Let’s make a habit out of it

[Ben]

February 14, 2020

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems” J.Clear Atomic Habits.

“Next week it will happen” > recognise that classic attempt of prolonging the gym? We tell ourselves we are going to start every Monday and credit where credit is due, the body and heart want it, but the brain just does not cooperate.

The task just seems to get harder and harder, the mountain higher and higher. Why can’t we just start?

If I have listed one of your goals below then keep reading:
• Aiming at getting lean without having to overhaul your life and live in a cave
• Put on lean muscle and not turn into the Michelin man
• Be more productive in a time poor world

So I had an epiphany. I think about some of the new hobbies I’ve attempted as the years roll on, my failed attempts of starting those boxing lessons I am convinced would turn me into the next film in the rocky balboa saga, that Tough Mudder even we’ve all been banging on about for 4 years now. We all know how this goes. All the chat and no substance.

What do you mean? Well, you might be reading this article and thinking that you want to make changes to your life but you just don’t know how. For some reason those 15k runs around the park mid-February just don’t seem to be sticking in your calendar.

But when you do manage to actually manage to make the gym on your lunch break after you have finished high fiving everyone as you walk in the office pronouncing your just back from the gym, protein shake in hand, shirt sticking to your sweaty back and cracking open the Tupperware > think about those downstream effects;

1. You generally become productive in other areas of your life
2. You make more conscious health choices
3. You are more energetic
4. You broaden your skills
5. Your confidence improves

The issue is making it a frequently occurring behaviour. So how can we? I know what you’re thinking “we get it mate, now tell us”. Are you ready for it, it’s going to change your life:
1. Habits
2. Habits
3. Habits

What actually is a habit?

It’s a sequence of actions in an automatic routine and essentially is the brains method of saving energy and going onto autopilot (1).
Imagine if we could just automate every hard decision by engineering positive habits around difficult tasks, like going for a run on a cold night after commuting home with your face in someone’s arm pit for 45 minutes or enduring a Battle Royale at your local PureGym after work.

A habit can be broken down into a loop (2):

• The Cue is what tells the brain to go into automatic
• The Craving (not included above) is the motivational force / desire to act
• The Routine can be physical, mental or emotional
• The Reward is the feedback telling the brain whether or not this is worthwhile as a habit (3)

The brain cannot tell the difference between a good habit and a bad habit however you can intervene in the components of a habit to engineer a better outcome (4). Wizardry I hear you scream!
So let’s get down to brass tacks here. Think about 1 objective or goal you have that you just seemingly cannot make stick like running 3 x week or going to the gym 4 x a week and ask yourself if you have created a Cue, Routine or Reward system around that goal to make sure it gets done. The answer is probably no (I mean who really thinks about this).
The key to making your goal of going to the gym 4 x week is to not even think about the decision of going to the gym, if you can create a habit deliberately centred on simply going to the gym then the brains automatic response will be to conduct a habit loop.

• The Cue is putting in your calendar at 12.15 a reminder to go the gym (simple but effective)
• The Craving is the anticipation of the satisfying feeling of working out
• The Routine is to go the gym and workout
• The Reward is the endorphin rush / sweet arrogance

What shall I do with this information then?

I am going to outline 4 basic principles defined by James Clear (5) that you can apply to any stage of the habit loop sequence so that this new found habit you’re going to love actually sticks, instead of being a one-time thing.

1. Make it OBVIOUS: Want to drink more water? Leave your water bottle somewhere easily found or seen. (Visual Cue’s typically work well for this)

2. Make it EASY: Want to read more? Start with something small, light and relatively easy to read and only do a few pages. Don’t start with the plan of attempting the entire trilogy of The Lord of the Rings whilst on holiday.

3. Make it ATTRACTIVE: Make it an appetising prospect, incentivise the habit. Typically using a tactic such as making a commitment to a friend or colleague to meet at the gym should be enough.

4. Make it SATISFYING: An endorphin rush is usually enough here

So there you have it – take those 4 principles and apply one of them to any new habit that you are trying to start.

Now what ,head to our macro calculator and get started on your fitness journey by finding out what your personal calorie target should be.


References
1. Duhigg, C. (n.d.). The power of habit.
2. FAY, M. and FAY, M. (2020). How to Hack Your Brain into Making Exercise Your Habit — Meghan Fay. [online] Meghan Fay. Available at: http://www.meghanfay.com/blog/2016/brain-hack-make-exercise-habit [Accessed 14 Feb. 2020].
3. CLEAR, J. (2019). ATOMIC HABITS.
4. Theworldcounts.com. (2020). The World Counts. [online] Available at: https://www.theworldcounts.com/happiness/psychology-of-habits [Accessed 14 Feb. 2020].
5. CLEAR, J. (2019). ATOMIC HABITS.

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