Sunday evening — I’m going to stick to 2300 Calorie diet and eat healthily.
Wednesday evening — F@#$ it! (eating a bag of chips — 1700 Calories)
Why is it so difficult to stick to the plans? Why does it happen so often that we plan to do something fruitful and half the way we just give up? Until recently, this has happened to me so often that I’ve ended up feeling cheating myself before starting all over again.
So, how to go about achieving goals and then go higher?
From much of the human psychology principles, we know that our brains are wired to seek “potential rewards”. But, if I know that “eating healthy” will reward me “fit body” what do I still push those “rewards” away?
In a much broader sense, why the heck am I not built up like Matt Ogus, prolific like David Baldacci, or <insert skill> like <whom you admire>?
Does this “I’m going to stick to 2300 Calorie diet and eat healthily.” to “F@#$ it!” happen to these people I admire? I guess, no or at least not so often.
Given all the things above, what could be the best strategy to not give up on your goals and indeed go above expectations? On July 2, 2017, Quartz published an article titled “I went from sedentary academic to 100-mile marathon runner — thanks to the science of self-control” which talks about a guy who went from a sedentary lifestyle to running Badwater Ultramarathon in the Death Valley. That’s quite a notable feat if you ask.
Much of the learnings that follow from now on are based on this article and Charles Duhigg’s book titled ‘The power of habit’. These learnings have led me to put up a framework that I’ve been following religiously for the past 15 days and so far, the plan is working.
Step 1 — Preparing yourself
This is not the doing phase but a planning phase. You decide and commit to the things you wish to achieve. For Eg.
1. I will stick to eating 2300 Calories per day.
2. I will go to the gym between 6–7.30pm on all weekdays.
3. I will finish reading a book every week.
The commitment must be accompanied with adjusting the surroundings to suit your goals. If you wish to eat 2300 Calories — calculate your BMR and required calorie intake. Find out the food choices that will take you there. For Eg. For me to consume 2300 calories I intake carbs, protein, and fat in the ratio of 4:2:1 and make sure that my shopping habits reflect those ratios.
For the gym, I make sure I keep my gym clothes ready each day and feel “just full” before hitting out. For reading, I’d suggest you read physical books that suit your taste and try keeping them close to the place you spend most of your time inside your home.
Step 2 — Track progress
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. — Peter Drucker
Whether it’s weight loss or reading books, the best way to gain maximum rewards is to measure your progress. For e.g. If your goal is to lose weight then make sure you weigh yourself every day at the same time (your body weight fluctuates 1–2 pounds during a day). Keep a periodic log of your progress.
Step 3 — Rewards and belief system
It’s not always the case that things you do will go as per the plan. How do you know that? Duh, you’ve been measuring your progress! Whenever you feel that your daily logs are indicating worse performance evaluate and figure out the potential causes. For Eg. If you’re not losing weight even after a month of going to the gym then probably you’ve been eating too much. Regardless of anything, however, what matters the most is that you keep your focus on the goal and believe in yourself. Keep pushing yourself unless you see things working according to your expectations.
In the case when things do go as per the plan, reward yourself. This can be a physical reward like a cheat meal or a mental push in case you did finish reading the book in a week. These rewards let your brain reinforce the idea of why your goals are important to you. They serve as a psychological jump-boards that push you beyond your expectations.
These three steps I feel are what it takes to set one into the habit of achieving. Very often we abandon good habits when we see things not working according to our expectations. In real life, good results demand patience and perseverance. This cyclic framework has helped me shed 4 pounds in two weeks, read 2 non-fictions in the same period and stick to my dietary regime. This may or may not lead me to become one of those giants I mentioned earlier but it makes me closer to my own goals.
So, set goals, measure your progress, and build a reward-resilience system.