The late Stephen Covey, the author of the influential book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, once said that “You can’t talk your way out of a problem you behaved your way into.” This quote might have been in the context of communication and interpersonal skills, but a similar principle applies to one’s physical health.
Many people gradually allow themselves to behave poorly in terms of well-being; neglecting exercise and eating junk food will lead to long-term problems. For someone who slips into such decline, medicine can’t offer a simple remedy; instead, a health coach can help you achieve physical fitness. Not only will this counteract the problem of poor health. Often, it can create a domino effect of positive change. Here’s how you can harness this potential and build upon that foundation:
Creatures of habit
Many studies across domains have driven awareness of our habits (including their formation and influence in our lives) toward mainstream uptake. Authors like Charles Duhigg and James Clear expound on such research to deliver self-improvement advice to a wide readership. Understanding that humans are, indeed, creatures of habit will allow us to take control of habit formation in our lives.
We can use the four-stage model of habit formation to initiate good habits and break free of negative ones. When you exercise, you gain an advantage that translates to other efforts because physical activity boosts mood and energy levels. Thus, after the ‘problem’ phase (the cues and cravings of habits) you’ll have more willpower to explore a wider range of positive responses in the ‘solution’ phase.
Fitness as a keystone habit
Since physical exercise puts you in a positive and empowered state, its impact will lessen the effort required to break out of bad habits and start implementing positive feedback loops. Duhigg cites this as an example of what he calls a keystone habit. A person who exercises regularly will experience some of that positivity spilling over to other aspects of their life.
They will find it easier to eat a balanced diet and quit smoking or drinking. They tend to be more productive at work and feel less stressed. These effects apply subconsciously, creating a wave of momentum. Once you have established exercise as a core practice of your life, you can ride the benefits of physical fitness, and find it easier to improve other habits.
Linking up the chain
Once you’ve gotten the hang of habit formation as a technique for self-improvement, you’ll understand why so many people struggle to follow through on their commitments to do better. With exercise or any other endeavor, motivation doesn’t count for much. Intention (planning how you’ll execute the behavior) is what matters.
By using an approach known as habit stacking, you can effectively plan your day in a series of simple links and use strong existing habits to build new ones. Starting with a morning workout, you can follow that with a new habit you’d like to form. For instance, journaling or meditation. Once this becomes a habit, you can continue to grow the chain with new practices, each one serving as the cue for a subsequent positive response.
People want to become physically fit for various reasons. While this is a worthwhile goal in itself, it also takes hard work. Go above and beyond, and maximize your efforts by using the habit of exercise to generate a cascade of positive improvement in your life.