Have you ever wondered how many steps are involved in driving your car? 10? 30?
I started counting, but then I got bored. Let’s just say there are a ton.
Like most of us, you’ve probably never given it much thought. You get in, turn the key, and drive off.
Take a moment to think about each individual step. What do you do?
Grab keys. Place keys in door. Unlock door. Get in. Sit down. Breath. Put the key in ignition switch. Turn over the ignition system. Put your foot on the brake. Shift gears…
OK, you get the point.
If you had to think consciously about every step, it would take you 2 hours to get down the street. You’d be helpless. Your brain chunks information and forms a habit that you can do without even thinking about it.
This is true across every aspect of your life.
The brain might only take up less than 10% of your body mass, but it’s a huge energy user—up to 20% of your given energy goes to firing your brain’s neurons. In an effort to conserve energy, your brain takes shortcuts and relies on pattern recognition to get you through the day.
The Power of Habits
Understanding this concept can lead to powerful transformation in your life.
Take a moment to consider some of your habits, like those around your morning wake up routine and food. Next time you start your day by throwing on a cup of coffee and making breakfast, stop and think about whether you’re really hungry, or just following your 7 a.m. routine.
If you are indeed hungry, then go ahead and eat breakfast. But if you’re eating breakfast out of habit, not hunger, what would happen if you tried going without it today?
So many of the actions you take every day are simply unconscious habits that have formed over years of repeated practice. Your brain takes shortcuts to conserve energy expenditure, and the best way for it to save energy is by doing what it already knows. Less thinking requires less energy demand, providing more resources for use during other metabolic functions. Ah, the beauty of human physiology.
Self-Awareness is Key
If you’re struggling to meet your fitness goals, you must be willing to dig deep and identify what’s stopping you. After all, you can’t change what you don’t know about yourself, right?
|Your alarm clock goes off||You get up to make coffee and eat cereal|
|The clock strikes 3 p.m.||You eat a cookie|
|You turn on the TV||You grab some popcorn|
|It’s Friday afternoon||You go to happy hour with friends / coworkers|
What bad habits are getting in the way of your fitness goals? Take 5 minutes and write down a few you’d like to quit as well as their triggers (or cues).
Research shows it’s almost impossible to eliminate habits. However, you can replace bad habits with good ones. Once you identify your triggers, you can start experimenting with replacing your bad habits with better ones.
Let’s say you have a goal of losing 5lbs of body fat. Because you’re smart, you already know that drinking alcohol can get in the way of fat burning. But when Friday afternoon rolls around, you fall back into the usual pattern:
:: Trigger: It’s Friday afternoon
:: Habit: You go to happy hour with friends / coworkers
Now it’s time to experiment with healthier habits. The trigger (Friday afternoon) isn’t going to change. I promise, every week for the rest of your life there will be a Friday afternoon!
Habit Change for a Healthier You
So how can you create lasting change? Only you are in control of what you do when Friday afternoon rolls around. Next time, try skipping the happy hour drinks fest and try doing a different activity that could bring you closer to meeting your fitness goals.
- Hit the gym for a sweat session
- Make plans to grab a coffee with a friend
- Head to the movie theater and catch a fun flick
By choosing to do an activity outside the norm, you’ll bring awareness to the corresponding triggers and consciously replace it with a better habit that suits your health goals.
Of course, you’ll have to play around with different habits to see which one feels right for you. And once you find that new habit, you’ll have to do it again and again for at least 30 days to make it stick. Repetition and consistency are essential. Over time, your new habit will become an effortless part of your lifestyle.
And it’s this effortlessness with healthy habits that lie at the root of what we do with Saltwater Fit. We’ve helped hundreds of clients make small habit changes that completely transform their lives. If you’re looking for a little help discovering your triggers around bad habits, we’re offering a FREE 15 minute Skype call where we’ll answer any of your questions regarding habits, health, fitness, and nutrition.
Email us here and we’ll set up your FREE call.
And if you’re interested in going deeper into the science of habits, check out James Clear’s work. I love his simple and systematic approach to habit formation.
Here’s to your healthy habits.