The most overlooked aspect of getting in shape is the mental aspect. A lot of people think it just takes motivation to become successful but in actual fact it takes a whole system. The problem with motivation is that it only lasts so long before it dwindles(1). One great example of motivation failing people is the new years gym resolution. Every January, membership applications for the gym go through the roof and in the first few weeks of the new year, the gyms are packed. Yet when february arrives, most of these people are gone (but are still paying membership). Gyms know this, so they spend most of their advertising at the start of the year and january is in fact their highest earning month.
The reason people drop off is not because they don’t want to change (nearly everyone wants to be healthier) but it is because human willpower and motivation are poor ingredients for success. Athletes who achieve the highest of honors know this and rely on teams of sport scientists, nutritionists, physios and doctors. In fact, tune into any awards show and the people who are being awarded spend most of their time thanking people for their success. I have interviewed successful people and nearly all of them attribute other people and resources to their success.
So now that you are aware of what causes long term success, how can you use the knowledge that systems are better for achieving a healthy look rather than a motivation. The answer lies in behaviour change and to change behaviour, it takes small steps and some counter-intuitive thinking.
How To Floss Your Teeth Everyday
It took me years to get into the habit of flossing my teeth everyday until I followed certain rules and frameworks.
One of these frameworks is called Tiny Habits. Tiny Habits(2) is the brainchild of behaviour scientist Bj Fogg and the whole method is built on years of human behaviour research. Bj Fogg argues that behaviour change comes from taking small actions. He uses the example of flossing teeth. If you want to get get into the habit of flossing your teeth every night then instead of aiming to floss every tooth, just aim to floss one. Since this is easy and underwhelming, you are more likely to do it. After you floss the first one, momentum will make sure you floss the rest of them too. Just aiming to floss one tooth for 30 days will do just enough to break in the habit.
Lift Your Performance to The Next Level
Now you have two choices when it comes to maintaining the habit. The first is positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement means putting yourself in a situation or circumstance which propels your actions forward. A good example of this is a sports team or a group of friends. If you don’t have that, you can use the app Lyft which is available on both iPhone and Android. This app allows you to connect with a group online that wants to achieve the same goal as you. So if you want to lose weight, you can find a group of people who are also trying to lose weight. You can even narrow it down by what diet they are following, so you can also follow people who are doing Paleo or Atkins. There are also groups for gaining muscle and other groups for things like tooth flossing, cleaning and the list is only getting bigger as the app grows.
Then we have negative reinforcement. Did you know that people would work harder to avoid losing $100 dollars compared to earning $150 dollars?(3) It’s because people do not like losing and the fear of losing something is massive motivation for people to achieving their goals. So out of this research a website called stickk.com was born. This is how the website works.
1. Set a goal on what you want to achieve
2. You get an accountability buddy
3. Pick an anti-charity
4. Put enough money into an escrow so that it hurts
With stickk.com, you are actually putting something on the line so if you don’t achieve it then you are in trouble because the money goes to a anti-charity. The most famous anti-charity on Stickk is the Westboro Baptist Church (also known as the most hated family in America) who are famous for protesting at the funerals of dead U.S soldiers. With Stickk, if you put money into the escrow, pick the Westboro Baptist Church and lose, then your money will go towards the Church. You will also be put on a public list of donators for eternity.
It doesn’t matter what method you take but it does matter that you take some action. The smallest of actions propels you further than 90% of people who never take action. Finally, we talk about a certain diet and this is not a diet of the body but instead the diet of the minds.
The Information Die
The modern day plague is too much information. We are constantly receiving news, Facebook, Twitter and email updates. These not only command attention but they also command time. Time is our most valuable resource and should be protected. My suggestion is that you do an analysis of your information consumption and aim to cut 80%. Happiness and results will shortly follow(4).
Another Free Workout
Since we are talking about tiny changes that can have a huge impact, I have prepared another workout for you that only takes 5 minutes and just one piece of equipment. This routine can be done everyday and it is small enough to give you momentum for change. It is also difficult enough to have a small and lasting change on your body. The workout is as follows.
You put the timer to countdown from five minutes and you change exercise every minute.
1. Push Ups (as many as you can)
2. Sit-ups (as many as you can)
3. Squats (as many as you can)
4. Back-Extensions (as many as you can)
5. Ring Rows/Pull Ups (as many as you can)
If you do not have the equipment for the last exercise then simply replace it with burpees.