Do you have a hard time staying motivated with your health and fitness goals? It’s typical for people to make (Healthy) New Year Resolutions at the beginning of each year and then by January 7th they are back to their old habits.
I’ve witnessed more blogging, Facebook status updates and public declarations than I can count where people say, “I’m going to start my diet, detox, self improvement whatever tomorrow” and then 3, 7, 10 days later… crickets. They are back to their old habits and they have aborted their mission before it ever started.
Personally, I think there is benefit in not announcing your goals to the public at large in the initial stages. I have always believed that it dilutes the focus, commitment, and real intention behind making lasting changes, but that’s just my opinion.
In the corporate wellness world we talk about the ‘culture of health’ within an organization. In other words, how do we get employees to make personal changes and make healthier choices on a daily basis which ultimately make a healthier work environment? For example, if we place a bowl of fruit in the break room and encourage employees to eat an apple instead of a candy bar how realistic is that if they just walked out of a toxic department meeting with their co-workers and boss? If the underlying culture is dysfunctional, oppressive and unhealthy how motivated are people to take the stairs and make healthy food choices? Let’s be honest, after an exhausting, emotionally frustrating meeting which happens most days in most work environments, people just run for the elevator and head to the nearest bar or bakery as fast as they can. It’s an easy and immediate coping mechanism; but obviously not always the healthiest choice for an individual or a corporate culture.
Whether I’m looking at myself, coaching individuals or consulting with organizations the question is always; “How Do You Make Changes, When Change Is Hard?” and ultimately how do we create our own individual leverage to make different choices?
The answer is not easy, and I certainly have my work cut out for me and therefore I have some job security at the moment. I can tell you that the speeches, books and thought leaders who are rock’n the wellness industry right now are those who talk about finding a purpose bigger than your self along with finding the right amount of leverage/reason to change, and then how to effectively replace negative habits with healthy, new habits.
Jerry Seinfeld was once asked how he became a great comic and what advice he would give to aspiring comics? His response was, “write (jokes) every day.” But the leverage technique that he uses on himself is the real gem, and you can use it to motivate yourself too.
He uses a unique calendar system to get himself to write every day. Jerry gets a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hangs it on a prominent wall. The next step is to get a red magic marker.
For each day that he writes, he puts a big red X over that day. After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. It’s motivating and a personal challenge to keep adding to that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain. I repeat:
“Do Not Break The Chain!”
It works because it isn’t the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary leverage and outcomes “inch by inch anything’s a cinch.” Daily action builds healthy habits. Small improvements accumulate into large improvements because daily personal action provides “compounding interest.” Little things done consistently make the biggest difference.
Skipping one day makes it easier to skip the next, so don’t do it. Make the commitment to yourself that once you pick your goal and time frame, you cannot, will not break the chain. If you do, you have to start over.
You can use this technique to build leverage and personal motivation to achieve any of your health and well-being goals which will not only benefit you, but it benefits the people and environments around you as well. For example:
1. Go be bed by 10 p.m. every night.
2. Walk 40 minutes each day.
3. Drink 80 oz. of water.
4. No refined sugar for 30 days.
5. No alcohol for 90 days.
6. Mediate every morning.
Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Just pick something that is important to you and something that you want to change in your life, then print these calendars and start marking off your days.
I like personal challenges. I blogged about my Paleo Challenge here. I also did a Yoga Challenge and wrote about the power of 30 days for creating new habits, but I didn’t know about the Don’t Break The Chain calendar system when I did either of those challenges. If you have a hard time sticking to goals and habit change I think this is a great tool.
Okay, now that I’ve told you about the Don’t Break The Chain technique if we were in live class together I would stop and show you the video below. Since I’m writing and you’re reading you’re going to have to click here and watch the video on your own. It’s only 3 1/2 minutes, so Go!
If you want to dive deeper into Charles Duhigg’s work you can read his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business or just enlarge the flow chart below and write out your cues, rewards, and routine (I use this when coaching people one-on-one) because even if you use Jerry Seinfeld’s calendar system you will come up against days that you simply want to quit or you get off track. Duhigg’s flow chart will preempt and help you side step those inevitable blocks and help get to the root of what keeps you from making lasting change.
At the end of the day, if you really want to replace bad habits with new, healthier habits there are great resources to help you achieve your goals. I’ve just written about two of my recent favorite Healthy Discoveries, but as always there are many tools to choose from. No excuses. Make the decision to begin, commit to making change(s) and most of all, DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN!