Are Your Habits Holding You Back from Your Goals? -
Written by Blake Gauthier (@thesilverbackviking)

Like most of us I have made the resolution to get myself to that next level in my fitness journey and to do that I had to take a good hard look at my daily habits. Our habits are what we fall back on when times get tough. Are your habits good, healthy habits that support the life you are trying to live? Do you fall back into old ways that drag you even further down that rabbit hole of despair that we all try so hard to crawl out of?

I have gotten into the horrible habit of being sucked down the social media rabbit hole when I crawl into bed at night. Hours later I’m trying to figure out how it got to be so late and why I’m trying to figure out how to do the latest TikTok viral dance trend. I wake up the next morning tired, so I promise myself I’ll get to bed early but come bedtime I do the same damn thing again.

How do you break this habit? I did something pretty simple to start breaking the habit. I charge my phone on my night stand every night so I bought a shorter charging cable so my phone no longer reaches the bed. When I’m going through my nightly routine, I now plug my phone in to charge prior to me getting into bed and no longer sit propped up against my head board watching mind numbing videos. Since I started doing this, I restarted a habit I had from when I was a child. Reading prior to falling asleep. A good book definitely helps to relax me more than staring at a phone screen.

Don’t just be great in public, be great in private. It is the habits we have when it is just us, when we are alone with no one watching that make us great. Be consistent, be dedicated, work hard in silence, work when no one is watching.

Habits are things people do regularly and often, usually without even being aware that they are being done. Examples of habits may include reaching for your phone to check social media or the score of last nights game first thing in the morning, taking a specific route to your workplace, or setting your coat, or shoes in a particular spot when you get home.

Sometimes habits get in the way of people accomplishing long-term goals, such as getting in shape, eating healthily, or reducing spending to save money. Research has shown that people who are able to attain these types of goals practice self-control strategies while developing positive habits. This is why understanding habit change can be so valuable.

Why Is Habit Change So Challenging?

In psychology, habits are defined as actions that are performed automatically in response to specific cues that are directly associated with their performance. For example, most people will automatically put on their seat belt (action) after they get in the car (cue). Habits form simply from the repetition of an action or actions over time, often to the point that the action becomes automatic without the need of cognitive involvement. Thus, habits are an evolutionary strategy to make our brains more efficient to enable us to focus on tasks that need attention.

Despite the evolutionary advantage that habits signify for our mental capacity to process information, humans can and will develop habits that are not necessarily to their benefit. At a certain point, these habits can cause detrimental effects to our mental and physical health, or simply get in the way of what we want to accomplish in life.

Fortunately, changing a habit is completely possible. Just as repetition likely caused your current habits to form or become ingrained, repeating new behaviors can help you form new habits or change old ones.

Alongside repetition, the following additional tips can help you make the changes you want to make:

1: Be aware of your habits and use this to your advantage.

In order to change a habit, you must identify it first. Once you identify the habit you want to change, work on changing the habit by being actively aware of the habit you want to change and what may accompany it. Identify your own personal triggers that mark the beginning actions or thought process of the habit you want to change. Sometimes writing down in a journal when you engage in a particular habit and what caused you to on that occurrence can help you identify your own personal patterns.

2: Out with the old and in with the new.

You want to consume less caffeine, but you are drinking three or more cups of coffee per day and let’s not even mention the amount of caffeine we consume in our preworkout. So, when you start to cut back on coffee, more than likely you will go through withdrawals. You’ll feel tired. You'll probably end up with a massive headache feeling drained just really rundown… OK maybe picking caffeine as a habit to kick isn't the best idea.

I have a massive sweet tooth. I crave sweets! I crave anything sweet and this is a real issue for me with trying to live a healthy lifestyle. What I've been doing is instead of reaching for chocolate bar or a Christmas cookie, I grab an English muffin. I throw it in the toaster put a little bit of natural peanut butter on it and no sugar added jam; that helps subside my sweet tooth. It’s a matter of making choices that help us reach our goals.

3: Be specific about what you want

Being specific about the action you want to take coincides with replacing an old habit with something new. As a personal trainer, one of the more frustrating things I encounter is asking new clients what their specific goals are. The response I often get is “I want to tone” or “I want to live a healthier lifestyle”. Through digging deeper, asking what they mean by these vague responses, I find “tone” usually meant to lower bodyfat percentage and add lean muscle mass.

Living a healthier lifestyle would vary from client to client. By setting specific goals with my individual clients, I found a significant increase in the percentage of clients who would reach their set goal vs clients who couldn’t express what exactly it was they wanted to accomplish.

By setting a specific time of the day to train and sticking to that timeline is a great way to make living a healthier lifestyle a habit.

4: Use Self-Compassion

When we want to change something and have trouble doing so, it is not uncommon to feel shame or judge ourselves. However, this is maladaptive, as shame can make self-control more difficult. As Mark Manson, the author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” mentions, human beings are the only animal on the planet that causes themselves self pain and anguish through the wonderful feeling of anxiety and self deprivation. We know we should be doing certain things to make ourselves fell better but then when we don’t, we mentally beat ourselves up for not doing the right things. This causes us to feel worse about ourselves and then we start to feel bad for the way we are thinking and it becomes a bottomless cycle of self sabotage.

Hanging our habits is a process and will not happen overnight. If the new habit doesn’t take right away do NOT get discouraged. Instead of trashing yourself talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend who is looking for help and motivation to reach their goals. You, I’m hoping, wouldn’t tear apart a friend who is trying to better themselves so why would you do that to yourself?

Change takes time and by making small changes repeated over a number of days we will form positive habits that will benefit us. If you want something work for it!

About the author:
In January 2018, weighing over 530 pounds Blake dropped dead from a heart attack while walking down the street. When he fell from the heart attack he also tore his ACL in his left knee and damaged the MCL and LCL. Surgery was required to rebuild his knee and he also had angioplasty. 13 months later Blake suffered a second, much milder heart attack. Since then Blake has lost over 300 pounds and has competed in bodybuilding shows, has had articles published in several magazines. Blake enjoys living in the country with his girlfriend and kids, as well as his dog Lola and sharing his love of fitness by coaching others and helping them reach their goals as well.
Breaking habitsFitness goalsFitness habitsForming good habitsHow do i break my habitsLosing weightNew years resolutionsWeight loss

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