Are you exhausted by it yet too?! Everyone telling you ONLY the 10-20 things you need to do this year to be happier and have a better year? Nothing like making life seem only MORE overwhelming to people in order to make them healthier and happier right?!
Now, there is nothing wrong with the ideas above, but that is a pretty impressive list of things people “should” be doing in order to live better lives. Change doesn’t come easy to ANY of us (there are actually scientific reasons that humans have a hard time with change, but the point is any change is quite a bit of effort). The reality is that almost all these “live your best life” ideas can be boiled down to the same thing of building new habits.
Listen, if it were easy we would all be living the most instagram worthy lives right? (just joking on that one) Habits are difficult and there is plenty of neuroscience that could be dissected to explain why. However, this is about making things accessible and since most people’s new year’s goals start with things like “lose weight” or “get fit” I wanted to focus on those specifically (although this information will apply literally to anything).
James Clear, author of the best-selling book, “Atomic Habits” has some simple ideas we can also bridge to actually being successful.
We tend to think people are “lazy” if they don’t workout often or eat the way we think is “right”. The reality is we are all victim to needing some immediate feedback. I remember being at a fitness conference as part of a Q & A panel where a fitness pro asked, “I want to grow my business, but I don’t like social media so do I HAVE to do social media?”
The obvious answer is no you don’t HAVE to, but why not take advantage of a free place (largely free, that’s a discussion for another time) where you can connect with A LOT of potential clients? If you heard him he said he didn’t like it, he probably didn’t like it because he wasn’t getting the positive feedback immediately from posting on social media that was allowing him to make it a habit. This happens with people starting fitness or nutritional programs all the time.
People know that exercise and good nutrition is positive for their goals of feeling better, losing body fat, having greater energy and so forth. However, none of that happens immediately, it takes awhile often to see these changes actually occur and most of us struggle to continue with a new habit without some immediate feedback.
That is why I think people starting a fitness program, for example, should start to focus on short duration activity that they enjoy. Most fitness pros forget that we already enjoy fitness and have felt many of the benefits so it is easy to make it a priority and even when we don’t feel motivated we have those positive experiences to motivate us. For someone new that may not be the case.
Short duration (10-20 minutes for example) of enjoyable activity can start to build the habit while giving an immediate positive feedback to someone. This can encompass MANY simple things like going for a dog walk (kid walks are okay too;), short bouts of yoga, even a shorter circuit weight training workout.
It is always good to have good supporters of your habits.
Having people build consistent habits around joyful actions is going to help them make the habit more permanent. While research is pointing towards more 60 plus days of developing a habit, it really doesn’t matter because habits are suppose to be lifelong actions anyways. Back to my point though;)
Even when I was at my lowest (after my third intensive spinal surgery in 3 years) I began with just literally 5 minutes of qigong practice, that was it, no exaggeration (it was all I could do largely). The immediate feedback wasn’t all my pain was gone and I was running around like nothing happened. Instead, it was 5 minutes that gave me 20 minutes of feeling a bit uplifted, in a better mood, and so forth. Focusing on that immediate feedback led me to eventually doing more and more because it was a positive experience that made me prioritize the habit in my life.
Short routines like this helped me calm mentally, feel more relaxed physically, and got my body moving better. If I had aimed for doing 20-30 minutes I probably would have not made the practice consistent (which is really the key) and would have found it more of a chore than an experience I looked forward to in my day.
Trust me, if this sounds like it would never lead to fat loss I get it! If I told myself this information 20 years ago I probably would have largely rolled my eyes. However, now over 25 years of coaching and having my own battles I really appreciate how powerful such simple strategies can be in building habits that help people. Now, if you are a coach who has someone wanting to train with you how can you employ the same ideas during sessions that typically run 30-60 minutes? Here are some key fat loss tips…
Learn About The Individual: Not everyone likes or responds to the same type of activity, stressors, or ideas the same way. Finding 2-3 things that someone finds the most reasonable and starting small is key.
Integrate Mindfulness Training Into The Program: Mindfulness practice has a TON of positive research behind it and it isn’t always about sitting and meditating. In fact, research like this below points to mindfulness practices being very helpful in changing people’s relationship with food and why routines like the one above and below can be ways to help people become more mindful and develop a different mindset. Changing behaviors and relationships with food is FAR more impactful than just telling people what they should be eating.
Find Some Small Performance Goals: Since immediate positive feedback is key, taking focus on just fat loss and putting it towards other meaningful performance goals for people can be very helpful. Most people that start a fitness program have great hesitations if they can do the program at all and that they will be terrible at most things. Showing someone simply how well they can squat, or explaining to them how they progressed from one version of an exercise to another higher level one can be effective. If someone enjoys going for walks, having them actually mark down the days they walk and having them see they walked 3-4 times a week is very positive feedback.
This is a topic that we can keep exploring in more posts because true success in fat loss or any health or fitness goal is about really understanding habits. Being consistent outperforms intensity, or even type of exercise in most cases. Using “movement snacks” like the ones in today’s video can be something very useful in not only helping build those habits, but giving that immediate feedback of feeling and moving better. People typically will find time, resources, and energy for things that bring them joy, maybe the most important lesson I learned over my career.
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