Based on a lecture by Optimize with Brian Johnson
By developing automatic habits, we avoid having to make the same decisions over and over. We know what we need to do…we do it…and we don’t need to invest any time or energy in making this decision because the new habit has become automatic. According to Brian Johnson, “…willpower out predicts IQ for academic performance by a factor of two.”
Since we have limited willpower, we need to use the willpower we have to develop new positive habits. Once these positive habits are formed, then we can rely on the newly developed and expanded willpower to create even more positive habits.
Brian recommends the following tips to create new positive habits:
1. Manage your Willpower
- Eat Healthy, exercise and get sufficient sleep. How many times have you set a goal to exercise, but you let yourself get too tired and then you didn’t feel like it? Or maybe you’ve eaten a lot of sugar, which resulted in a big afternoon energy drop; consequently, you couldn’t be dragged to the gym much less walk in!
- Breathe deeply. Inhale for four seconds and exhale for seven seconds. People think that it’s the deep breathing that helps relax them when, in fact, it’s the exhale that does it as it rids your body of toxins.
- Don’t shame yourself when you fail. This is a self-defeating exercise and will destroy any will power you might have. Instead, you might say to yourself, “Well, Joe, you didn’t make your goal today, but I believe you have it in you to achieve it tomorrow.”
2. Be Consistent with Your “Fundies”
- Be consistent in the fundamentals of life (eating, exercising, sleeping and focused thinking).
- Schedule your days to factor in consistency so that habits begin to fall into place automatically.
3. Define Your Worst Habit
- What is the one that thing that is most toxic to your life and would be the most beneficial if you removed it?
- Figure out what that is and do it. You must “pull out the weeds before you can plant the seeds,” says Brian Johnson.
4. Know Your Keystone Habit
- Keystones hold up other stones in an arch. What one habit would take you to the next level in your health? Your career? Your relationships?
- The answer to that question is your cornerstone habit. Focus your time and energy on developing that habit first.
5. Understand your “whys”
- The “whys” are what will motivate you to get on track and stay on track. For me, it’s to stay healthy and fit so that I can play and care for the grandchildren I hope to have some day. I had a daughter late in life (44) and she’s not planning to marry until I’m 71 or bear children until I’m 75. If I don’t eat healthy and exercise regularly, I could be using a walker or worse yet, ready to meet Our Maker by that age. So, that’s my motivation; what’s yours?
- Get a diary. Write down how you imagine your life to be in five years. Write down one positive habit you want to add and one negative habit you want to remove. Then periodically revisit these goals and assess how you’re doing. By doing this exercise routinely (at the same time each week or at least once a month on the first or last day), you will be more apt to reach your goals and reap the benefits that accompany them.
6. Do it Daily – Never Miss a Day
- Pick a habit that your 100% committed to and do it daily. Don’t skip even if you do not feel like it.
- If you happen to miss one day, get right back on track the next. Skipping two days will be suicidal in meeting your goal. So don’t let that happen!
7. Make it Easy
- Start small and simple.
- As you experience successes, build on them. For example, if your goal is to walk an hour a day, you might start with five minutes the first day if you are out of shape, then double the time each day until you reach your one-hour goal.
- Practice Newton’s First Laws: “An object at rest tends to stay at rest. An object in motion tends to stay in motion.”
- Get started! That’s the hardest part of any task. When I know I should exercise but don’t feel like it, I will tell myself, “Just do five minutes.” So, I get down on the floor with the intention of exercising five minutes and the next thing I know, I have been exercising 30 minutes or more because once I’ve started, it’s easy to keep going!
8. Modify If-Then Cues
- Habits contain three factors:
- –A cue (If this)
- — A routine (then I)
- –A reward
- To change a behavior, you must look at the cue (If this) and change the routine that follows (then I). For example, if you tend to set a goal every January to exercise three to five days a week, but don’t do it, then you need to change your “If This, Then I” routine.
- For example, when I get up in the morning, I put on my workout clothes first thing; then when it’s time for my exercise class, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I will go. If I don’t feel like exercising when the time comes, I often find myself thinking, “Well, Sharon, you’ve already got your gym clothes on (If this), so you might as well go (then I)” …and I do!
9. Embrace the Process – It is How to Master New Habits
- To build a new habit, expect that it will not happen in a day or two. Like any other skill worth mastering, this new habit will take some time and repetition. Hal Enrod says that it takes 30 days (in three phases) to form a new routine…and that each phase takes about 10 days each.
- PHASE 1 – You won’t want to do it because it’s a different routine than you are used to. For some this may even be an unbearable phase. But you must push on if you want to succeed. (Remind yourself constantly of your “whys”.)
- PHASE 2 – The new routine is still uncomfortable, but you are experiencing some benefits that motivate you to keep on task.
- PHASE 3 – The routine is not so much of an effort anymore—it’s becoming more automatic. You’re motivated and have no intention of stopping. (Hooray for you!)
10. Get Your Mind Right
- If you think you can’t, you will be right! However, if you think you can, you will also be right.
- Realize that every habit is malleable – and trust that process to be true – then you will choose to engage in the necessary behavior that will change your other behaviors! It all comes down to whatever needs to be done to accomplish your goals. Perhaps your Mother read you a popular children’s book about the “Little Train that Could.” All the way up the steep hill, it kept telling itself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” and therefore it could get up the steep hill with its heavy load. And you will accomplish your goals as well if you just believe you can—and trust God for the rest.
- Meditate on positive scripture such as Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” If you keep repeating this to yourself throughout the day, eventually you will believe it and act accordingly.
- Adopt a learner’s mindset. If you are experimenting with new behaviors do not get upset with yourself when things don’t work out as intended. Understand that this is a learning exercise and there’s no such thing as failure in the learning stage. It’s all just feedback you need to continually modify your behavior so you can succeed. Decide upfront which philosophy you are going to adopt:
- –My Life is a game attitude or
- –My Life is a shame attitude.
Remember: We all fall short sometimes. We all take two or three steps forward and one step backward in the process called “Life”. Shaming ourselves will just deplete any willpower we’ve attained so far and therefore defeat any chances we have of creating a new positive habit now or in the future.
Therefore, I urge all of us to adopt the “game philosophy”. That way we will learn what needs to be done and eventually win. “Losing” won’t be a word in our vocabularies.
True confidence comes from grit. We must trust ourselves and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to do what we need to do – again, and again, and again! Think about a baby learning to walk. Does it give up when it falls down the first, second or third time? No! It just keeps trying…and we must be just as persistent.
Let’s all be intensely passionate about reaching our goals and rewarding ourselves when we do! We can’t give up! Will power will produce positive habits and positive habits will generate more and stronger willpower, which will result in future successes as well. And we must remember to praise the Lord daily for our newfound strength and encourage others who may be struggling on their paths to success. This will also make us feel more positive about ourselves as well.
We’re on this path of creating new, positive habits together…and WE CAN DO IT!