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The Best Way To Establish New Habits Without Quitting

Tiny habits that lead to life altering changes.

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Just imagine being 40 years old, 50 lbs. overweight with an ER doctor telling you that you have two choices… “either go on heart and cholesterol medication for the rest of your life or lose the weight and get in shape”. Where do you even begin?

The problem was, I used to hate the idea of diet and exercise and had no motivation to get started. Has that ever sounded like you?

Like most parents, I was too busy burning the candle at both ends working to put food on the table and when I wasn’t working, I was trying to be an involved husband and father. I didn’t believe that I had any time to invest in my own wellbeing but as I soon learned, all I needed to find my motivation was a tiny shift in perspective.

The first small habit that I had to establish was reframing exercise in my mind. I had to start assuming the identity of the type of person that I aspired to be and that meant throwing my scale away.

When I had my scale out, it was an obvious way to chase water weight every day, not measure fat loss. With that narrow focus on daily weight fluctuation, exercise can be very frustrating. I needed to gain new perspective and learn how fat loss actually worked. I learned that exercise is about sport and performance and while it might just be the world’s best medicine, it’s a very ineffective weight loss tool. You simply can’t burn enough calories through exercise to offset a bad diet. So reframing exercise in my mind was a tiny habit that allowed me to enjoy exercise for what it really is, a daily investment in a healthy heart, body and mind.

Because of that change in perspective, I had a t-shirt made that said “Today I win. I will finish what I started. I will reach my goal.” Rather than focusing on long-term outcomes and getting impatient with slow results, I shifted my focus to “winning” every day by committing to exercising and eating nutritionally dense foods daily. Doing those two things meant that I had won the day. Win enough days in a row and good things are bound to happen.

Every night I would lay out my running shoes, shorts and that t-shirt beside my bed so that when my alarm went off in the morning, that t-shirt would be the first thing I would see, keeping my daily goal of “winning” every day top of mind. I had no excuses. Organizing my running gear the night before was the tiny habit and visual motivational cue that led to my new daily habit of exercising every morning.

Because I had reframed my perspective and made my exercise gear obvious to me, it became easier to exercise every morning. I started to feel like I had won the day even before my official workday had begun which became a very satisfying feeling for me.

Since creating those two tiny habits in 2007, those tiny habits have led me to 3 Ironman’s, 7 half Ironman’s and many shorter triathlons. When I signed up for my first triathlon in 2010, I didn’t even know that I didn’t know how to swim. I didn’t even own a bike. I just reframed the challenge in my mind from “I can’t” to “how can I” and then set off to solve the challenge.

Fourteen years and 40 lbs. later, I’m still investing in my heart and mind every day. I’m still using that tiny habit of organizing my workout gear every night and I still feel like I’ve won the day before my workday even begins. That tiny shift in perspective has allowed me to achieve more in my life than I ever imagined possible.

Like training for the Ironman, the way you become more successful and resilient in life is by establishing tiny little habits that lead to big changes over time. No sustainable change happens overnight. Your belief system changes one step, one day, one week, one month and one year at a time. It’s all about having a crystal-clear vision of the person you aspire to be, investing in the identity of that person every day and then looking for the social proof that you are always moving forward.

To learn more about my journey, visit www.davebuzanko.com

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