Take your bad habits and make them bad-ass!
By Jade Loney
I’m going to hit you right between the eyes with this… are you ready.
One of the key factors to achieve your health and fitness goals, is… ta-dah! Consistency.
I’m with clients all day in the gym. Helping them with their exercise technique and intensity and discussing nutrition strategies. Plus, a whole bunch of lifestyle stuff.
When I talk to clients who are struggling with consistency, they cite lack of willpower as the reason.
The whole premise of Willpower is a futile concept. It’s seems to be this air fairy thing thats not tangible that people use as an excuse to not take responsibility.
So forget Willpower, what we are talking about is creating a Habit.
A habit is something that we can control.
A habit is a mental pre-programming that determines our behaviour to a particular situation or trigger.
Many of the simple tasks that we complete on a daily basis are habits that we’ve created. Get this… Habits exist to conserve the calories our brains use. By having us respond the way we always have without having to think. It’s a survival mechanism.
Humans have big brains compared to most other animals. And so our brain uses a lot of our calories.
So what you interpret as weak willpower I want to tell you is an unfavorable habit developed over time. That’s re-trainable!
Let’s dig into Habits a bit more… I love this juicy topic.
Ok, my belief is that for many of us its not that we aren’t doing the right stuff to achieve our goals…. it’s that we are doing the wrong stuff. Get your head around that.
So how do we change our habits?
Charles Duhigg identifies the Habit Loop in his book ‘The Power of Habit’.
Understanding The Habit Loop
The Cue: a trigger that initiates the habit.
For example, you’re struggling to get up in the morning early to go to the gym, we’ve all been there. Your alarm clock goes off (this is the cue!) and you immediately groan, hit the snooze button and drift off back to dreamland.
The Routine: the routine is the automatic behaviour that follows the cue. In this case, hitting the snooze button and going back to sleep.
The Reward: this is the motivation behind the habit and it could be different for everyone.
In this example, the obvious reward is the extra hour of sleep that you’ll squeeze in before work. Think about this though… why do you need that extra hour of sleep?
Does the extra sleep make you feel less stressed? Do you need the extra hour because you are going to bed too late at night? What is the real reward you’re achieving here?
The Golden Rule of Habit Change
According to Duhigg, there is one simple rule.
To stop unfavorable habits and replace them with shiny new (favorable) ones you need to:
Keep the initial cue or trigger (alarm), replace the unfavorable response (hitting snooze) & keep the reward – and change will happen.
For the example above, the routine we want to replace is hitting the snooze button and going back to sleep.
The reward we want to keep may be feeling less stressed for the rest of the day. An alternative routine to help us achieve this reward may be to start the day with 10 minutes of stress relieving meditation or breathing exercises first thing in the morning, before going to the gym or going to bed earlier.
Once you analyse and understand your habits, responses and rewards. It is much easier to replace them with some kick ass habits.
A few last tips before you start down the path of habit change…
1. Focus on changing one habit at a time, starting with the one that will have the biggest impact.
2. Believe in what you’re doing! If you don’t believe in the benefit of the change you’re making, you will give up before you’ve had a chance to create your new habit.
3. Experiment with new routines. It may take a while to figure out what new behaviour is going to work.
4. Don’t expect immediate change. More than likely you’ll fall off the bandwagon once or twice while trying to change you habit, that’s normal! Pick up where you left off the next day.