very simple and easy (less effortful) steps and actions, whether it’s eating less unhealthy foods, losing five-pounds or going to the gym three-times a week.

Remember the goal is make it easy to start. So if our goal was to lose weight, such as five-pounds, we  would want to identify as many possible steps and actions as possible we can take to achieve this goal. I recommend making a list or writing it down. Then we can filter the list by simplest (immediately-actionable) and easiest (by effort). Obliviously, the definition of simplest and easiest is subjective by person so the filtered list example below would vary, but should still illustrate the point ( I think we all can agree that “Drink[ing] more water” is the easiest  and most actionable step).

List of possible actions

  • Reduce order fastfood/takeout
  • Try to cook some meals at home
  • Reduce soda/sweet intake
  • Try not to eat after 7pm-8pm
  • Sleep earlier
  • Going for a morning jog
  • Walk during breaks at work
  • Drink more water

Filtered list by simplest/easiest

  1. Drink more water
  2. Reduce soda/sweet intake
  3. Reduce order fastfood/takeout
  4. Walk during breaks at work
  5. Sleep earlier
  6. Try not to eat after 7pm-8pm
  7. Try to cook some meals at home
  8. Going for a morning jog

Notice in this list, the point is not to cut the “bad things” out immediately, cold-turkey. The point is to “ease-in”, make it so easy that we don’t have much to think about when making the decision.

Tip #2 Don’t take the general approach. Be specific.

One of the bad habits that we are all guilty of, and almost none of us pay attention to, is that the goals we set are too general. Because we set general goals, our thoughts and actions towards our goals also become general. The clearer we can be in setting our fitness and health goals, the easier it is for us to identify the necessary step(s) to achieve our goals.

For example, don’t just aim for the goal of losing weight. With that kind of goal, you won’t have much direction and reason to keep going. Be specific. Your goal is to “lose X amount of pounds in X amount of time by doing X type exercise or workout.” The more specific you can be, the better. Also, replace the X with whatever number that will get you to start. The X can always change as you progress. Once you start, things tend to get easier and as things get easier, you’ll gain momentum and you’ll wonder why you waited so long to start in the first place.

Tip #3 Choose the right place. Remove Distractions.

Similar to having specific goals, you’ll want to have identified a specific time and place, free from as much distraction as possible. As far as time and place, both are equally important and really depend on your constraints of these two factors in your life.

Ideally, you’ll want to choose a time slot that will always be available to you so you can commit that time to this habit, especially when starting out. You’ll also want to choose a time where you have the most energy. Typically, this makes the morning time the best time; however, I know it’s not realistic for those starting out to shoot for that time. If you can’t get yourself to wake up early and start your day with a jog or run, choose whatever time works for your schedule. But the goal is to choose a time where you’ll be consistently available.

After you’ve identified the time slot, you’ll need to make sure a distraction-free place is available. Some people like working out at the gym because once they come home from work, they know they’ll want to binge Netflix instead of binging those reps on the row or bench press. Identify a place with the tools of the trade and remove the distractions. If this is a gym, choose an empty area with an easy machine to use and learn. Or simply pick up a weight but focus on yourself, knocking out as many reps or distance for as long as you can. If the place is your home, choose an area where the TV and electronics are not, and put in some reps. Pushups, sit ups, whatever is already in your fitness toolbox; keep it simple.

Tip #4 Be consistent. Do it everyday.

In order to successfully achieve this tip, I’ll remind you of Tip #1 with emphasis on the “easy” part. When starting out, keep things simple, short, and easy. Matter of fact, you should set low expectations (which may vary depending on your current fitness level). If you’re honestly out of shape, starting with a 5-10 minute morning walk will do. If that was easy, then stick to it for a week. If it’s still easy after a week, then upgrade to jogging 5-10 minutes every morning. If you’re not a morning person then do the deed at the best time that works for you. But remember to keep simple and easy enough to where you’re likely to do it even when you’re exhausted and have no excuses not to do it. The idea is to build a habit of doing it everyday and being consistent. Then you can pick up the intensity after you build some momentum.

Tip #5 Don’t break the chain.

This goes hand-in-hand with Tip #4. Once you’re in the rhythm and have a string of consistent days of this new found fitness habit, you’ll want to keep it going. It helps to have some mechanism such as a daily calendar, notes, or app to interact and mark each successful daily completion of your exercise. It’s a psychological thing: when you see your successful string of consecutive days, you’ll do whatever you can to keep it going. And it’s totally ok to miss a day or even two in between these strings (because we’re only human). But the point is you’ll feel guilty and second guess your decision of skipping a day when your calendar is marked full of green successful checkmarks.

To recap the tips:

Tip #1 Make it easy to start.

Don’t be drastic and change your entire lifestyle. Just make small changes, like drinking more water and less soda.

Tip #2 Don’t take the general approach. Be specific.

We all want to lose weight but it helps to have a specific goal in mind, like losing 5 pounds in a month by jogging regularly.

Tip #3 Choose the right place. Remove Distractions.

Find the right environment to complete your goal. Running is something you can do anywhere. Find a nice quiet route that is always available at a certain time, just like driving to work everyday.

Tip #4 Be consistent. Do it everyday.

Keep it simple, easy, and short. Shooting for the moon is a bad idea. Make it so easy where there’s no excuse for you to miss a short 5-minute jog. We all have 5-minute to spare, no matter how busy our day is.

Tip #5 Don’t break the chain.

Make it an effort to highlight and visualize your progress through a calendar, chart or some visual tracker/mechanism. Look at it everyday and it’ll motivate you to keep the streak going or to start a streak.

To be successful, all you have to do is make progress. You don’t have to follow and complete all of the tips to do that. The important thing is to choose whichever one is the easiest and best for you and then focus on that. There’s no better time to start then now!