“Its hard to wait around for something you know might never happen; but its harder to give up when you know its everything you want.” – Unknown
What good is exercising if you only do it for three weeks once per year?
What’s the point in thinking positively if you snap back to negativity the next day?
Temporary change just isn’t very useful. But if you can make a healthy lifestyle change last a lifetime, the value is unmeasurably high.
For the past six months, my personal growth rate has skyrocketed, and the healthy changes I’ve made are lasting. It has everything to do with my strategy, but that’s not what’s so interesting to me. The interesting part of this is how I had this potential all along, bottled up.
I could have done this five years ago, but I didn’t know how. My attempts to change had no chance.
For A Healthy Lifestyle Change To Stick, One Thing Must Also Change
The entire goal of personal development is to change your beliefs to support your new desired lifestyle. You can’t live like James Bond if you believe you’re lame. If you don’t believe that you have time to exercise, can maintain a healthy weight, or can reach your fitness goals, sorry, but you won’t be healthy. Healthy lifestyles can only be supported long term by internal beliefs.
Success is if you go from being sedentary to exercising consistently for six months straight, in which your belief about how much you exercise will change. But a mere two weeks of a new behavior isn’t long enough to change your beliefs.
This is why unsustainable change fails – the old belief will eventually resurface to sabotage you. Relying on motivation or using willpower incorrectly are two common strategies that are unsustainable.
The Formula For Changing Your Beliefs
The process of changing your beliefs involves your mind and actions. This sounds counterintuitive, but it’s rare to change your beliefs about yourself with your mind only. Your brain knows that actions speak louder than words. So if you try to change your identity by claiming a new one, your actions better back it up for some time or else you’ll revert to thinking it’s the same old you. Prove it or lose it!
Lead with actions, though, and you’ll change your beliefs if you can keep it up. After writing for 73 days in a row, I really have no choice to but to believe I’m a writer. After going to the gym consistently for more than five months, I have no choice but to believe I exercise frequently (and to notice that I’m in good shape). The photo below sums up my progress. Checks galore!
The key to lasting change is a smart mindset that enables you to maintain the actions that will ultimately convince your brain you’ve changed. Smart mental strategies aren’t what make the change, they enable it. That’s why we read books! We know the book itself can’t change us, but it might get us into the proper mindset for change.
Like most things, there are rare exceptions. Sometimes an epiphany can cause a paradigm shift in belief so strong, that the action part of the equation almost takes care of itself.
Jack Lalanne pulled 70 boats in the water for 1.5 miles in Long Beach, California. Oh, and his hands and feet were tied. And one more thing – he was 70 years old! That’s ridiculous. But when he was a sugarholic teenager, he had pimples and boils all over his face and was 30 pounds underweight.
It was after he saw a lecture about healthy living that he changed overnight. He was ready to change. He prayed to God for the willpower to “refrain from eating these foods that are killing me,” began eating a vegetarian diet, and joined the Berkley, California YMCA. Here’s what he said afterwards:
“Within two weeks, my headaches left. My energy doubled. I was born again!”
The rest is history. Jack LaLanne became a fitness legend and the definition of good health. He lived to be 96 years old.
But it’s unwise to count on this epiphany occuring. Jack LaLanne’s experience and overnight transformation was a paradigm shift, a revelation, an epiphany. For most of us, that isn’t going to happen, because we already know the facts. It was when Jack first realized he could change that he did. Most people today who are stuck in a rut of poor diet and sedentary lifestyle know everything they need to know about change, but haven’t acted on it with success.
The path for most people is to find a strategy that compels them to LIVE the change, and that experience is what gives them the epiphany. They’ll realize, “Oh wow, I’m really doing this! This is me!” Before you actually change, you’ll read about it and secretly doubt it’s possible. But once you change, it becomes real and exciting.
The best strategies for change are often part epiphany and part action. In other words, the epiphany isn’t so strong that it does the hard work for you, but the philosophy is impactful and a smart enough to empower your mind to carry through with the change. One good example of this is a little quit smoking book that has changed many lives.
What Can A Quit Smoking Book Reveal About The Power Of Belief?
The most effective stop-smoking method I’ve ever heard of is Allen Carr’s book titled The Easy Way To Quit Smoking (Amazon affiliate). Carr’s book has produced greater-than-expected results for helping people quit smoking. And do you know what the basic technique is? Do you know what the difference between Carr’s book and most other quit smoking strategies is?
Rick Paulas discusses the surprising success in his article about the book:
“What’s most shocking about the book’s contents is perhaps what’s missing. There are no stats about lung cancer, heart attacks, or strokes. No scare tactics like what the social pranksters at TheTruth.com dabble in. No veiled threats to the state of your sex life by focusing on bad breath and stained teeth. “The health scares make it harder [to stop],” writes Carr. And are obviously ineffective.
Quitting is easy. Quitting is easy. Quitting is easy.
“It’s very repetitive,” says Tompkins. “And I was aware of that while reading. Like, is this some hypnosis thing?”"
Carr’s 5 hour seminar based on the book has a very high 53.3% success rate, and that absolutely blows other methods out of the water (other methods usually have a 10-20% success rate). It’s surprising, because it’s just information. It isn’t hands on. It’s not a patch that delivers nicotine.
And the secret? The key ingredient? The magic?
There are perhaps a few reasons it succeeds, but one reason stands out…
He gets smokers to believe, consciously and subconsciously, that quitting smoking is easy.
Mini Habits will show you how adding any positive behavior to your life can be easy. The way it changes your beliefs is what makes it so powerful and effective. I believe that adding any positive behavior to my life is very easy (and it is). It used to seem impossible (and so it was).
Another example I like is when Richard Branson chartered a flight to the Virgin Islands after his flight was canceled. Literally everyone else booked on that flight, and 99.9% of people in the history of canceled flights, did not believe they had an alternative option once the last flight of the day was canceled. That’s what makes Branson so special and successful – at the risk of being cliche, he doesn’t believe in limits. This belief in possibility over limits has allowed him to live a remarkable life.
Let’s go deeper. How exactly are beliefs formed and changed? And how can we leverage what we learn?
How Beliefs Are Formed And Changed
1. Experience Forms The Base
This is the big driver of beliefs. If you have never been able to do a pull-up, it will be hard to believe you can do one. If you’ve tried and failed every day for the last 15 years, it will be nearly impossible to believe you can do one! This is the big resistance in life. Our experience only demonstrates what we’ve done, not what we can do. Despite having greater potential, our experience is all we know of ourselves, so it’s hard to convince ourselves that we can be greater.
2. Beliefs Are Drawn From Experience
Up until recently, I had a hard time believing I’d ever have an ideal sleep schedule. In this last week, however, I’ve gone to bed at 8-9 PM and risen at 6-7 AM. My experience is making me reconsider that prior belief, which was based on my previous failures. Everything you’ve thought and done up until this point creates your beliefs.
3. Expectations Sprout From Beliefs
Expectations are the direct result of beliefs, which themselves come from experience. Pay attention to your expectations because they are a direct extension of what you believe. If you believe you’re a writer, you will naturally expect to write. If you notice yourself expecting to have a good/bad day, that means you believe current circumstances are going to result in a good/bad day. If you always expect a bad day, it means you have negative beliefs about yourself or the world.
But next up is the monkey wrench.
4. Experiments Can Change Your Experience, Which Impacts Beliefs and Expectations
An experiment is trying a new behavior that is different from prior experiences (trying okra for the first time). An experiment can also be a new strategy for the same target behavior (using a fork to eat cereal). This obviously adds a wrinkle to the formula, because an experiment can fail or succeed, and if it succeeds, it will force your brain to reconsider its current beliefs. Imagine a man who goes 50 years believing that he will die alone, but then he decides to ask out an attractive stranger (experiment) and she says yes. That’s a game changer for him, because his experiment is a success that holds promise for something greater (contrary to his prior experience).
In my decade of failure to grow significantly, I experimented some. I tried getting motivated, setting up an elaborate point system with rewards, forcing myself to just do it, etc. All of these experiments consistently returned a small amount of success that never lasted very long, so my beliefs never changed. I would have to continually restart my attempts to change. Many times, I didn’t have a plan and just decided that “I am going to get in great shape” and proceed to hope that I stuck with it. All of my strategies had a weakness that stopped me. Motivation worked really well, when it worked at all. Willpower worked well, until I burnt out. The point system was new and exciting, until I realized it was just a coat of paint on top of my old systems.
Can you see the problem with this? After a while, these same experiments become experience. I knew the results beforehand, and they weren’t what I wanted. But like most people today, I continued to try because it was all I knew. I continued to try because I figured one day I would somehow “break through” and be able to succeed with these strategies. Maybe I’d get lucky and inspiration would take me to the promised land! My brain knew better. I had lingering doubt and the expectation to fail, because my brain was very familiar with the process – it always failed.
To make a healthy lifestyle change last forever, you’ve got to change your beliefs. The way to change your beliefs is by experimenting, because experimenting has the potential to change your experience, which in turn changes your beliefs. So if something isn’t working for you *cough* motivational techniques *cough*, then you need to experiment with another strategy. When you find something that works, latch onto it like that one leech latched onto my leg when I swam in that one lake (leeches are weird!).
If you’re looking for a new strategy, I’ve found one that works. By design, it should work for everyone. But if it doesn’t for whatever reason, you can tweak and experiment until you find something that does.
How Mini Habits Change Your Beliefs
As time goes on, I understand more and more why Mini Habits are personal development gold.
Mini Habits was an experiment like any other, and despite expecting it NOT to work, it worked on the first try, and then again when I added more Mini Habits. I’m now on day 73 of reading and writing daily and 5 months of consistent exercise. I never miss a day. I never fail. The strength is not in me, but in the system that makes my goals “too small to fail.” And it’s getting easier as these behaviors are becoming habits. Now my brain expects to succeed with this strategy every time, because so far, it has. It’s proven.
My beliefs about what I can do have completely changed because I’ve found a strategy and mindset that won’t fail me. When I looked at the science, it made even more sense that this strategy worked. Many people won’t try it because the steps sound stupid – they’re meant to sound stupid. Think about it – if a task sounds stupidly easy, then your brain isn’t intimidated to do it today and for the next 90 years.
From the book:
Since I refer to Mini Habits throughout this book, I want to briefly explain the concept. A Mini Habit is basically a much smaller version of a new habit you want to form. 100 push-ups daily becomes one push-up daily. Writing 3,000 words daily becomes writing 50 words daily. Thinking positively all the time becomes thinking two positive thoughts per day. Becoming an entrepreneur becomes thinking of two ideas per day.
The way we accomplish these Mini Habits is by using a small amount of willpower to force ourselves to do it. It doesn’t take a lot of willpower to do one push-up or come up with a couple of ideas. But why do this?
The benefits of are numerous and bring BIG results. First, there’s a great chance that you’ll continue the behavior and do “bonus reps.” This is because we naturally desire these positive behaviors in the first place, and starting the behavior reduces internal resistance. The second benefit is in habit. Even if you don’t continue the behavior beyond the small requirement, it will begin to become habit. From there, you can use it as a springboard to do more, either by bonus reps or scaling the habit up. Another benefit is constant success. Since Mini Habits are “too small to fail,” they lack the common destructive feelings of guilt and inadequacy that come with goal-failure. Instead, you’ll feel very successful and encouraged, more and more with each passing day. This becomes an extremely potent encouragement spiral. Personally, Mini Habits have made me feel unstoppable. Prior to Mini Habits, I felt unstartable.
To summarize, a Mini Habit is a VERY small positive behavior that you force yourself to do every day. And yes, you can pursue more than one at a time!
Even Depressed, Defeated People Have Great Potential…And Hope
I have more hope for the world and its many struggling inhabitants since discovering Mini Habits; especially for those who are depressed or feeling defeated.
I’ve never been one to get depressed, but I was on the planet for 27 years, only making so-so progress at best the whole time. It became easy to think that so-so progress was what I was capable of, that so-so was the best I could do. I had constant feelings of failure and defeat – I couldn’t reach many of my goals.
Similarly, people will get in a depression spiral that never ends because they think a depressed person has less potential than a non-depressed person, or that because they’re depressed, it’s what they’re meant to be. But if your depression is from circumstances in your life and sub-par life strategies (rather than chemical imbalance, which is another beast), those can be changed. You can change.
What do you believe about yourself? Your answer to that question is based on what you’ve done (experience) rather than what you can do. We think we know who we are just because we control our bodies and make decisions. That’s only part of us. Underneath this surface-level show is a strong, mysterious set of subconscious operations and unknown potential. There’s so much we don’t know about ourselves. But one exciting thing we can know is this – we all have potential beyond where we’re currently at.
That’s exciting. And if you’re feeling down and hopeless, it’s a lifeline.
We’re all naturally cynics about ourselves though. We’re not going to believe in change until we see it. But if you can find a consistent and reliable way to change, you’ve hit personal development gold. And with Mini Habits, I’ve found it. Look for the book later this month!
Bonus: One Healthy Change Can Lead To Another
Since I’ve been exercising, my interest in eating healthier has increased too. I’ve been eating an almost 100% organic mega salad every day recently. It isn’t even a goal I set – it’s just something I want to do. Check it out!
Photo by Free HDR Photos