Below, Selk provides 7 tips to beat the obstacles in your head and create winning habits:
You’re tired of feeling tired and facing yourself in the mirror. Inspired by a workshop you attended on the benefits of fitness, you’ve decided to start a new workout routine. In the parlance of habit creation, the workshop was a “triggering incident”; it got you started. Now you’re ready to develop the habits that will keep you on track.
Your initial workout is good, and you feel confident that you can master the challenge. But at some point, obstacles will test your resolve and you’ll have to decide if you’re going to take the easy route—as most people do—and stop the routine, or go forward and win your “fight-thru.”
Fight-thru is where your initial confidence morphs into the realization that winning is going to be harder than you thought. You need to be able to win two or three fight-thru battles with yourself to reach the point where a habit becomes second nature. These techniques will help you:
Ritualize a new habit through scheduling. If the habit is taking a thirty-minute run every day, block it out on the calendar for the same time and make it nonnegotiable. This takes most of the thinking out of it. You’re almost automating the process.
When it gets to be day three and you’re lying in bed debating whether or not to go out in the rain, recognize what’s going on. Learn to say to yourself, “I’ve entered a fight-thru.” Recognizing this is like taking the blindfold off before the fight begins. Now you know what you’re fighting. Each fight-thru win makes winning the next one easier. Of course, it works the other way, too. Each fight you lose makes it easier to quit the next time.
3. Ask Two Questions
Coach yourself through a fight-thru by asking these two questions: How will I feel if I win the fight-thru? and, conversely, how will I feel if I lose it? You’re now bringing emotion into the equation, which promotes action. If you’ve committed yourself to a workout routine, and you hit a fight-thru, ask yourself the two questions. If in your mind you win, you may feel like a champion. If you lose, you’ll probably experience negative emotions that come with underperforming. Negative or positive, these emotions are powerful motivators to help you win the fight.
4. Life Projection: Look into the Future
Take thirty seconds and, in great detail, think about where your life will be in five years if you consistently win your fight-thrus. Be honest with yourself, and let yourself feel the benefits of constantly winning the fight. Then, go through the same process while thinking about how your life will be if you lose the fight-thrus. It’s your choice.
Congratulations! You’ve won a series of fight-thrus, the new habit has become a regular part of your routine, and it doesn’t feel like something you have to intentionally remember or push yourself to do. But keep your guard up and watch for common traps that can send you back to the fight-thru stage. For example:
5. Beware The Discouragement Monster
When you put in the work and it doesn’t immediately reinforce the habit you’re trying to create, it’s easy to slip into a negative mindset: “Why do I bother? It doesn’t matter what I do anyway.” You have met the Discouragement Monster, so dangerous because it saps your willingness to keep trying. Keep trying anyway; you will win.
6. Don’t Let Disruption Destroy Your Progress
Just before summer, millions of people start new diets and exercise routines. For many people, they work. Then November comes, and you—if you’re one of them—get knocked off track by Thanksgiving and, a couple of weeks later, the Christmas party circuit completely blows your diet. By January, you’re back where you were in June. Any break in your routine, will disrupt the positive habits that brought you success. Be careful to protect your routine.
7. Guard Against the Seduction of Success
Maybe the most dangerous trap comes when you have great success. You’ve won the fight-thrus, you’ve changed your pattern, and now you’re feeling great. It’s human nature to think, “Hey, I’ve got this licked. Now I don’t have to work as hard.” You test this new belief, and lo and behold, the results prove you right—but for how long? You’ve been seduced by your success.
Recognizing seduction is an important part of avoiding it. Anytime you catch yourself saying, “I can’t do my tasks today because . . . ” or, “I don’t need to do my activities today because . . . ,” you know you’re entering the seduction zone. You can see that you’re backsliding. So do a little bit more, for a little while longer. Ten more sit-ups, another lap, or three more bench presses will reinforce in your mind your ability to win fight-thrus. Just as physical training makes your body strong, perseverance and willingness to “fight-thru” the obstacles will make you mentally strong.
Stick with this program and you’ll make winning a habit.
About the Author
Dr. Jason Selk helped the St Louis Cardinals win two World Series while serving as Director of Mental Training. He now trains companies and organizations on how to achieve optimal performance. He's the bestselling author (with Tom Bartow) of Organize Tomorrow Today (Da Capo Lifelong Books, January 1, 2016), 10-Minute Toughness (McGraw-Hill, 2008) and Executive Toughness (McGraw-Hill, 2011). He's a regular television and radio contributor to ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC, and has appeared widely in print. Learn more at Enhancedperformanceinc.com.