Is that all it takes? One habit to transform your life?
It has been the catalyst for every change I’ve made.
Before I discovered the barbell, I had no motivation to better myself. I chose to hide and play video games because the world was a scary place.
A lot can change in four years, though. Who I am now, compared to who I was at 22, is a different person altogether.
And I can attribute part of that transformation to the discipline I developed in the gym.
The Reward of Following Through
What happens when you develop the character trait of discipline?
You get rewarded.
After six months of lifting weights, I noticed a radical transformation in my body. My muscles exploded with growth and I was becoming a stronger version of myself.
More than that, I nurtured a confidence I had never had in my life.
Weightlifting was a positive feedback loop. The more I followed through in the gym, the more confidence I gained. As I gained more confidence, my desire to never miss a workout increased.
That confidence spilled over into other areas of my life.
- Moving out of the house
- Losing my virginity
- Talking to girls
What weightlifting gave me was a new-found strength to tackle areas of my life I had run from.
It created a domino effect that kick-started my journey from being a boy to becoming a man.
Why One Habit is Ideal
We are all familiar with the New Years Resolutions that get made every year. The lofty expectations people set hoping to radically transform their lives.
What happens two weeks later? They’ve given up and they’re stuck in the same rut as before.
They have noble intentions and they really do believe change is imminent.
Yet it never works out.
What I’ve figured out is that when you set huge expectations to change your life all at once, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
By taking a different approach and building one habit that serves as a foundation, you can use it as a launching pad for other habits.
There are several reasons why one habit is ideal:
- You develop discipline by following through on the commitment you made.
- You have a limited amount of willpower every day.
When you’re in the beginning stages of building a habit, you have to make a conscious decision. Every day. And there will be days where you don’t feel like doing it.
When you discipline yourself to follow through it depletes your willpower.
In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor writes:
Studies showed that with every additional choice people are asked to make, their physical stamina, ability to perform numerical calculations, persistence in the face of failure, and overall focus drop dramatically.
You can see now why it’s hard to build one habit, let alone several.
The Recipe for Success
Understanding your body and how it operates is critical to your success. It’s why I’m a big fan of the latest research on behavioral psychology.
Knowledge is power. And with power, you can live a better life.
So what is the answer then to living a better life where you are in control?
Build one habit. Get it established for a month or two until it becomes automatic and part of your routine. Then transfer the discipline you used to build the first habit, to build a new habit.
That way you’re not working against the grain by trying to tackle too many new habits at once.
It’s alluring when you first step into the realm of self-development to try and pile on new habit after new habit. But, as soon as you have an inevitable rough day…your new habits are going to collapse like a house of cards. And when you mess up one day it’s a lot easier to justify the next day, and the next.
Before you know it you’re back at square one.
An Object in Motion Stays in Motion
A habit is like a snowball at the top of a hill.
A snowball starts out small and doesn’t have much power. As you roll the snowball, it enlarges and gains more traction. Soon enough, it’s a force of its own and no longer requires energy to keep it in motion.
The same thing happens with the habits you build in your life.
A new habit needs outside force (willpower) to maintain forward movement. As time passes and you exert energy every day to maintain the habit…it becomes a force of its own and no longer requires a decision-making process. It is automatic and something you do every day like brushing your teeth.
That’s what it’s like in my life. I haven’t missed a workout in four years. Going to the gym is now a part of who I am.
What Habits Will You Build?
Now is as good a time as ever to figure out what you want your life to look like in the next 10 years.
Are you going to build habits that serve you? Or hold you back?
My journey began with weightlifting. After I established my gym habit, I started reading for an hour every day. I then started meditating. Next, I started playing the guitar for 30 minutes a day.
Now all those habits are automatic.
Every day I aim to be 1% better than I was yesterday. It’s the slight edge in effect. Do something every day to move your life forward.
There will be good days and bad days. Just don’t be too hard on yourself when you slip. Because there will be times when it happens.
I had one of those moments this summer when I dealt with depression for a few months. After contracting scabies (a bug that burrows in your skin and hatches eggs, extremely itchy at night), I felt hopeless after trying all kinds of remedies.
In that low point, I reinstalled Dota 2 and played after I had told myself I had quit for good.
However, I knew it was just a phase so I wasn’t hard on myself. After two weeks of binging, I quit and got back on track and haven’t looked back since.
The Best Day to Start is TODAY
Life is about constantly recreating yourself, in this moment. That’s all anyone ever has, the present moment.
That’s why you need to capitalize on the time you have and build resourceful habits.
Either you’re moving forward or backward. There is no middle ground.
And you only have so many years on earth. Before you know it, they’ll be gone and you’ll be gone. Are you going to live with regret when you’re old? Asking yourself what could have been?
Don’t let that be you.
Take action today and build one habit to get your life headed in the right direction.