Christmas is over. An entire year of possibility is stretching out before you and it’s exciting to think about what you can achieve by the same time next year.
On the face of it this might seem a little bizarre, but in other ways it’s the perfect time. Christmas is over, and the weeks of over indulgence are triggering thoughts of finally making the best use of that gym membership.
You also have an entire year of possibility stretching out before you, and it’s exciting to think about what you can achieve by the same time next year. But, the reality is that 64% of New Year resolutions will be abandoned after one month. Four weeks into 2020 and nearly two-thirds of our goals will be long forgotten.
64% of New Year resolutions will be abandoned after one month.
There is a whole host of psychology behind why this happens, and why it’s so hard to enforce new changes in general. This is probably something you’ve noticed anyway, making a change is hard.
Many of the people we coach at TNE have previously been stuck in a cycle of trying to make a positive change but failing to sustain it. However, if you use the right tactics it is absolutely possible to make positive long term changes.
There are two driving factors behind successful change:
Your narrative and your habits.
Decide Who You Are
The best (and some would say the only) way to get a large and long-term behavior change, is by changing your own personal narrative.
As Mark Twight says, “The key to progress is simple: you must want who or what you might become more than who you are or what you have right now. You must want what you can become enough to work and think your way out of being who you are right now.”
Each one of us has a story about ourselves that drives our behaviour. We have an idea of who we are and what is important to us. Essentially you have a “story” operating about yourself at all times and these self-stories have a powerful influence on decisions and actions.
This is because whether you realise it or not, you make decisions that match your idea of who you are. When you make a decision or act in a way that fits your self-story, the decision or action will feel right. When you make a decision or act in a way that doesn’t fit your self-story you feel uncomfortable.
If you want to change your behavior and make the change stick, then you need to first change the underlying self-story that is operating.
This is an idea I first heard about through James Clear, and in retrospect it’s the process I used when training for Special Forces.
Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).
Therefore if you want to change your behavior, then you must change your identity first.
In most cases when we set a goal we focus on performance or appearance e.g. “I want to lose 5kg” or “I want to squat 100kg.”
But these goals are centered around outcomes, not identity.
If you change the type of person you believe that you are, then it’s easier to change your actions.
I cannot overemphasize how important this is. Imagine it like a circle…
Identity: Change what you believe.
Decide the type of person you want to be, e.g “I’m the type of person who is strong.”
Processes: Change what you do.
Implement the systems that will prove to yourself you can be that person, e.g. Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday do a workout (in the beginning performance doesn’t matter, building the habit is what counts).
Outcomes: Change what you achieve.
If you change your beliefs and build the new habits associated with that belief the results will follow, e.g. Perform 50 pushups in one go.
Focus on who you wish to become first, then build the habits that will lead to the results you want.
And this can be applied to every area in your life, it’s not just limited to health and fitness. The most powerful example I’ve seen in our Academy is Katie’s story:
“I have loved being part of TNE Academy for the past year or so. Although TNE covers a lot on fitness, health and performance, it has also helped me on a completely different level. I took one of the theories they talk about and translated it to my own life. This is how TNE helped me find my new identity.
By Spring 2018 I had been a Stay at Home Mum for just about a year, a decision that was not entirely of my own choosing. Prior to that I had been a Police Officer and worked for the police for 12 years. A career path chosen as it reflected who I was, and I reflected what Policing was, we were well suited and to be honest I felt it had been snatched away from me.
I felt I was just simply ‘mum of’, ‘wife of’ and even referred to as the dog’s mum at the vets! I didn’t want to be ungrateful, but I was so lost and unhappy, other than mum and wife duties, I had no personal focus, no goal to work towards, I had gone from being part of something (the police service), where I had an identity, I had a reason and a purpose to be there, to a place in life where my only goal was to get to bedtime in one piece.
So there I was, in a kind of no man’s land; I wasn’t the ‘old me’, I was never going to be that person again but I also had no idea who the ‘new me’ was or even where or how to start! A few weeks in and Simon posted his weekly update which happened to be ‘Identity Based Habits’.
It made me realise that I could change my identity, what I identified with and what identified me. I sat down and really looked at what I wanted to be… calmer, fitter, stronger, a clean eater, but more than that there was something about this article that made me realise I could have a second career. I had dismissed this idea up until now as it wasn’t something I could action straight away (childcare mostly) so why bother thinking about it at all.
So there I was setting myself a new career path, but this time I looked and focused on the process, (after all as TNE teaches it is a theory of ‘process over event’). My event would be landing the new dream job, but the process, the bit I can start today, that is what has 90% of my attention right now.
Today I am writing this whilst bouncing my 5 month old baby in his bouncer and in between studying for an A Level in psychology. This is the first step in my ‘process’ to a new career – relevant and manageable.
I find myself now taking what seem to be big obstacles or targets and breaking them down into processes rather than focusing on the main event. I could go on with examples of how I have applied this theory to my everyday life, and I will truly never have enough of the right words to express my gratitude!”
Build Your System
Forget about the need for HUGE doses of will power and create a system of change around building habits and focusing on the process not the event.
As I touched on earlier, it’s not enough deciding who you want to be, you also have to prove to yourself that you can be that person. And you do that by creating small wins for yourself.
This is central to success with any type of change.
- 1. Pick a small action: “Get more exercise” is not small. “Eat healthier” is not small. This is a big reason why New Year’s resolutions don’t work. If you want a new HABIT it MUST be something really small.
- 2. Make the new action easy: You are trying to establish a conditioned response, you need to practice the new habit before it will “stick” on its own.
Take the example of starting an exercise program.
WEEK 1: Just put your gym kit on and walk for 1 minute or do 10 press ups or whatever, but that’s it, no more, no less.
WEEK 2: Add in slightly more exercise, but not much, just a small increase.
WEEK 3 + : Keep building and adding until you are in the habit and routine of working out. THEN and only then should you address the performance side!
In the beginning, performance doesn’t matter. What does matter is becoming the type of person who always sticks to your new habit – no matter how small or insignificant it seems.
You can build up to the level of performance that you want once the behaviour becomes consistent.
Lifestyle Not Life–changing
Everyone wants to make progress. And there is only one way to do it: put in your reps. Whenever you put in consistent work and learn from your mistakes, incredible progress is the result.
When you start making adjustments you may notice a big improvement from certain changes and seemingly nothing from others. Don’t get caught up looking for the ‘one big thing’ that will produce the best results.
It is the combination of the small actions you take every day, consistently over time, that will bring the greatest benefit.
So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, travelling the world or any other goal, we often put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.
Running a marathon would be life–changing, running 3 days per week is a new type of lifestyle – that will lead to completing a marathon being a more likely reality.
If you ignore the outcomes and focus on your daily actions you’ll still get results. If you ignore the goals and build habits instead, the outcomes will be there anyway.
Where To Go From Here
The truth is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and the journey behaviour change takes planning, commitment, and usually sacrifice.
If you aren’t happy with where you are right now, give this process a go and see where you can be this time next year.
Most people begin with trying to change their appearance or performance, without actually believing, on the level of their core identity, that they are the new person. This conflict can, and most likely will, stall behaviour change and delay our achievements.
Set aside some time to sketch out the person you want to become (physically write this down) and then work out what actions you need to take for this to become reality.
Break down each action to the smallest and most achievable step possible and start ticking off these steps and proving your new identity.
Small gains can seem almost meaningless, especially in the beginning. But small habits can actually deliver incredible progress very quickly. And more importantly they are helping to create a consistent behaviour pattern.
Too often, resolutions are decided upon by looking at other people’s expectations or by outside influences (magazines, social media, TV etc.).
They are based on what you think you should be doing, rather than what you really want to be doing. Instead what you need is something more fundamental, more central and more important to you.
What you need is something that comes from the inside, something that’s based on what’s important and what matters to you. That means dedicating some time to work out what this is and then start building the systems that will help you get there.
I’ll see you in 2020 for a massive year of health, performance and adventure!
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