I love this quote by Jim Ryun. Ryun is a former politician and Olympic track and field athlete. At his peak, he was widely considered the world's top middle-distance runner. In 1968 he won a silver medal in the 1500 m at the Summer Olympic games. He was the first high school athlete to run a mile in under 4 minutes and is the last American to hold the world record in the mile run. After his track and field career ended he went on to serve in the United States House of Representatives from 1996 to 2007, representing Kansas' 2nd congressional district for the Republican Party. Not a bad bio. He achieved this level of success by focusing on exactly what he said… getting started with motivation but keeping yourself going with habits.
Just relying on motivation to get going and more importantly, keep going, is when we say things like “I know what I need to do, I just need to do it” and “it’s just a matter of willpower”. Well, if you already know what to do, why aren’t you doing it already?! And if it’s just a matter of willpower then just will yourself to power yourself through, every time. Every choice you make. Every step you take. (I think there’s a song in there somewhere…)
Willpower is like those super weapons you get in video games that you use to beat the big baddy at the end of a level or the end of the game… you can only use once, maybe a couple few times, before you have to let it recharge. And if you miss, well, then the big baddy beats you and you get to go back through the level again. Frustrating I know, right?! But probably sounds oddly familiar even though we’re not really talking about video games anymore.
So, if we use motivation, our why, to get us going, how do we keep going if relying on willpower and just-do-it-ness isn’t enough? One simple (but not easy) word which you’ve probably guessed by now, HABITS!
Habits are our usual way of doing things or a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. That last bit is important, it is one that is hard to give up. Those can be those pesky bad habits that we all have. Habits can also be difficult to establish. If that’s all true, then why focus on them so much?
We are what we repeatedly do. We already discussed how we are not able to sustain willpower because it is a finite and expensive resource. And the more we use willpower, the more depleted it gets, the more difficult it is to build it back up and the more resistant to change we become. Sound familiar?! With habits, we focus on things that we repeatedly do. And ideally if we’re talking about changing something like our nutritional habits, it’s important to find those things that we repeatedly do that are working well, those that aren’t and find ways to improve them both.
Back to that definition of habits in that they are a regular practice. We have to practice to change bad habits and to establish new positive habits. That’s not using our superblaster to try and do another crash diet but doing the day in, day out work to practice making better choices.
Habits help us to focus on all the little things that add up. Remember our saying of small habits equal big change?! Well, it’s true! When we focus on the right habits for our movement, nutrition, recovery and mindset, working on what we are ready, willing and able to do, we can keep moving forward, getting a little better each day.
Many of us don’t notice when we only add a couple of pounds each year but we notice when “all of a sudden” those couple of pounds each year have added up to a lot. And we definitely notice when all those pounds don’t just melt away with even the slightest bit of effort. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The reality is again that we are what we repeatedly do. Small, manageable habits are sustainable. They are repeatable. They add up to big change. Remember our post about the British cycling team that became one of the most dominant in all of cycling history from using this approach? It works. Many people we work with make big changes from these small habits - weight and fat loss, getting stronger, more power for their sport performance, more flexible to get up and down off the floor, less pain to be able to do their job and be a better parent… small habits can help you find your greater purpose in life. That’s how powerful they can be.
How do you know which habits to do? That’s where we believe it’s important to #getothersinvolved! Having someone, a coach, a friend, a spouse, a co-worker, a neighbor, someone involved in your journey to help you keep going in the right direction is SO important. As coaches here we love to get to know someone, wherever they are on their journey and to help them get started with their first steps, get started again or keep taking those next steps. That’s why we use habits-based coaching in our fitness and nutrition coaching programs including with our EPIC fitness app. It allows us to work together better to help you on your journey!
Finding the right habits from a habits assessment and then working with you to keep up on repeating those habits to become what you want to become, better each day, adding up to BIG CHANGE!
We know the power of habits and we know the power of getting others involved. And we especially know the super results that come from putting them both together. If it’s something we can help you with on taking your next steps on your journey, then please let us know. We’d love to hear from you and get to know you better.