Everyone wants to succeed. We all want to achieve our goals. While each person’s goals are different, this fact remains, and subsequently, our world seems to revolve around how to be more successful. There are countless strategies, programs, and methodologies available to help you succeed; some incredibly helpful and others great at making you give them your money. More often than not, you’ll find proponents of any given program making audacious claims and outlining a complicated approach to what is really a basic understanding of behavioral psychology.

This basic concept is the habit and how to develop it. When you figure out how to intentionally develop habits, you can successfully reach your health and performance goals. We don’t need any complicated systems; we just need to understand how our own psychology works in regards to habits. I’m not about to go into depth about the scientific side of psychology here; I only want to outline how we can used this knowledge to effectively and efficiently make changes in our lives, particularly in regards to health and athletic performance. If you’d like to read more in depth on the topic, see the list of resources at the end of this article.

Early in my experimentation with weight loss as a teenager, I found two realities to be true for myself:

  1. I was really good at starting a weight loss program.
  2. I was really good at not finishing a weight loss program.

This is probably a sentiment you understand, as I think most people do. The issue, of course, lies with the inability to maintain a significantly large amount of change in lifestyle all at once.

Think about it.

Most diet programs ask you to eliminate certain foods and/or eat more of others. Perhaps they ask you to eat at a certain time of day or not eat at other times. Some even come with prescribed food plans. Stack that with a scheduled exercise plan, which will include at least 3 days of hour-long workouts, and there you go: a complete change in lifestyle over night. That’s obviously not sustainable.

Ok, so enough with the sob story. If you’re severely overweight and have health complications because of it, a drastic change may be necessary. Or, if you’re already in decent shape and want to get that extra 2% improvement for an event or temporary period of time, then by all means, lay down the cash (or get your insurance to do it) and start that 6-week program. However, if you’re like the rest of us, looking for health, performance, and longevity, then we need to address the aforementioned realities a bit differently. So, let’s talk habits.

By Google definition, a habit is a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. The connotation here sounds somewhat negative, perhaps because most of us have habits we didn’t consciously create, and by consequence, we believe we need to change…some day. However, anciently, a habit referred to a person’s appearance, and this is actually a great way to think of habit development. See, a habit is an action that has become automated. By that, I mean you execute it without having the consciously think about it. We are our habits. This was more true once upon a time before the advent of the internet and social media, and with it, the ability to conceal ourselves, but it remains mostly true that you can tell a lot about a person’s habits by their appearance. As an aside, let that be a test for you to judge yourself and no one else.

Obviously, habits are either unintentional or intentional. But before we dismiss that idea, let’s think more about it by asking some quality questions:

What do you do as soon as you wake up?
… right before going to bed?
What do you do before mealtime?
… after mealtime?
What do you do when getting into the car?
… when driving out of your driveway?
… when stopping at a stop sign?
… when someone asks you a question while you’re busy?
… when you meet a new person?
… and the list goes on.

We subconsciously execute thousands of habits on a daily basis; the majority of which were development inadvertently. And that’s ok; until it harms your health or gets in the way of achieving your goals.

If this is true, then the hard reality is that each one of us can probably be much more healthy, perform better, and live longer than right now, if we only start creating habits instead of letting habits be created for us. This brings us back to the notion that most weight loss programs are ineffective in the long-term and a waste of time and money. True or not, trying to adopt an entirely different lifestyle around losing weight doesn’t successfully tackle the real problem of changing poor habits and creating better habits.

Enter my simple 12-step program to help you develop better habits.

Just kidding.

In the next article, we will discuss developing habits and why I think it’s more important for health, performance, and longevity than any program, diet, supplement, or other multi-level marketing crap you’ve encountered. Plus, it’s more effective and best of all, it’s free.

Resources
  • Duhigg, Charles. (2012) The power of habit: why we do what we do in life and business New York : Random House.
  • Gardner, B., Lally, P., & Wardle, J. (2012). Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners62(605), 664-6.
  • Smith, K. S., & Graybiel, A. M. (2016). Habit formation. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience18(1), 33-43.
  • (2014). A review and analysis of the use of ‘habit’ in understanding, predicting and influencing health-related behaviour. Health psychology review9(3), 277-95.