"The race doesn't always go to the swift, but to the ones that keep on running."
What are going to say next is so profound you aren't going to believe it. And as much as we'd like to take full credit for discovering it, we think we've actually heard it somewhere else in the past. Here is it. (Drum roll, please)
WE ARE CREATURES OF HABIT
What ... you've heard that before too? Then why is it that we so often seem to forget this simple truth?
How often have we been lured or even hypnotized by the quick fix? If you walk down the fitness, exercise or nutrition aisle in your local bookstore, you are guaranteed to find several titles like..."Amazing 4-Week Diet," "Incredible 8 Week Weight Loss Program," or "12 Weeks to the Abs of Your Dreams." We have tons of these programs and we buy them up at an alarming rate. However, maybe you've had this experience. You've tried one of these programs and for some reason after the program was over, you ended up going right back to where you started from. We know we have. The bottom line is, these programs are not designed to create habits. They are catering to our fast food mentality and are designed to create massive change quickly. The way most go about this is to dramatically change our diet, our workout routine, or some other aspect of our life. And many people do indeed experience major swings in weight, energy, and overall feeling as a result of the intense changes in any or all of the above categories. The problem is that as soon as these temporary programs are over, most people go right back to where they were before the program. Why? Two reasons. First, let's say we do actually make it through the program and then we stop. Well, it's simple common sense that if we stop doing the thing that was creating the change, the change that we created is going to go away. Or as we like to say, "Temporary change produces temporary change...only permanent change produces permanent change!" We know it sounds like a fortune cookie but it's true. : )
The second reason, and possibly the biggest challenge with how we typically try to create change, is that when we dramatically change a part of our lives, it is a shock to our system. And that equals PAIN. Going out on a limb here, but we feel most people are trying to avoid pain, not create more of it.
Let's look at an example of forming the habit of jogging.
When forming a new habit, it is infinitely easier to form a habit by doing a small amount of the desired activity, consistently (ideally every day) rather than doing a lot of that activity once in a while. Sounds simple right. So let's say that our ideal goal is to be running four miles three times per week. According to this philosophy we wouldn't go out and run four miles the first day. We would start by running around the block a couple times a week. Then once we were in the habit of consistently running 3-4 times a week around the block, we would increase to a couple blocks, then a 1/2 mile and on and on until we have built up to 4 miles on our running days. But let's look at how most of us approach getting in shape.
We start by getting all excited about getting in shape. We commit to ourselves that this time we are really going to do it. We go out and buy new shoes, running clothes, energy bars, etc. We load up the iPod with the Rocky soundtrack, go to bed early, wake up extra early Monday morning and push ourselves through the four miles. And even though our run becomes a run/mostly walk, we finish. After accomplishing our goal, in our moment of victory, and how do we feel? That's right, terrible. We feel terrible physically because we aren't in shape to run that far. We feel terrible emotionally because we now have proof that we are in worse shape that we thought. And mentally we continue the assault, beating ourselves up by saying things like, "I can't believe I had to walk." Or "I can't even run a couple miles without feeling like I'm going to die."
So, Wednesday comes and we are still sore from Monday, plus the overall experience was horrible. Guess how much enthusiasm we have for getting out of bed early for another painful experience on all levels ... "less than zero" seems about right.
But, wait a second; it's so much more exciting to run four miles than just around the block. I would rather hit the home run than a base hit. We know. We have fallen for that temptation also. But ask any great person what made them great and it was never one big hit, or doing some great thing the one and only time they did it. It was always a steady consistent pursuit of their goals. They did the little things over and over until the results were so big that to the outside it looked like magic.
You see, living at your best and feeling fantastic is a continual process, not a temporary shift. We are indeed creatures of habit, and our experience is going to be the direct result of the quality, good or bad, of our habits.
The good news is that all habits have been formed. We weren't born with habits, and although some may be more deeply ingrained than others, they all can be changed or replaced. The key is always intention, consistent action, and time. In order to form a habit, we must do something consistently over time. And the really good news is that we don't have to do a lot. If we just do a little bit everyday our ultimate changes will not only be dramatic but permanent.
So, whatever change you are working on, go slowly. Break up your goal into little bitty pieces. And then do just one piece every day. You won't believe how quickly taking a little bit of action everyday adds up.
The Baietto Brothers