Updated: Feb 20, 2020
1. Decide on a goal
Before getting started on the journey to a better you, you have to determine where your destination will be. This will help you outline all of your future steps, and give you motivation as you progress toward your goal. Without it, your actions will feel unnecessary, and eventually, you'll be lost in the daily grind.
2. Make it easy
Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal, which can be done on a daily basis. This will allow you to continuously make progress and feel that progress every day.
3. Schedule your improvement
Plan when and where you will do your chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place you encounter every day of the week. Every time you encounter that time and place, do the action. Drinking 1 glass of water every day before bed is a good starting action. Drink more water, is not.
4. Be consistent
To ensure you keep your action going, it should be an investment in who you want to become. Do the actions of the person you want to be in the future. If you miss a day, understand that it's ok. But never miss two. Get back up and start again. Start tracking how many consecutive days you can keep your action going. Reward yourself (with something positive, but not derailing) if you surpass your previous streak. Whatever your idea, be consistent.
5. Keep track of the timeline.
It will get easier with time and within 10 weeks, it should be automatic. Keeping track of your progress will make everything you do much easier, and keep motivation renewed.
Single specific action > various actions
Single context is super important during the learning phase. Be as specific as possible with what your action will be. And do that thing every day. Don't change it up. Yes, variety is the spice of life and it will keep you from getting bored, but for the first few weeks fight that urge. Your habits will develop much quicker if you keep the cue and response the same. Over time, you can improve upon your action to make progress more efficiently.
Example: Eating a banana (action/response) with cereal at breakfast (time/cue) vs. Eat at least 1 fruit per day.
How I used this in my journey
Below I will detail how I used this idea to lose weight, going from 267 at its start to 250 in 6 weeks.
During my weight loss journey I decided, initially, to drink 1 cup of water every morning as soon as I woke up. It was simple and easy and it got me in the mindset of being more healthy. Eventually, I added a lunch component two weeks later. So now, I had two guaranteed times in which I was drinking water. Both of these instances take advantage of what is called habit stacking, where you connect a new habit with one that is already established (waking up and eating lunch at certain times)
Next, after improving my general hydration, I moved on to getting in the gym. My first action was to go to the gym every day at 6:30 pm. I didn't give myself anything to do, or a time goal. Just go, and do what felt ok. My workouts were usually short, and unaccomplished due to being severely out of shape, but I slowly built the habit of showing up. After 2 weeks, I began doing 20 minutes of cardio every time I went. The type of cardio changed, but the time remained the same. Each week, I increased the amount of time, until at four weeks I could begin a new challenge. I added an additional gym slot in the morning, where after waking up, I would drink 2 cups of water and then prepare to go to the gym before work. (This had its own action steps, including going to bed at 10 pm every night. Then, waking up at 5 am without going to the gym, and then finally getting to the gym over the course of three weeks.)
This is the current outline I am currently still using. I used it to lose 13 lbs in a month at its peak efficiency, without the need for a mainstream diet. Note, there were days I didn't make it to the gym. Stuff happens. But, I always tried to get in there the next day and start again. To be more consistent, I spoke to myself as I wanted to be:
I am an athlete, and athletes don't skip workouts. So tomorrow, I won't be skipping any either.
I am a monster, and monsters don't quit after 25 minutes. So, push through for the next 15 minutes.
I am healthy, and healthy people don't eat whole boxes of pizza. So, just eat some baked buffalo wings with a slice of cheesy bread instead.
All of these are real conversations I have with myself. Cringey, sure, but effective. When you make promises to yourself that define your character, you're more likely to keep them (unless you don't have self-integrity). Use these tips, just like I did, to reach your goals even faster.