When you look at the numbers, such as in studies like those from Statistic Brain which tracks New Year’s Resolution successes, only about 8% of us ever achieve our New Year’s goals.
When you think about it, it’s a bit crazy because we have access to all of the information that has been on the planet, since the dawn of humanity.
We have more diet books written by more authors, with more gurus and experts than ever before. And we have more websites with tutorials, videos, and lots more… yet people are still more obese, unhealthy, and unhappy than ever before. How is that even possible? How can we have more information, more experts, and more books than ever, yet be just as far away from reaching our goals? There’s a little idea that experts and gurus don’t want you to know about.
Experts don’t want you to know this, because if you took just a few simple habits and applied them daily, they’d be out of business! Naturally, since no one can sell a “lifestyle” or “habits” – this is one of the best kept secrets to success on the planet.
One study, conducted by JAMA- The Journal of American Medical Association, even found that among a few popular diets, the only thing predicting success was whether or not the person actually adhered to the diet itself – not even the diet!
So let’s talk about how you can actually apply this to transform your own health, body, and mind. I’m going to share with you five tiny habits, that if you apply daily, will produce massive results in your life and health.
What about the 8% that succeed? They get this one principle: that your success depends solely upon whether you as a person change your choices, behaviors, and your habits.
The power of tiny daily disciplines is infinitely more powerful than any diet, guru, or 10 week shred out there.
Habit #1: Write down your goal… and set the paper on fire.
This may sound contrary to every fundamental of goal setting you’ve ever received, but here it is: write down your goal on paper, and then toss it in your fireplace. Do you need to know what your goal, your objective, is?
Absolutely. But here’s why obsessing over the goal harms you in the long run. Picture this: the new year rolls around, and you’re ready to make it happen and take up that #1 resolution again: lose some weight.
So you set your goal, lose 20 pounds, on a piece of paper. The months come and go, you clock those hours at the gym, you eat fruits and vegetables, you drop the ice cream, and you see some progress.
But at some point, you get to the point where progress is so slow that it’s almost imperceptible. So maybe you were losing a pound a week at the start, but now you lose a pound a month or even a pound every two months. In the short run, it appears invisible so, not seeing any progress, you get discouraged and quit.
You repeat this cycle over and over once your weight increases yet again 6-12 months later. Rinse and repeat for a few decades and you have the average yoyo dieter. Here’s how to stop that from happening: Focus purely on habits you actually enjoy doing. It sounds crazy, but toss your goals aside, and instead measure your progress with this: how many times a week you actually engaged in your habit.
For now, it doesn’t matter if you walked 10 minutes a day or 60 minutes – if you walked at all today, just put a check down for the day. The only thing you’re tracking is whether or not you did the habit. And you know what naturally happens? When the habit is easy to achieve, you keep doing it.
And even though you may say you’re only doing five minutes of walking, you often end up walking more. We often get obsessed with the goal, and hate the process (which often leads to us failing and quitting).
This method of building “positive snowballs” produces just that: a positive state of mind that willingly wants to engage more in the habits that will get you closer to where you want to be.
Habit #2: Watch Out For “Wedding Day Syndrome”
“I really want to lose 25 pounds for my wedding in three months, can you help?”
Questions along these lines are some of the most asked to coaches, trainers and experts. Here’s the thing: People with this mindset almost always fail to achieve their goals in the long run.
There’s a very important mindset difference here between most of us that fail, versus those of us that succeed. I call it “Wedding Day Syndrome.” In the west, we’re obsessed with big, luxurious weddings.
People spend years saving for the wedding day, tens of thousands of dollars are spent on the gown for the bride, the food, the venue, and more. It’s supposed to be that incredible, magical day you will always remember. But people spend more time thinking about the actual wedding day itself, and not the marriage.
The wedding day is one day! The marriage is (ideally) decades long. And one can’t help but think that maybe the fact that we think so much about the day (the event), rather than the marriage (the process) is possibly a reason why divorce is so high. The same is true of health.
We often give guidelines: “I want to do XYZ goal by XYZ date!” That’s great. That’s fine. But it can be toxic to long term success. This is called event-based thinking, whereas health, happiness, success and even life are actually processes.
Once a person shifts to process-based thinking, they set themselves up for massive success because they no longer make ridiculous lifestyle changes that aren’t sustainable like, “I’ll never eat sugar again!”
This is realistic for a week or a few weeks, but not for a lifetime. This is classic event-based thinking. When you think of health as a process, you’ll get yourself the right mindset for success.
Habit #3: Master the Day (And Only The Day)
At the end of the day, to get the kind of health, happiness, and life you want, you need to go through a series of actions – thousands of tiny, daily actions – to get to where you want to be. Think about it: research on happiness has recently become popular, such as, the ‘Gratitude and Well Being, The Benefits of Appreciation’ study by Sansone and Sansone. Researchers consistently say a few things will make you happier, like:
- Journaling about positive experiences
And some of the happiest people we see around us on earth routinely do these things every day. So when you think about it, you could say happiness is like habit weight lifting: seven repetitions of meditation per week, five repetitions of gratitude per week, five repetitions of journaling per week.
But the real power comes in the compounding of these habits day after day, week after week. Meditating three times a year doesn’t do anything for you. But meditating three times a week produces real, physiological changes in your brain: but it’s also 156 repetitions of meditation.
156 times you repeated that daily habit. Back to “mastering the day.” The only way you can do those 156 repetitions of whatever habit will change your life, is if you do them today. It sounds obvious and not-at-all earth shattering, but you’d be surprised how often we think success requires massive effort.
It doesn’t – it just requires different choices on a daily basis. So when you master the day, here’s what you do: just pick whatever habit you want to cultivate (e.g. cooking one meal at home a day), and then you track that habit each day. That’s it. Here’s why it’s life changing: If you focus on just today, and you follow through 100% with your habits, then you’ll have 100% perfect attendance for the week. And the month. And the year.
And you’ll be a totally different person very quickly if you just focus on mastering the day no matter what. How? Personally I use the Strides app, or I use a calendar on my wall where I put an “X” for every day that I did the habit, and leave it blank on the days when I didn’t.
Habit #4: Forget Motivation… Show Up
How often do we think “ugh, I just had a lousy, long, grumpy, stressful day, and now I have to force myself to exercise? Not happening.” We often think we’re lazy or unmotivated, and that’s why we’ve failed to achieve our health goals, but I want to offer an alternative. Olympians and bestselling authors.
What do they have in common? They practice their craft every day, even when they don’t want to. It’s not a matter of forcing themselves; it’s just a matter of their “something every day” philosophy. A writer doesn’t write enough books to feed himself if he doesn’t write even when he doesn’t want to.
And an Olympian needs to clock those 3-6+ hours a day in order to become the best in the world. On the days when you feel like motivation is seriously lacking, just tell yourself, “Okay, I don’t have to go to the gym for an hour, but I DO have to do something.” All you have to do is show up every day, guilt-free, whether it’s five minutes or fifty minutes. Rainy?
Just go for a short walk or do some pushups at home. Bad day? Just do five minutes a yoga instead of an hour long class. And give yourself full permission to check it off your list. Remember: you’re cultivating the habit of showing up. It’s infinitely more powerful than willpower or discipline.
Habit #5: Conquer The Narrative In Your Head
“I’m tired of even bothering to try. I’ve failed so many times that what’s the point? If I’m going to fail anyway, I might as well do what I want, eat what I want and enjoy my life.”
The narrative, meaning the story in your head, is often the most powerful, unnoticed force leading us to success or failure. Sages and success coaches along the ages have always said, “You become what you think about” and it makes sense. If you tell yourself you’re just going to fail, why would you even continue to try?
You won’t. The narrative often goes unnoticed, so we say, “I always do this” or “I’m so lazy” – and then these become fulfilling prophecies. The most important thing that you do with the narrative is understand two things. First, know that the narrative isn’t you. It’s just the thoughts going on in your mind.
It’s just beliefs loaded in your subconscious based on your previous life experience and how you’ve interpreted it. Second, imagine that the narrative is something else, like a demon. Imagine that it’s a negative voice trying to derail you and prevent you from reaching your goals.
So every time you hear yourself say something that limits you again, tell yourself “It’s that voice acting up again,” and most importantly, don’t ever believe what it says. When we really understand that long-term health and weight loss is about us: our behaviors, our habits, and our inner narrative, we’re already on the track to become that small 8% that truly succeeds.