“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
I talk to lots of people who want to lose weight, reclaim their fitness and feel better. These are GREAT goals! Eating healthy food, weight training and working out at high intensity will get you there. Having a great coach to encourage you, help you stay motivated and give you a little push each day will accelerate your progress.
But building good habits doesn’t mean you flipped the switch and your motivation changes overnight. And it doesn mean the bad habits go scurrying away.
Our brains have an internal comfort zone. We are wired to save energy and our brains like to be in that happy place. We put off going for a run because its cold outside. We hit the drive through because we are hungry and it’s easy. There is a ton of research around how our brains protect us in response to trauma (but that’s a talk for another day). The bottom line is our brains are wired to stay comfortable. And we’re pretty good at it.
Building new habits does not mean suddenly overcoming bad ones. That kind of approach won’t stick and will likely lead to failure.
I’m a huge fan of working smarter to make life easier. That’s why building SYSTEMS to support your new habits will set you up for long term success. Systems make it easier to accomplish your task, allow you more control and leave less to chance.
If you have young kids in school, I’m willing to bet you have a system in the morning. You have a wake-up time, you know how much wake-up protesting you can allow, you have either made lunch the night before, or you know EXACTLY how the kids are going to get lunch and how they are going to get to school. These things happen each day, in mostly the same way, and the system works most of the time.
We can also build systems around health and fitness habits. For example, if you know you have an appointment with a personal trainer, you’ll get to the gym. If you are meeting a friend for a run every Monday at 5, you’ll pack your running shoes in the morning. If you prepared your lunches for the week on Sunday, you’ll eat them and skip the drive through.
Here are two simple systems to help get you going.
*Reserve your classes for the entire week ahead of time if your gym has a reservation system. This is a time commitment you are making for yourself, so don’t schedule anything else during that time (PS you deserve some you time)..
*Pack your workout clothes and shoes the night before and leave them by the door. If you wake up late, it wont completely derail the rest of your day.. Make this part of your nightly routine. Brush teeth, pack clothes.
*Go to the gym either right before work, or right after. Lets face it, if our brains are seeking comfort, once you get home, your brain is going to start pushing you toward the couch, or something will come up at home that needs your attention. If going to the gym on your way home is part of your system, you are much more likely to get there.
*To make life easier, either eat the same thing for lunch each day, or plan your dinner for the week and make a little extra for lunch the next day. If you are already cooking dinner anyway, it does not take more of your time to make a little more.
*Plan your grocery list around your healthy food for the week. Having a plan and healthy food in the house means you are less likely to resort to last minute fast food options.
*Make a snack box (this is a fave life hack of mine!). Each Sunday, grab a box or bin, and put snacks in it for the week ahead. Think fruit like apples or bananas, some low sugar protein bars, single serve bags of nuts, or some oatmeal packets. Bring your snack box to work on Monday for those mid day munchies.
Systems help us leave less to chance, and minimize the daily decisions we need to make. Remember Steve Jobs wore the same shirt all the time? Keep in mind, systems that work vary from person to person. We all have different life circumstances and what works for me may not work for you. But once you find what works, you will feel like you are purposefully moving toward your goals and have mastered some of the chaos.
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