5 effective principles for building a healthy lifestyle
Have you ever tried to stick to some habit and failed miserably?
You are not the only one.
I used to be a strict vegetarian, experimented with many other diets, worked out twice a day consistently for months, and more. However, this list is not remotely as long as my list of failures.
As a Personal Trainer I have seen many people struggle with implementing diets, regular exercise, sleeping patterns and many other health related habits.
These are the 5 principles that I have found to work over the years.
Principle #1: Willpower vs. being smart
“You are only as lazy or lacking in willpower as you think you are.” – Ken Christian
It is a common belief that willpower is incredibly important if you want to achieve something. However, I actually believe that it is less important than being smart.
Willpower is definitely a necessity, but the amount of willpower required is determined by the strategy you use.
The common person is not weak, the common person just applies the wrong strategy!
Applying the other principles is the smart way of implementing habits into your life.
Principle #2: Implementation before perfection
“The more things you do, the more you can do.” – Lucille Ball
This is really important. By actually taking action you exercise your willpower, your confidence and you efficiency.
Being able to stop drinking soda late at night might give you the confidence to stop eating those afternoon cookies!
Once you actually implement something, you will be able to do the next thing with more ease and confidence.
Also, building habits is more important than doing everything right. I always tell my clients that they just need to go to the gym to get it into their routine. It doesn’t matter what they do exactly; they could go, just do some crunches and take a shower, as long as they go there consistently.
Doing this will program your brain to go to the gym, once you got that down you can start worrying about perfecting your routine.
Waiting for something to be perfect before you start is procrastination, nothing else.
Principle #3: Everything takes time
“Be realistic. The chance of mastering something the first time you do it is almost non-existent. Everything takes time to learn and you will make mistakes. Learn from them.” – Unknown
Ever heard of the 10.000-hour rule?
It’s a rule based on studies by Anders Ericsson that states that anyone needs 10.000 hours of serious and well-planned practice before reaching mastery in a certain field.
Now even though this rule is pretty controversial, there is quite some research that backs it up. It is evident that we need to practice, a lot, before really becoming good at something, true mastery cannot be achieved in one day.
Now imagine that you are trying to become a great guitar player.
It would probably be a good idea to focus on some basic open chords and learn a few easy songs. This will give you motivation to keep going and learn more difficult songs.
If you would start by focusing on the one extremely difficult song that would take months of practice to learn, it would take a lot more willpower than these more simple, more rewarding tunes, right? It’s not impossible, just a lot more demanding and most people would quit within a few days.
Taking it easy and being motivated by small goals – like every kg of fat you lose – without demanding too much of yourself is the smart way to go.
Principle #4: FOCUS on the positive
“The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire, not the things we fear.” – Brian Tracy
What are your reasons for trying to lose weight or gain muscle? The most probable answer is that you just don’t want to be fat or skinny.
It’s very normal to have negative motivations for doing things but realize that they are less likely to work and are also less rewarding.
In the contrary, positive motivations can be very rewarding and are more likely to make you happy thus more successful.
Instead of focusing on losing weight on the scale, focus on wanting to wear that one dress again. Instead of focusing on not eating candy, focus on eating those healthy things that you also like instead. It may seem like a small adjustment, but it can make all the difference in the world.
Also, as I mentioned before, having focus is very important. You cannot do too many things at the same time or you will fail at all of them.
Make health a priority for a few months, don’t try to become better at everything at the same time, it will not work.
Principle #5: Change your surroundings, not just yourself!
“You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success – or are they holding you back?” – W. Clement Stone
When you make a drastic change in your life; either your surroundings will change with you, or you will fall back into old habits.
This is only normal because your surroundings will always be there with you, even during your weak moments. If your surroundings do not adapt, you will inevitably fail.
For example: It’s probably not a good idea to hang out with your overweight friends at McDonalds all the time and think that you won’t order something. It would probably be a lot easier just not to go there and inspire your friends to also not go there.
It may seem harsh but if your friends do not accept the change that you want to make in your life, then maybe you should hang out with different people who do.
Your surroundings can either drag you down or encourage you. You better make sure that it’s the latter.