A LIFE-CHANGING SPRAINED ANKLE
Growing up as an overweight kid, I lacked self-confidence. Obesity runs in my family. My father was always trying to lose weight. He struggled to change like we all do until we experience a seminal moment of inspiration or desperation. My commitment to change was born out of the latter. I remember being sent to the nurse’s office at school for a sprained ankle and overhearing her describing me as a fat boy. Her words struck me. I don’t know why they hit me as hard as they did, but I am glad they cause me enough pain to take action. I resolved to lose the weight. My plan consisted of just two things, daily exercise, and NO MORE DESSERTS. I decided that I would not eat another dessert until I lost all the weight.
It wasn’t easy, but I went over a year without eating a single dessert. I didn’t know much about diet and exercise; I was only ten years old, after all. My father read countless books on diet and exercise, but knowledge doesn’t change your life. Sometimes too much information and analysis can be a detriment to doing. It is our daily rituals that shape our lives. I committed to doing a little bit of exercise each morning and when I got home from school, inspired by my comic book heroes. My transforming body was a constant reminder of the value of taking consistent action. Exercise lifted me out of depression and improved my mental focus. I started doing better in school and became more confident. Eventually, I would become a National Honor Society member in high school and graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
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I want to share some of my core beliefs. My goal is to prove each one and provide practical strategies for developing healthy habits. I do not pretend to be the originator of these ideas. The truth is old. The more I study a topic, the more often I see the same concepts repeated.
While we are on the subject of beliefs and repetition, I hope you believe, as I do that, repetition is the mother of mastery. It is through frequent repetition that we develop a skill or expertise. Just because you have heard something once, that is no sign you got it. I am going to repeat a handful of key concepts throughout this book. I want to engrain these concepts into your psyche – like a brain tattoo. I want to become that voice inside your head, helping you avoid all the traps in your way. I want you to read this book once and become an expert at engineering your habits. Continue reading MY CORE BELIEFS
“In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” Plato
Burning calories to lose fat is just one reason to exercise. I am going to give you better reasons because if it’s your only reason to exercise, it won’t become a habit. I’ll give you reasons that go far beyond the fuzzy notion of runners high. I am going to share the science with you, in hopes that it makes exercise something you WANT to do. Not merely to lose a few pounds, but to be your absolute best. After you discover all the benefits of exercise, you will understand why I say choosing to NOT EXERCISE is like taking a depressant that erodes self-control and impairs cognitive function. A small dose of daily exercise is the absolute best way to improve your life. The brain runs the show, and as you’ll soon see, exercise promotes better brain function. Our brain loves physical activity. It increases blood flow to the brain, delivering nutrients and removing the waste products of normal neuronal activity. Vigorous movement keeps our neurotransmitters in balance, strengthens our synaptic connections, and even stimulates the production of new brain cells. Some of these neurotransmitters, like endorphins, provide a powerful incentive to exercise. They act on our opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects, making strenuous physical exercise pleasurable.
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Change doesn’t have to be difficult. The belief that “change is hard” is one of the biggest myths about human behavior. When we design a positive environment, change happens naturally. Making the right behavior the easier or only option is the key. The more committed you are to shape your environment, the less willpower you’ll need. Anyone serious about losing weight should throw away all the junk food in their home. This would make eating junk food impossible. Continue reading ENVIRONMENT TRUMPS WILLPOWER
Mini habits recognize that any new habit is going to take time to develop. We must get our reps in. After we have established a solid foundation, we can build on it. We are often told that we should never try to develop more than one habit at a time. This is great advice. The biggest mistake we can make about our willpower is placing too many simultaneous demands on it. The mental reserve we draw from to exert willpower is severely limited. Fortunately, with mini habits, this singular focus is unnecessary.
Most of us want to develop multiple new habits. It takes a lot of self-control to focus on just one and ignore the others. The low willpower cost of mini habits means you can build multiple habits at once. They are so small we can create three or four at a time. As we follow through on our mini self-commitments, it will build our willpower and self-esteem.
Habits not only build our willpower, but they also conserve it. Habits flow, unfettered by conscious thought. We aren’t struggling with a decision. We are reacting to a cue. Habits and environmental design are long-term strategies for conserving willpower. They allow us to avoid making a decision that would erode our willpower through decision fatigue. Instead of making a decision, we encounter a cue and execute a routine. Continue reading MINI HABITS HAVE A LOW WILLPOWER COST