Today’s post comes from a good friend, Amy Clover of Strong Inside Out.
Amy is the creator of the 30×30 Project, a tour of donation-based bootcamps that benefit suicide prevention charity. This year, she’s doing another tour which she calls “The 30×30 Project all grown up.”
Amy believes, as do I, that strength is more than just how much weight you can lift. Let’s help Amy help others “unleash their strong,” no matter how dark things might seem.
I encourage you to check out her campaign for The Strong Inside Out Tour here, and if it’s something you believe in, please donate and/or share.
Without further ado, here’s Amy to teach us how to create new habits using the latest in scientific research on willpower.
Will Yourself Healthy
On your journey to become the healthiest, strongest you, I bet you’ve heard this more than once: “The first step is always the hardest.”
Many of our healthy intentions get foiled by that frustrating first step. We end up procrastinating on taking action because we can always “start tomorrow.”
Today, I’m going to share with you some insight into the great willpower conundrum, and help you take that next step that you’ve been putting off. All we have guaranteed to us is today. Don’t waste it!
Let’s explore the science behind it, the process to implement new habits, and then commit to the rest of your life right here and now!
Let’s Get Physical
While the jury’s still out on the complete understanding of willpower, we can look at existing research for findings that clue us in on how to manipulate it. Studies show that we can strengthen willpower through repeated use, just like any other muscle .
Researchers have found that one model for understanding willpower is that the mind is led by the body . Basically, that means if something hurts, the body will naturally avoid that trigger. If something feels good, the body goes after that trigger.
If you physically approach or touch a trigger that you want to include in your life more often, the research shows that your brain re-evaluates it. Add in a reward for yourself after you do, and you rewire your brain to perceive the trigger as something worth going after!
For instance, if I’m trying to eat more vegetables, but I haven’t been because I think they taste gross, the action of physically holding carrots or broccoli (instead of turning my nose up in disgust and walking away) will cause my brain to reevaluate how it feels about them. Practicing this repetitively makes it easier to willpower your way into implementing new, healthy habits.
Even if your struggle lies in avoiding temptations, the same principle applies. If you physically turn your back on these guilty pleasures, you can rewire the way your body interprets that trigger, making it automatic!
That’s exactly what we’re going to help you do right now. Let’s go over the process of taking that first step and making it into an everyday habit!
Breaking It Down
As we go over this process, I’m going to use the example goal of “starting to work out” to make it more understandable for us. Let’s get down to it!
1. Set a Trigger
Your trigger will be either the thing you want to stay away from, or the thing you want to add more of. Finding your trigger is a simple matter of becoming aware of what you’re battling against.
Let’s say that your goal is to start working out. Your battle is actually getting to the gym, so this is your trigger.
2. Set an Action
This will be either physically turning away from, or physically touching/seeking your trigger.
To start building the habit of working out, I’m going to actively put on my workout clothes and sneakers and get in my car to go the gym. You’ll have to will yourself there the first few times, but it will start to become habit as your brain expects the reward you’re about to set up.
3. Set a Reward
This is what you give yourself after taking the action to let your brain know that it produces a good result.
A reward can be anything that matters to you, but make sure that you’re not sacrificing your hard work while rewarding yourself! For instance, good rewards for starting to work out may include: buying yourself a new book for going to the gym 4 times in a week; an unsweetened iced tea or coffee bought at your favorite coffee shop on your way home from the gym; or time spent on Pinterest at night only after you’ve gone to the gym (you have to earn your way into pinning time!).
You don’t want to reward yourself with things like splurge meals or drinks out; it totally defeats the purpose of working out regularly in the first place!
The more often you practice, the stronger your willpower will get. Just like any other habit, working out regularly takes challenging your norm on a regular basis. It’s not easy to begin with, but nothing worth having is, right?
Though it’s not a part of the process for building new habits, a little motivation won’t hurt anyone. In fact, it might make the process easier.
To inject some serious motivation and drive behind your actions, remember why you’re doing this. When the going gets tough, root yourself in the real reason why you want to work out.
Do you work out to see your kids grow up?
Do you work out because it makes you feel like a superhero?
Do you work out because it relieves stress, anxiety or depression?
Knowing the real reasons behind your goals is key to stepping up to the plate even when life gets in the way. True willpower is more than just a repetitive process; it’s a belief that you can and the refusal to give up on you.
You are worth fighting for, and I want to help you prove it. We’re going to make a commitment to each other right here on Coach Calorie.
In the comments below, tell us the one habit you’re going to start building TODAY.
Looking forward to rising together, Coach Calorie Community! Hope to see you out on the tour!