How to Plan for your Habits


“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Although this saying is “played out” in a lot of ways, it still remains a truth in almost all areas of life. Planning is vital to achieving any level of success in almost all endeavors. Planning needs to have a structure and philosophy to produce results. Otherwise, it is just planning in vain, and that sounds like one of the worst ways to spend your time. 

Do your Research

Before we begin planning a path toward any particular goal, we must decide what is worth planning for. Let’s say you decide to plan a fitness goal. It would be helpful to have a teacher or trainer guide you through the process. If you are a rebel, perhaps you want to figure it out on your own. But in any case, you need to gather the necessary information to know what reasonable steps to take. As was stated in my earlier article on making small habits, be sure to start small and build slowly. Okay, so now you know that you are going to start your journey by walking for at least ten minutes a day. The next step is to take that small goal and create a reasonable and visible plan. 

Have a Reasonable and Visible Plan

If a beginner to fitness made a goal to begin running 30 minutes each day they would likely fail. Not only is the goal not reasonable, it is unnecessarily hard. Now, if I go from being sedentary to walking ten minutes a day, that is a reasonable goal. Big enough to begin producing results, but small enough not to set off my body’s resistance patterns. 

I now need to make this plan visible. This is a minor, but crucial process in creating a good plan. Let’s say you open up your Google Docs and create a weekly meal plan. The next morning you get up and go to the fridge to begin prepping your meals for the week. What was your snack supposed to be? How many cups of rice go in your lunch? Now imagine that you printed that document and placed it on your fridge with a magnet. Now you get up, go to the fridge and know exactly what to pack to meet your goals for that day. In my experience, this small habit of making the plan visible is indispensable to 100% compliance. 

I am a teacher. When kids don’t do their homework, I make them verbally tell me they didn’t do it. I don’t do it to be vindictive, I do it to provide accountability. If I just walk past and they can look the other way, they don’t have to admit their failure (albeit insignificant) to me or themselves. Going back to the fridge example, If I have to look at the document on my fridge and willfully put something else in my lunch bag, I must admit that small failure to myself in that moment. Of course we forgive ourselves when we make mistakes, but knowing that you have to confront them soon afterward makes for a good accountability measure. 

Be Ready to Tweak

Jack Canfield has a lot of great little sayings that I remember. One of them is “ready, fire, aim”. Basically the concept is to “just begin” and then take stock of the results to make tweaks as you go. This is exactly what we must do with our plans (unless we are under the guidance of a professional). It sounds like a contradiction to tell you to make a plan, and at the same time be flexible, but that is exactly what we must do if we are creating unique goals for ourselves. Just let the idea settle that achieving your goals will require flexibility on your part. 

So remember, do your research, have a visible and reasonable plan, and be ready to tweak your plan as you go.

Thanks for reading!

Habits are Investments

In a previous post, I discussed the idea that you should focus on building habits one at a time. When we commit to smaller habits that are easy to form and sustain, we grow our ability to achieve more and more. If we try to do too much too soon, we quickly encounter our body’s natural resistance mechanisms. A good way to think about a habit is as an investment. 

Results Take Time

Depending on how big the goal, the subsequent energy required to reach it is proportional. For example, if your goal is financial independence, you can expect to spend several years in that pursuit. If your goal is to become fit, you can expect to achieve your goal after several months (maybe even a year or two).  

But what if instead of setting a big lofty goal, we set a more reasonable one and think of it as an investment? A few dollars a day over the course of many years can lead to financial security very quickly. For example, if our goal is to become fit, perhaps we can choose the small goal of eating a piece of fruit every day. It seems inconsequential, but once that habit is solidified, the door opens to add another small habit (maybe eating adequate protein to support an active lifestyle). Then we add another habit…and another…and, before you know it, you reach your goal. 

Patience is required in this process. If we eat our piece of fruit and then expect to see results after a day, we are delusional (you might feel better, but you won’t look any different). But we can eat our fruit knowing that this habit is the step to begin a journey that will lead us to bigger and better (and more noticeable) results. Think of each small habit built as a deposit into the account that will soon pay dividends much larger than the original investments. 

Compound Interest

Achieving a goal is the end of an exponential process. Much like compound interest. You put in $1,000 and earn $20 interest. The next year, you now have your original $1,000 plus the next $1,000 you invest, PLUS the $20 interest. Habits work the same way. Month one you decide to eat fruit. Month two you are eating fruit and watching your protein intake. Month three you are eating fruit, watching your protein intake, and counting calories. With each habit you build, you have the value of that habit, plus all of the other little habits that are grown out of that one. Does that make sense? (I am a math teach haha) The results may not be immediate, but they will grow faster than you think. The beginning is the hardest. It is against our nature to put in effort without seeing reward. But it’s just the way it is. With a little faith, we can know that these small habits will eventually bear fruit. 

Thanks for reading!

How to Not Care what Others Think

Not caring what others think at all may prove to be a fool’s errand. Of course we care (even if only a little) about what those important to us think. That is natural. What I am speaking of here is how to live our lives so that the need for approval doesn’t stunt our authenticity. 

Answers to big questions are often simple. Not easy, but simple. It may take a significant amount of time to actualize them, but the idea itself is simple. 

Why do we Seek Approval?

There are many habits in life that are the vestiges of our earlier human development. Approval seeking is a great example. Think about it. You are out in the wilderness with your tribe. You cannot survive alone. Because of this, staying in everyone’s (particularly the leader’s) good graces is a matter of life and death. Fast forward to modern life, there are very few people whose approval we need to live a good life. The only exception may be as a child. As a child, we should get the unconditional approval of our parents, but that is a different story for another day. 

We seek approval for fear of being cast out of whatever group we are in. If our friends love to gossip, chances are we will too, because our brains are telling us that if we don’t, we risk being kicked out of the group (that might not be a bad thing). Now, translate this to other areas of your life that could hold you back. Maybe you want to become a writer, but the criticism from those around you stunts your efforts. You want to study a new skill, but your sister unintentionally giggles when you tell her. That is when this perfectly normal survival mechanism becomes a sabotage mechanism. 

How to not Care what Others Think

Not caring what others think comes down to values. Story time. When I was in my early twenties, I loved reading articles from Brian Tracy. One of his suggestions was to come up with a list of values. I wracked my brain and had to confront the sobering truth that I didn’t have any. I had the values that other people wanted for me, but I had not developed them on my own. I mostly forgot about that exercise for a number of years. 

Fast forward 5-7 years, and with some valuable life experiences, I developed my own set of values without even thinking about it. After years of dealing with the problems of daily living, I naturally unearthed what was important to me. 

Whenever we fear the criticism of others, it is because we have not decided what is important to us. Don’t get me wrong, the fear may always be there, but in a much less overwhelming way that won’t stop you from taking action. When you have your values in order, you will realize that the only person whose approval you desperately need is your own. Other people’s opinions matter, and sometimes we need to alter our values based on valuable feedback. But the ultimate change is up to us. Getting your values in order may take some time. Life experience will help you unearth them even if you aren’t trying to. Exercises like this one can help you start, but remember, life experience is what will ultimately set your values in stone. 

Thanks for reading!

Three Ways to Make Going to the Gym a Habit

The hardest thing (for most people) about going to the gym is getting there. Not “getting there”as in whether to take a car or bus, but “getting there” in terms of finding the motivation to get out of the house. In this article, I will share a few of my tips that have helped make getting to the gym relatively easy for me. 

  1. Plan in Advance

A good habit to instill is making sure that you pack your bags and all necessary items for the gym the day before. This is a big help for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons. Obviously it saves you time when you grab your ready-to-go bag the next day, but it also makes it more likely that you’ll grab the bag as opposed to leaving it by the door. Why? Because if you don’t, you’ll have to deal with the bag anyway! You’ll have to unpack it and put all the stuff back. Sounds minor, but if your brain knows the bag must be dealt with at some point, better to make it when it will benefit you. 

2. Take Collateral 

When I say “take collateral”, I mean tie something to your gym trip that will make more work for you if you don’t go (similar to the bag idea above). If you spend time making a pre- and post-workout snack, have it in your fridge and ready to go, every time you open the fridge, you’ll remember your commitment to going to the gym. My trick is that I make a post-workout protein shake each night before I go to the gym and put it in the fridge. I remember (I kid you not) EVERY single time I poured one of the shakes down the drain. One because protein is expensive and two because I had a stark reminder of a broken commitment. 

3. Find what You Like to Do (or find a way to make what you don’t like doing fun)

I think at some point, everyone realizes that to have total fitness you have to do something you don’t like. I hate cardio. I find it repetitive, boring, and even a little physically uncomfortable. I can get hype about lifting weights pretty much any time, but cardio is another story. To solve this problem, I found “hacks” to help me enjoy doing cardio. One of them is to listen to an interesting podcast. Makes the monotony of the treadmill much easier. Another way I hack cardio is by trying to stay at a specific heart rate zone. It seems silly, but having to adjust my effort level makes the cardio feel more responsive and almost like a little game. Moral of the story, try to think of creative ways to make the less pleasant parts of your gym experience more fun.

Thanks for reading!

Why You Should Build One Habit at a Time

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step 

Since beginning my personal development journey, I have created and broken dozens of daily habits. I was a vegan, then a meat eater, Paleo, no sugar, high sugar, I’ve worked out three times a week, six times a week, five times a week. I have trained myself to wake up at 7am, 5am, 4:00am (my wife hates that). But anyway, you get the idea. 

Amidst years of building and breaking habits, I have learned that one of the biggest keys to building a new habit is building them one at a time. 

So often when we get a flash of inspiration we get a barrage of new ideas. For example, let’s say you have ascribed to high-carb doctrine for a number of years. Then, after an illness, you read the Primal Blueprint and your mind is opened to a plethora of new health and fitness ideas. Our tendency will be to try and make a huge overhaul of all of our habits and adopt a new “lifestyle”. I am going to predict that very few people will make it work. 

Why? 

Our bodies are not meant to take big changes lightly. Now, let’s say instead of completely changing your lifestyle at once, you choose to start with eating more fat and a little less carbs. That’s an easy habit that the majority of people can implement with no problem. Then after spending a month solidifying that habit, you can add in some explosive exercise. Spend a month solidifying that and then commit to getting 15+ minutes of sun each day. See where I’m going? 

There are lots of reasons to approach it this way, but one of the biggest is because it makes it easy to track and realize what changes are helping you feel and perform better. If you switch up fifteen variables at once, if you do feel better, it is hard to pinpoint which one had the most significant impact. But on the other hand, if you decide to walk 20 minutes a day three times a week, and stick to it for a month, you can be pretty sure that improvements in mood and energy are a result of that habit. 

So remember, good ideas usually come in bundles. Inspiration usually pushes us to make big changes. But if you want to make change that lasts, pace yourself and consider building one habit at a time. 

Advice for the New Year

“Just begin and the mind grows heated; continue, and the task is completed” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

My advice for 2020 is to just begin. Beginning a worthwhile goal can be easy when you know what to expect along the way.

It Doesn’t Matter how Long it Takes, it will be Worth it!

Any worthwhile goal takes time. A good way to have solace along the way is remembering is that the time will pass anyway. Let’s say it takes about three years to achieve the physique you desire. That’s a long time! But in three years you can look back proudly at your accomplishments and progress, or you can look back in regret that you didn’t begin and persist.

Brian Tracy says that it takes about 22 years after you become serious about money to become a millionaire (some FIRE proponents say it is closer to 15 years if you save aggressively). By any measure, 22 (or 15, or 12) years is a long time. But, the time will pass anyway. Just begin! At the end of 22 years, you can look forward to financial freedom, or look back and regret your inaction.

Every Step Forward makes the Next Step Easier

Let’s say you start your personal development journey by committing to working out three days a week. Once you begin, you face various setbacks, you have to rearrange and better plan your free time, and organize your daily activities around this foundation habit. But you begin and persist, and eventually working out three to five times a week is part of your lifestyle. It is almost as if it is on “cruise control”.

As is expected, you begin to expand and set new goals. Here is the cool thing, once you have built the discipline to make one habit, the next one is easier. Discipline is a muscle, the more you work it (not to exhaustion!), the more efficient and stronger it becomes. This is a similar phenomenon to investing money. You invest $1,000 and in the months and years ahead, you earn interest with little to no effort on your part.

I hope this short post gave you some information and inspiration to set a goal and just begin. Until next time…

Three Reasons You Need to Get Your Hands “Dirty”

When I was in elementary school, my parents insisted that my siblings and I learn to play a musical instrument. Being the scrappy little guy I was, I wanted to play the drums. Like good parents, they said “no” (could you imagine what our little house would sound like with five kids and a little knucklehead banging on drums?!?!?!). But I think my parents knew something (whether intuitively or they read it in a book or magazine haha). They knew that playing instruments helped kids learn better and develop more well-rounded. Long story short, I ended up playing the saxophone, and mostly enjoyed it!

Fast forward to my young adult years…I picked up a few hobbies. I self-taught myself how to play the guitar, I began to become interested in hand-repairing bikes and minor guitar repairs. I never had the exact vocabulary to describe why these things were so rewarding. I think I have found it. Any creative act of your own volition is an inherently rewarding activity. Conversely, any forced act, particularly a non-creative one, is inherently de-motivating (but that’s for another article). I believe there may be a little evolutionary psychology in this phenomenon. For most of human history, creation was synonymous with survival. Creating shelter, weapons, crops and the like determined whether you would survive or not, so it makes sense that these activities are rewarding. Anywho, let’s get into my four reasons why YOU need to get your hands dirty.

You Will Learn How to Concentrate

Opportunities for concentration in modern Western society are becoming fewer and farther in-between. It seems as though our culture, albeit inadvertently, rewards and reinforces multi-tasking and getting “alot” done as opposed to getting things done well. This makes sense, because many production activities can be replaced or augmented with technology.

When you pick up a hobby, you have to reconnect with concentration. Ask any person who has learned to play an instrument how much concentration is needed. Massive amounts! A millimeter in misplacement of a finger is the difference between a beautiful chord and an ear souring mess. When making framing for a wall, or re-wiring a light fixture, your hands are the sole determinant of whether the project is successful.

Having the ability to concentrate enriches every part of your life. Your relationships become imbued with better listening, you are more careful in your work, and (this is my opinion) you may become more physically graceful.

You Will Learn the Principles of Success

There are, in my opinion, too many success books out there. They are kind of redundant. But every success book worth its salt talks about the principle of learning from “failure”. I put failure in quotation marks because failure is a necessary part of success. In essence, every advancement in literature, science, civilization, etc. was created by someone or something failing and then making corrective adjustments.

I would encourage every person out there to take on a semi-difficult home improvement project. I can almost guarantee one thing. It will be much more complicated than you thought it would be. And this is a good thing! Through it you will learn to set your expectations aside and respond to the needs of the situation. This is an invaluable life skill. Any person older than 30 will tell you that life is full of twists and turns and surprises. If that person you talk to is a positive person, they will also say that this is good because through these experiences you will learn to “roll with the punches”.

You Will Learn that Progress is Slow

I want to make an important distinction here. Change can sometimes happen quickly, but progress is always slow. Progress in anything worthwhile such as losing weight, gaining muscle, completing a significant project, learning a new skill, implementing a new habit, etc. usually will take at least weeks, and more likely months to years.

Taking up a hobby you enjoy will teach you to be patient and enjoy the process. You know you have found a hobby when the process is just as rewarding at the product. Progress is slow in every meaningful endeavor in life. This could be something to be upset about, or it could just be something to accept. The sooner you begin, and enjoy the process, the sooner your rewards will come. One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Just begin and the mind grows heated; continue, and the task will be completed!”

If your goal is worthwhile, don’t worry about how long it will take. I promise you it will be worth it! (worthwhile = worth your while/time and energy)

So, there are a few reasons to go out and get your hands dirty. What hobbies are you interested in? Until next time…