The Key Principle in Maintaining Good Habits
The Missing Ingredient in How Chris Winters, a Nearly Penniless, Homeless, Obese Man Became Stunningly Fit and Made More Than $1.5 Million The Following Year.
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” ― Samuel Johnson
I’ve had a hard time sticking with some good habits for me during my life.
Specifically, weight and eating too many cheeseburgers (ketchup only, thank you) and pizzas (pepperoni and sausage)…and drinking those dang sodas — which I gave up cold turkey way back in July last year. I now drink almost exclusively water (more on that here).
I’ve started, stopped, had some great success — losing 65 pounds of fat, and maintaining that for a year.
The seemingly inevitable gravity of everyday life brought me back to Earth, and usually with a bit more weight than I had before I started.
It was a white-knuckle-grin-and-bear-it-while-doing-something-you-really -hate-while-pretending-you-enjoy-it-to-yourself-and-others-experience.
Can you relate to that?
My friend Chris Winters could.
A Spectacular Example of Transforming a Life
At one point, he was an alcoholic, horribly overweight, going through foreclosure, and was kicked out by his wife who had enough of his crippling, addictive behaviors.
He often would stop at pizza places to bring home dinner for the family. But he’d go to the places that offered one free with the purchase of another. He would go to a dark area of the parking lot and devour the extra pizza. He’d then throw away the extra box and receipt to hide his actions.
But, within the course of a year or so, he:
- Transformed completely from obese to a six-pack.
- Gave up alcohol completely.
- Repaired the relationship with his wife.
- Became a model husband and father.
- And earned $1.5 million.
What was the key that helped transform his horrible habits to ones that served him incredibly well?
Here it is — and PLEASE don’t let the simplicity of this cause you to take it too lightly:
Chris decided he wanted to SUSTAIN these changes, and everything he did focused on making his habits and actions SUSTAINABLE over the long haul.
And get this: he has now maintained the healthy lifestyle and entrepreneurial success that had eluded him for so long…
For 9 years and counting!
When the Pain Gets To Be Too Much
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
— Anais Nin
The inflection point for Chris to turn his life around was actually hitting rock bottom. He says that pain had never been too much to actually get him to change what he was doing.
Chris explained a story of how a dog would cry in his sleep because it was sleeping on top of his bone. ‘Why doesn’t he move?’ someone asked. ‘Because it doesn’t hurt enough,’ was the answer.
Well, Chris finally had enough pain and he made a decision to turn things around.
He was browsing the internet from the old 1980’s Mercedes diesel he was living in at the time — from the Starbuck’s wifi where he was parked, and he came upon a transformation contest hosted by Bill Phillips of Body-for-Life fame.
It was a contest on transforming your body in 18 weeks, and the winner was to get $50,000.
Chris needed change, he knew that — and he also needed the money. So, that fateful evening, he clicked a button on a web page that would help to change the entire trajectory of his life.
He entered the contest, and he won.
But the thing that was really different about this time is that he decided from the get-go that he would make the changes sustainable.
Making The Habits Stick
“Motivation is what gets you started, but habit is what keeps you going.” — Jim Rohn
Chris joined a gym to help with his quest to get fit. He told them his goals, and they took a look at this overweight man, and told him it wasn’t possible to change that much in 18 weeks.
But Chris insisted, and the trainer told him it would be hard. He printed out a huge stack of diets, of exercises and the like and told Chris he’d have to do intense cardio every morning, and come back in the evening to lift weights. Oh, and he had to do that 6 days a week while eating 5–6 meals a day of things like tuna and chicken breast.
Here’s the Kicker.
Chris had the maturity and foresight to know that this wasn’t sustainable.
Oh sure, like many of us who are temporarily pumped up and motivated, he knew he could stick with it for a while.
But Chris asked himself, “What happens after week 18? What happens at week 20? At week 500?”
He knew to make these changes, and to keep them, he’d have to enjoy the process.
Instead of the grueling workout regimen recommended by all of the experts, he designed and performed a 30 minute workout he performed 3 times a week.
He has also created an eating schedule (he now usually eats once per day) that’s easy to do, is enjoyable for him, and requires little willpower to maintain.
What’s more — he has taken that principle of sustainability to other areas of his life. His business runs more effortlessly, without him doing much of the heavy lifting. He is able to spend time with his kids, and enjoys regular date nights with his wife.
Again, his key: make it sustainable.
How to Make A Habit Sustainable
“The key to being sustainable is falling in love with the PROCESS.” — Chris Winters
How can one fall in love with the process?
Ask the Right Questions
To me, it starts with asking the right questions.
One must question the assumption that change HAS to be hard. You need to question how things are done, and look for a better way for yourself.
You need to realize that WILLPOWER DOESN’T WORK, certainly not indefinitely, and ask yourself:
“How will THIS time be different?”
Have a Plan
In his excellent, best-selling book, “Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success,” Benjamin P. Hardy details several ways to make change stick.
One of my favorite strategies for the book is to use what Hardy calls, “Putting Failure Planning To Work.”
What that means is KNOW that things can get hard, and that you will be tempted to stray from your good habits, and using that knowledge to create a trigger to prevent self-sabotage.
He says, “You can’t just give in to your temptations, and say, ‘Next time.’”.
Because giving up is also a habit.
You need to create a trigger (i.e. the bad that’s going to happen), and the response of preplanned behavior (a good habit) to help you on your path to creating the habit.
The example I used above for when I gave up my crippling addiction to sodas 13 months ago now:
When I KNEW I would be tempted (I had the shakes, caffeine withdrawal headaches, the whole bit) — I gave myself the option IN ADVANCE to drink a diet lemonade. It still wasn’t the healthiest, but at the time, it was a necessary crutch to help kick this horrible habit of drinking many daily sodas.
You can set up your own failure-planning to work, and this strategy alone will help you change your behavior.
Ask Yourself the Tim Ferriss question, “What would this look like if it were easy?”
If you’re white-knuckling the experience, your good behavior just won’t last. Period.
As Hardy says in his book, “If you follow attempts at willpower to their logical conclusions, it will lead to ruin. Eventually and always, a person will be forced to either adapt to their environment or completely change it.”
The question, “What would this look like if it were easy?” leads to the changing of environment. It starts the process of making an unpleasant, hard to do habit into something that can be maintained and enjoyed.
I suggest making an Idea List (more on that here) with this question at the top, and then brainstorming answers to it. Get at least ten answers to the question and pick the few that resonate the most with you.
As is often the case, quality can be found in doing quantity, so keep going on the answers and you may surprise yourself with some excellent ways to make your new habit easier.
The 4 “Rs”: Remove, Replace, Repair, Retest.
To help with your new, SUSTAINABLE habit, the 4 “R’s” are very useful.
The very first thing you need to do is to REMOVE anything that can upset your new habit. If you’re looking to lose weight, the cliché is to remove all of the junk food from your house. It is cliché, and it’s also true. How can you do that?
When you’ve removed the bad triggers, it’s time to REPLACE them with good ones. Get food in your pantry you know will support you. If you’re a snacker, have a healthy one ready to go when those cravings hit. Find a way to replace the thing you do that may lead you down a black hole.
Make sure the process is working. If it doesn’t seem to work, I like getting it out on paper in a journal, which allows me to be objective on it — almost like I’m looking at my life from a third person’s perspective. Then I concentrate on REPAIR. Change up the process. Iterate. Get better.
RETEST. Try again. See what’s working and what isn’t. I’m of the complete belief that success in almost every endeavor is due to two things: iteration (change and get better), and resilience (the grit to keep going and to get back up once you get knocked down…and you will). Try it again. Repeat these steps as many times as necessary.
I hope you’ve gotten some use out of this article.
It’s very easy to read something and agree with it. But with the transient nature of information, and how easy it is to get for most anything —
It’s so easy NOT TO DO ANYTHING about it, and just allow the information to sit on your brain until the next piece of worthy information takes its place in the finite conscious mind.
So, I encourage you…if this has resonated with you, please don’t let this idea of making a change SUSTAINABLE die on the vine!
Pull out a journal right now…or if you don’t have one (you need to change that STAT!), then print out this article and start writing on it THE thing you need to change. The big goal you have in your mind…you already know what that is.
Then go through these exercises on it.
- Write out your goal. Get as specific as possible. Be positive. Make sure it inspires you. For me: I am a lean, muscular 190 pounds, bursting with daily energy, and I’m able to maintain it with ease by September 12, 2018.
- Ask the smart questions around it. How will it be different this time? How can I make this sustainable? What would this look like if it were easy?
- Create your SUSTAINABLE plan. Use the 4 R technique. Remove and replace to make it easier and more likely that you’ll change your behavior and create a new fun and sustainable habit.
- Review and iterate. Keep going. Write about it in your journal. Get some outside perspective. Continue on your path, and don’t let the dream die. You’re too good for that.