Habits of Health: 30 Days To Fixed Ways
I am reading a brilliant book at the moment by a bloke named Hal Elrod. Called 'The Miracle Morning', this book has sold countless copies and I know why - it's pure gold!
As the title of the book suggests, The Miracle Morning is about setting positive life habits that are the precursors to hitting huge life goals. Hal's convincing argument is that it starts with rising early in the morning and on your own time, not five minutes before you need to be out the door for work.
I have long believed in and practiced this idea myself and reading this book really reinforced the value of the behaviour for me. There's a certain sense of pride and motivation that comes from knowing that you've already smashed a gym session, had two showers (before and after gym) and powered through breakfast while the tired majority are halfway through their snooze between alarms three and four.
But of all the gold nuggets in this book, one specific suggestion stood out to me: how to create habits.
Habits: What Are They?
Habits are often cited as negatives or boring yet I could not disagree strongly enough. I am a HUGE believer in the Law of Cause and Effect (will cover in another post) which suggests that every effect or outcome that we experience is a product of one or a number of causes or inputs, actions that we take.
Habits are repeated actions that cause repeated, consistent outcomes. These outcomes can be positive (great health, happy relationship or loads of money) or negative (poor health, poor relationship or poorness, generally) and are the direct product of the habits an individual intentionally or unconsciously sets.
Habits: Why Address Them?
When you come to realise that you are a product of your habits, you've identified the first step to building an awesome life. How? Because if instead of being a victim, you become empowered by the opportunity to change. Being empowered, means YOU take the reigns of your life. You take the power.
So what do you do with that power? You identify the outcomes that you wish to change and you go about forming habits that are the precursors to those outcomes. I personally find that there is two main ways to do this?
- Inspect your life - When have you been happiest and what was it about your actions or habits at that time that contributed to the happiness? Were you eating super healthy, training hard, spending time to yourself or spending more time with friends? Were you reading loads, getting lots of sun, dedicating time to your hobbies or having loads of sex? Were you saving cash, were you walking to work, were you listening to podcasts or going to bed early? Whatever the case, if you felt on top of the world (outcome/effect) it was certainly a direct product of the habits (causes/actions) you had formed at that time.
- Inspect the lives of others you envy or respect - what is it about the habits of those you envy that brings them their outcomes? What do you observe them doing routinely, habitually that causes them success? It might not be apparent and you might think them lucky at first sight but I promise you this, there is no such thing. Luck has little or nothing to do with it.
You've heard the saying "why reinvent the wheel?" Well if you can identify the habits that YOU or OTHERS have formed that generate the outcomes you wish for, then copy them. If you copy those habits consistently, incessantly, you will eventually start to experience the same results.
Habits: How To Form Them?
You may have heard of the claim that it takes 21 days to form a habit. That conclusion came from a cosmetic surgeon named Dr Maxwell Maltz who in his book Pyscho-Cybernetics: A New Way To Get More Living Out Of Life, described how on average, amputees take 21 days to adapt to the loss of a limb.
Hal Elrod elaborates a little further and suggests that armed with the right strategy, anyone can implement a habit in 30 days. He says that in the real world, becoming a master of your habits will allow you to take complete control over your life.
But it's all not as easy as that in practice, is it? Think about how many times you have set yourself up for a massive year with some truly lofty NY resolutions, only to completely crash and burn days later.
Part of the problem is that we were not prepared for the mental and emotional barriers that must be overcome when implementing a new habit. And we're somewhat blindsided by these roadblocks when we face them, giving up because we don't have the strategy to overcome them.
Habits: The 3-Stage Strategy
Stage 1 - 'The Unbearable Stage' - Days 1-10
Think back to your last resolution and my bet was that beyond the first 10 minutes of implementing your new behaviour, the novelty wore off and all you could see was pain. Eating healthy? Training 5 days a week? Your body resists your actions and all you can think of is donuts and doonas, after all it's pouring rain outside and you're starving.
If this is an insight into what the next 29 days shall be like, you straight up question if it is all really worth the pain. But what the majority of people do not consciously realise is that this resistance is temporary. Importantly, that single piece of knowledge is what gives you your advantage. Knowledge is power; you know what to expect.
So rather than being shocked at the difficulty of forming the new habit, you simply see the pain as part of a temporary but necessary process. You're shedding your old skin. Just put one foot in front of the other and as painful as it may be, you must have faith in what you have been told. This is the worst of it!
Stage 2 - 'The Uncomfortable Stage' - Days 11-20
After 10 days of pain, your confidence is building and your image of yourself as a failure is abating. You have stuck to it through the most difficult stage. But don't be fooled, the three-stage model does not suggest that just because you made it through day 10, by some form of magic, day 11 will be a cinch.
Think about is this way. If you have been in this negative habit for the whole or a large part of your life, then losing your commitment or discipline after 10 days will see you slip quickly into old habits. The temptation of your warm bed still persists only now you know the reward for getting out of it. You also know that it's just a 5 second dash from there to the warm shower to wake you up for your epic day.
Stay focussed on moving through the stage, day by day. Think of each day as another rung on the ladder that takes you to the top where all the rewards of your habit-hacking become truly visible.
Stage 3 - 'The Unstoppable Stage' - Days 21-30
The '21-day habit' advice is totally correct in that it takes this amount of time to form the habit. However these last days are equally important as stage 3 is about ingraining the habit, reinforcing the habit and establishing the true pleasure that comes with it being habitual.
Here's a 'manly' way to explain it. Think of the importance of winning a grand final to the resolve of a football or cricket club. If stage 1 were all the training you did and stage 2 was the on-field performance and winning, stage 3 is all about raising the trophy in front of your fans. It's about soaking up the atmosphere and feeling what it is like to be the best. It's about celebrating with your team mates once you hit the top and become unstoppable so that next year, during a tough patch, the joy, the pleasure of winning is truly palpable.
Stage 3 is where your habit becomes part of who you are, part of your lifestyle so don't cut corners. You're the healthy eater, the exerciser, the brilliant partner. You live the habit every day. And each day through 21 to 30 hammers that fact into your being. It crystallises the habit into an automatic, unbreakable process.
Healthy Habits: Start Now
If this resonates with you, there will be part of you that says 'I love this, it makes sense, I'll start next month'. But that's a mistake. After reading this post, you now have some positive connection, a visualisation of where you could be in a months time if you just start now.
Don't try to target 15 habits all at once, 1-2 habits done truly well will be life-changing but you must start now. Set your alarm for tomorrow morning and begin Stage 1 -The Unbearable Stage, now.
Set just one alarm and pop it across on the other side of the room, out of your reach. Hit the bed tonight with the position affirmation - "tomorrow, I will wake full of energy and ready to take on a big day of my new health habit". Repeat it 5 times and then get a good night rest.
This time it's going to be different. This time, you have a strategy.