The Secret to Changing a Habit and Keeping It Going
If you aren’t curious about adopting or improving a habit, skip this piece. Not everyone is at that point yet where they are ready to level up in their life goals. But when you are, this is something I recommend you try. As long as I continue to do this, it moves the needle forward. Whenever I don’t, I get stuck in a spin cycle. Here it is: Keep a log. No kidding! It’s not easy! But it’s worth it! Please hear me out!
Have you ever, in frustration, told a coach, trainer, or teacher that you are doing everything possible to achieve a desired goal and nothing is working? Well, how do you know? How does your coach know? Probably some of what you are doing is working, but what is not working is just enough to hold you in place. If there is no record to look back on, you have no idea where you are; what to keep and what to throw out.
A powerful practice that can give you a breakthrough in owning your life is to keep a log.
Person: “I want to see a change in my body. (I want more size/tone in my arms/chest. I want more definition/shape in my arms. I want more firmness in my thighs/ abs. I want to lose/gain weight.) I promise you that I eat a clean, healthy diet, and exercise every day, but nothing works. My body is against me. It must be my age."
Me: “Ok, describe what you mean by clean and healthy?”
Person: “I eat lots of vegetables, and chicken….”
Person: “Egg whites…”
Person: “I had a little piece of dark chocolate last night, so sue me.”
Me: “So did I. What else?”
Exactly! If you’re going to have what you want, you need to examine what you do. Exercise, rest, and nutrition. The proof that you truly care is to examine habits with no excuses. And that means writing. stuff. down. Sure, it sounds mundane, but it works. Keep track as if it matters, because it DOES.
When I task this person to keep a log of everything they eat for 7 consecutive days, it is a test. I don’t care what they write. I want to see if they can execute the act of recording and examining what they do, day in and day out. I want the good, the bad, and the ugly. I promise not to critique their log. I will barely glance at it. What I want is for this person to be aware, to examine and own their choices, even before they make a move. 99% of people who come to me saying they want change will not complete this task. One week? Three days? One day? No? Not ready yet.
Whenever someone keeps a log, they experience powerful strides forward, and even mistakes become lessons where the results (including negative ones) make sense. This level of ownership is a powerful place to be.
Allow me to invoke Jerry Colonna’s powerful question from Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up: How am I complicit in creating the conditions in my life that I say I don’t want? Right there. Read that again and let it soak in. Powerful! Calling yourself to be accountable is the first step to seeing something change - in your mind, spirit, or body. Period.
If you know you’re going to have to admit it in writing, you’re more likely to execute better choices. So I challenge you to keep a simple log where you write down every day for 7 days: 1) What I ate, 2) What I did or didn’t do for exercise, and 3) What I did with my life and the steps toward goals - whatever you care about. It is a tremendous help to know, as you decide from minute to minute what to do, that All Will Be Written and All Will Be Known. It is a sign that someone cares. Even if it’s just you. When you care, you pass the first test. You are ready to create your new path.
“Keeping the log--and keeping it accurately--has been the sacred duty of ship captains and commanders from the earliest times. Those who tampered with or kept a false log faced grave penalties, certainly including loss of command.” That’s a good metaphor, isn’t it? “If you don’t keep a log, you are not in command. In fact, if you do not keep an accurate log, you will lose command. Of yourself.” [Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley & Henry S Lodge, MD]
I already know what not to eat; everyone does. The big thing was teaching myself to care. The price of healthy longevity is eternal vigilance, and the greatest spur to diligence is the daily log.
Write stuff down and you become a serious person, in the sense of someone who cares. A daily log is a crutch to lean on when you’re weak, a shield to ward off boredom when you’re tired, and a sword to symbolize resolve when you falter. It is a practical tool and magical device that stands between you and the relentless thought “You know what? I just don’t care.” A couple of times I bagged on making entries in my log, and without fail, my progress took a backslide. If you are in the 1% (who is still reading this) select a notebook and find a way to take it with you everywhere. When you have a gap of time waiting for someone or something, instead of looking at your phone, take out your log. Review the last few days. Write reflections, add new data, and create an indispensable conversation with yourself.
You are worth it. You can make changes for the better. Why wait? Because…
Aging is inevitable, but decay is optional!