Habit forming and why it’s important, especially in San Diego
If you’re in great shape, it’s because of your habits. The same is true if you’re not.
If you’re well read and socially competent, it’s because of your habits. The same is true if you’re not.
If you’re successful, it’s because of your habits. The same is true if you’re not.
“You’re life today is essentially the sum of your habits.” - James Clear author of Atomic Habits
On the calendar, summer is quickly coming to an end. In reality, San Diego summer is probably going to last till December and now that all the tourists are gone it’s really time to dial it in.
Why is this important? What happens in fall and winter that changes our mindset and motivation?
As fall and winter approach we slowly start to lose our motivation to be healthy. We allure of looking good at the beach fades and the time for warm soups and comfort foods replaces the vibrant salads and fresh fruits of summer. Generally, we think of wintertime like a Grizzly bear about to hibernate and like our ancestors, we want to bulk and bundle up near the fire because we don’t know when the next source of fresh meat or food will become available. So we conserve our energy and become complacent.
Fortunately for us in San Diego, we don’t ever struggle from these prehistoric issues and though some would argue we should be eating the foods of the season, we should definitely be staying on top of our health and not overindulging because “it’s not summer” anymore.
I read a paper once that stated the average American gains eight pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But does that American lose eight pounds between Christmas and Thanksgiving? If it seems like the numbers on the scale are ever increasing year after year, it’s probably because they are.
How do we stop this pattern?
We’ve all heard the idea that it takes 21 days to form a habit. While this may be true for some people, most (including James Clear) would argue it’s somewhere closer to 66 days. Habits are personal and driven by motivation so depending on how much desire to change and how much resistance you encounter, a habit could take anywhere from three weeks to six months to become automatic. Automatic like how you don’t have to think about how to walk anymore, just if you want to expend the energy to actually walk somewhere.
When you walk into the grocery store, do you head straight for the produce section to see what vegetables are ripe and in season or do you head for the bakery side because of the alluring smell of the fresh baked baguettes?
Do you skip workouts when you don’t feel up to it or do you know that hitting the gym when you DON’T feel like it is what separates the person that breaks necks while running down the boardwalk from the “oh, they workout” glances most fit people get?
Do you wake up and immediately reach for a glass of water or is coffee your first liquid of the day? (caffeine limits the body’s ability to absorb water so I always drink at least 2 tall glasses of water before I take my first sip of that smooth black gold)
These are all habits that I’ve trained myself to do (and you can too). Sure, I have definitely have some bad habits (picking at my nails, cussing too much and over indulging in the sauce from time to time) but if a majority of your habits are healthy, the compounding effects of these will result in the changes you’re looking for in your own physique. You’re a part of this community for a reason and it’s definitely not to become less healthy.
As humans we all strive for two things, survival and reproduction. We want to be fitter so people will find us attractive (so we can reproduce). We want a promotion so we can make more money, so we can buy a better car, so people will see success (so we can reproduce). We want to have more followers on Instagram so people will give us respect, credibility, belief and trust so we will look influential and powerful (so we can reproduce).
On a more relatable level, all these factors can be linked to increasing happiness. More fit = more dates = Happier. More money = Better car = Feel better = Happier. More followers = More influence = Free bikinis = Happier.
According to Clear, there are four steps to creating and breaking any habit… 1) Cue 2) Craving 3) Response 4) Reward
Cue predicts a future reward (i.e. drive for money, power or IG likes)
Craving is your motivation for achieving this change
Response is the habit (depends on how bad you want it and how much work it would be to attain [friction])
Reward is the reward. Duh.
Without all four of these steps a new habit is unattainable. There’s no shortcut. There’s no magic pill to lose 20 pounds and there shouldn’t be. That’s what makes it so rewarding when you look at a picture from 3 months ago and you have one less chin and no muffin top on your favorite college jeans. Let’s look at it in action.
Cue - You join a gym
Craving - To look your best at your 20 year high school reunion and shove it in your old crushes face
Response - You commit to working out at least 3x/week for 2 months (you really, really liked this dude who peaked in high school)
Reward - You lose 25 pounds, look even better than you did in high school and now you’re Tinder profile is trending and you’re turning down dates like your swatting mosquitoes in Florida.
You sign up for Audible or buy a book on Epigenetics
To learn more because it could help build your business and is a super rad topic or because deep down you’ve always been a science nerd and the SD party lifestyle has shoved your desire to learn so deep into your alcohol soaked liver you almost forgot it was there
You start listening/reading every chance you get (5 min here, 10 min before bed, instead of turning on Netflix)
You’ve finished one book, can’t wait to start the next one, can hold a conversation on the topic and feel AMAZING because you actually learned something in a time and at an age where people just don’t.
What habits do you want to change? And more importantly, how badly do you want to change these habits? If it’s important the human mind can achieve anything, if it’s not just be honest with yourself so you don’t feel like a failure when you can’t stick to it, it might just not be the right time.
A close friend of mine once told me “No. Just means, not yet,” and although this was pertaining to rejection in sales, they could easily have been talking about habits.
We all have so much more life to live, let’s make these next 3 months count for something. Change your habits. Change your life.