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The Power of Strong Habits

Dr. Eric
Dr. Eric
November 5, 2020

We always hear that it is important to be healthy. We’re told to eat right and exercise. We’re offered diet plans and exercise routines. They work for a group of people. But for another group of people, it just doesn’t work. Why is that?

Diet plans and exercise routines often focus on “the thing you need to do” but they rarely talk about the mindset that is needed to do it. I’ve found that mindset is a large part of the success or failure of a diet or exercise plan.

Let’s say you want to exercise. You may be tempted to get a gym membership, go there one hour a day, do a set of exercises, and try to stay consistent for as long as possible. You’re tasked to use your “will” and if it fails, you’re out of luck. I find this strategy highly suspicious. It seems set up for failure.

Why is that the case? There are many dynamics going on but the one I want to focus on today is the nature of habits. Your mind is actually better designed to perform a series of habits than a series of actions. That might seem counterintuitive but hear me out.

Yes, eating well is “good” for you in the long run but that cheesecake now is what you’re used to eating. Yes, exercising is good for you in the long run, but there’s a new episode on Netflix that you want to watch.

Making successful changes in your life has more to do with creating successful habits than doing successful actions. Realize that habits are greater than free will. In the exercise example, it is a greater accomplishment to do 1 pushup a day for 30 days than it is to do 30 pushups in one day. I mean that almost literally.

30 pushups in one day doesn’t get you far. You might get tired, you might give up after 3 days. Going from 30 pushups to 100 pushups in that day doesn’t get you far either. However, if you did 1 pushup a day for 30 days, you can probably go to 2 pushups a day for the next 30 days consistently. What you’re building is the habit. In 10 months, you may end up going to 10 pushups a day. And in 30 months, you will have gone to 30 pushups a day. It might seem silly but building up the habit slowly is a much more important task than the actual number of pushups you do.

Can you imagine a similar scenario when it comes to food? Understanding your life, your actions, your progress through the lens of habits can get you very far in life. With the right habits, anything is possible.

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