Add 10 years to your life. How old will you be? Now, look at your current habits in one area of life that is continually not working out how you want it to. Multiply your current habits in that area times 10 years. Do you like what you see?
If you don’t like what you see, today is the day to—literally—kill the habits that are dragging you down.
Killing a Habit—The Example of Health
I’ll start with an example. I’ve been wrestling with weight loss for some time now, and a trajectory in my family line toward diabetes, heart-disease and other issues that rise and fall on daily eating and exercise choices.
I’ve tried and failed in many ways, and the truth is, most of what I do is half-hearted.
So let’s call any habit that is not helping me arrive at who I want to be in 10 years “bad.”
Related to my health, I have some bad habits (and bad attitudes that keep them going). Ready for honesty?
Today’s bad habits (and attitudes):
- I sneak foods more often than I am aware that are packed with sugar.
- I hate exercise, due to itchy skin, tiredness in the morning and a bum foot, so I skip days and weeks (using work and trips as an excuse).
- I order “reward” foods at restaurants because I think I deserve them because I work so hard.
- I conveniently forget that the only way to lose weight and get healthy is a one-two punch of both counting calories (really, it’s 101) and constant exercise.
In 10 years, I’ll be 62. Here are my results if I keep up the above:
- I will have gained a lot more weight as my metabolism slows even more, and maybe get diabetes because of my genetic predisposition.
- I will potentially have skin and musculoskeletal issues, as well as hip and feet issues, and be even less flexible than I am now (I see a cane in that future).
- I’ll just get heavier and heavier and keep kicking myself—10 years later—for having so little self-control (by the way, the time I most usually tell myself I can stop eating badly is right after I’ve eaten badly and it’s in my blood making me happy).
- I’ll keep up the insanity of trying to exercise without watching what I eat, or watching what I eat without exercise (which is actually better for weight control at least).
In 10 years, who I want to be is:
- A 62-year-old man who doesn’t sneak foods, because he has some self-control within (rather than relying on the size of my gut or my wife to tell me I’m off the rails).
- A 62-year-old man who is flexible, physically fit, walks regularly and lifts trimming weights, and has solid balance.
- A 62-year-old man who is maintaining a good, healthy weight (and is happy with the way his gut looks and shirt fits).
- A 62-year-old man who is no longer entertaining the insanity of thinking I don’t have to watch both my eating habits and exercise habits at the same time.
The New Math to Move Forward
The “you” that you want to be in 10 years is on the other side of the following equation.
Old Bad Habits – New Good Habits + 10 years =
The Unhappy, Wishful Thinking, Exacerbated Issues You
New Good Habits – Old Bad Habits + 10 years =
The Preferred, Joyful, Energized You
The rocket science is this: You and I must kill and replace the current bad habits immediately and without mercy, with new transforming, incremental and healthy habits that will yield the 10-year you that you want to be.
You and I both know it—tomorrow is not the time to break the bad habits, or after the next big trip or event.
Today is the day we break the bad habits by replacing them with a system of new, good habits.
New Habits (and Friend Accountability) Just Work
Using our example, it is easy to gain weight, and really, really hard to lose it. The best choice is not to gain it in the first place, of course. But if I have, new habits will do the work without me focusing on the weight.
A good system beats our mood and feelings and craving hands down, every time. #systemsbeatmoods is my hashtag for that.
So, write down the new habits that will replace the old ones. If you don’t replace the old bad habits, you’ll go back to them.
For our example, here is a list of the new habits, and the accountability that goes with them.
They are a one-two punch, and usually don’t work without the other.
Dan’s New Habits (and Attitudes):
- I have a radar for sugar, carbs (which convert to sugar) and calories, and I track the latter till I get it (straight up—if I eat carbs like breads and bagels or oats or sweet coffees, or even sugars like fruits and bars for breakfast, my insulin hit will kick in and I’ll be hungry all day—especially for sugary things; that’s why protein and fat and veggies are my right choice).
- I choose to love the results of exercise, so five days a week, traveling or not, I have a planned regimen that I follow that will, in the end, yield the results I want (make sure you have one, or you’ll be random and it won’t work, Dan).
- I have eaten all the happy foods I’ve wanted all my life; I will now order the healthiest options at meals out, focusing on protein and vegetables (and kicking potatoes, breads, starches and desserts out the door, except for once per quarter special occasions).
- I will both exercise AND watch what I eat, planning both out daily and stopping relying on my moods (#systembeatsmood).
Dan’s New Accountability (and Habit Breaking Patterns):
- If I can find friends or family to do this with me, great. I will text them daily for the first three months to tell them how I did each day. No kidding. If I can’t, I will start a Facebook group with strangers.
- I will ask my wife to help me keep the house free of the “bad habit” foods that are killing my goals.
- I will be absolutely honest about my sneaky tricks in the first area, so they are out in the open and I have to tell someone. Until the habit is broken.
The Time to Change Is Now
We need to stop faking ourselves out and making excuses for why we keep failing. #Systemsbeatmoods hands down, every time. It’s time to create your system.
Here’s a video that can help.
Question: What are some “new systems” you’ve implemented in one area that have really worked for you?
Resource: Author Michael Hyatt has an excellent article on making, and sticking to, a new habit. It’s worth a read.
The book highlighted in the video above, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, is an excellent read exposing why habits form, how they stick and how they can be broken.
This article originally appeared here.