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When Willpower Morphs into Habit

Healthy habits are built on tenacity and purposeful action.

Building a small team around you can help accelerate positive change.

Few things are sold as widely or as aggressively as the promise of a healthy life. If there is a food substitute, diet pill, or exercise contraption that can be dreamed up, it’s out there for purchase. It seems that everywhere we turn, we’re pitched a new product. Store shelves, TV screens, and social media feeds are rife with all manner of enticing offers to restore your health or regain your youth.

We all know what happens to those fancy exercise gadgets we give in to, right? They live out a lonely existence in the corner of your basement or in the dark recesses of your bedroom closet. It’s not that all these devices are abject failures. The problem is that even the most expensive, state-of-the-art exercise equipment won’t change your behavior.

We’re trying to apply an external solution to an internal problem. It doesn’t work that way. It always comes down to putting in the effort. For some reason, when buying health products we envision amazing results, but give no regard to the work required to produce them. I’m not sure why this happens, but it’s almost as if we reason that the purchase itself is enough to get us there. It would be ridiculous to think that ordering the most exotic item on the menu would somehow make you a master chef, yet we expect a new piece of exercise equipment to suddenly have us turning heads at the beach.

A healthy life isn’t dependent on high tech equipment, amped up supplements, or engineered foods. It simply comes down to implementing the proper set of habits on a regular basis. Consistently practice the right stuff for a long enough period of time, and your body eventually makes the swing from stressed and abused to happy and healthy.

The key is sticking with your new, healthy habits long enough for them to have the intended effect. In the beginning this is often easier said than done. But nobody said this stuff was easy. What’s easy is not taking any action at all and letting your health freefall into a downward spiral.

Getting well requires a little bit of work. Early on, it’s usually a matter of just gritting it out until your newly adopted behaviors become routine.

Here are 4 easy tips to help you build habits that can last you a lifetime.


Start Small

Massive improvement happens one incremental step at a time. 

You don’t leap to the summit of a mountain. You get there by climbing hand over hand, foot over foot until you reach the top. The same goes for reversing poor health. Let’s say your goal is to start making healthy, home cooked meals for your family every day. If you’ve never cooked before, it’s quite a stretch to go from heating up a packaged meal to filleting and preparing fresh salmon. Instead of going for broke, implement changes in small increments. For you, that might mean picking up a rotisserie chicken and making your own veggie sides to accompany it until you become more adept at cooking main dishes. Jumping all in can be overwhelming and demotivating. Be willing to cultivate change through small steps.

Build a Team

Change is rarely easy. But having someone alongside you can make your transition to a healthier life not only more bearable, but much more meaningful as well. This is especially true early on in your journey when you will start replacing your deeply ingrained routines with new, healthy habits. You will be tempted to slip back into your old ways, but having someone to hold you accountable can mean the difference between a backward regression and positive progress.

The easiest way to gain company on your journey is to enlist your family, or at least your spouse. After all, wouldn’t you want your family to be at their healthiest as well? Not only do you gain an accountability partner, but you just might be well on your way to changing your family’s destiny. Eventually, meal planning, cooking, physical activity, and a healthy mindset become second nature when the entire family is like-minded in the pursuit of health.

Log Your Progress

It’s been said that what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, increase your max lift, or run a half marathon, there are certain steps required to get you there. The first is to know your starting point. Log your current weight, body measurements, heaviest lift, longest run, or any other metrics that will help to propel you forward. Next, set your goal. Be sure to attach a completion date to your goal to create the urgency and impetus to get it done. From there, it’s simply a matter of working backward from your goal to determine the average progress required to complete it. For example, if you want to lose 25 lbs. of fat in 12 weeks, that’s roughly 2 pounds per week on average. At the 6 week point, you should be somewhere around 12 pounds down.

Measuring your actions and your progress will keep you on your desired course.

Tracking your progress can motivate you by uncovering results that might not be apparent early on. A 2 lb. weight loss can be huge encouragement for someone who has struggled to lose weight. But it might go unnoticed if not measured. Logging your improvement also gives you the insight needed to tweak your approach if your desired results are eluding you. There are plenty of apps available to help you monitor your progress, but I still like to put pen to paper. There’s something about physically writing out goals and achievements that I find empowering. Journaling can be invaluable in helping you make lasting change.

Allow Yourself Some Latitude

Progress doesn’t happen in a straight line. Be prepared to adapt your plan as needed.

If you think the path to a new life is a linear one, you’re in for a big surprise. You are all but guaranteed to be hit with setbacks that will require some sort of detour or sidestepping. By the way, this is another reason I like tracking progress. Sometimes a lateral shift is necessary to make a big leap forward. Noting when some bobbing and weaving was necessary to set up the knockout blow makes the next challenge easier to overcome.

Rather than stress over misfortune, I encourage you to view obstacles as opportunities and vehicles for improvement. When it’s all said and done, you come to realize that those moments of struggle weren’t really impediments at all, but were actually just part of the growth process. Embrace them.

Sometimes the difference between success and failure at a given endeavor is simply the ability to stick it out long enough to hit your critical tipping point. This is especially true when it comes to improving your physical health. When you couple the will to change with a few practical strategies, the result is new healthy habits that have the power to change your life.

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