Change. Progress. Growth. Key terms used in companies and personalities who want to achieve something, change something, become something. It can be improved sales, it could be lead in market share, it could be get fit. It could even be spend more time with family.
We could stay comfortable and do nothing more than the bare essentials. If every action (or inaction) has a consequence, what happens then?
- Your competitors will probably overtake you and take away your market share
- Your skills could get outdated reducing your market value
- Your health could deteriorate reducing your quality of life, maybe even life expectancy
- You could have stress at home by not spending enough time with family
All of this sounds nice but how do we achieve it? Here is one example of a purpose, a vision and how I executed a system to help me make progress towards my objective. I have done well with my career thus far, I’m in my mid-30’s and this is the time to get in the best shape possible!
I want to up my fitness game. Around Christmas 2019 I saw Kumail Nanjani post on Instagram his physical transformation and I want to achieve something like that! It won’t happen overnight and probably not within a year as he accomplished it, but I need to get started on that path.
Choosing a starting point for sometime last year (so that I can demonstrate the changes better) I was about 165 lbs, skinny arms, skinny legs and a big belly. I saw a few photos/videos of myself and I’m genuinely not a fan of how I look, I can do better!
WHERE AM I NOW?
At this point I wasn’t tracking what I was eating nor was I tracking what I did on any given day. Going through my calendar, this is the basic gist of a typical day:
Just looking at that schedule is stressing me out! My meals are crammed in with my morning/evening routines and any free time is just for a few hours in the night.
Looking back at this schedule there are a lot of rooms for failure. But why?
- Maybe you had a rough day at work
- Maybe you had to stay late to meet a deadline
- Maybe you had a meeting run over which makes you late for the gym
At the end of the day my motivation levels are non-existent. I have no enthusiasm to do anything productive or deal with anything.
What would make a difference to give me more energy and set myself up for success for my goal? What should my ideal day look like?
WHERE DO I WANT TO GO?
Revisiting my purpose, I want to be in better physical shape. What I’m currently doing isn’t working, what changes can I make?
The difference here is subtle. It’s more than just sleeping at 9 pm and waking at 5 am (where previously I’d be sleeping around midnight and waking at 8 am). With this schedule I am more deliberate about when I am working out and when I am eating. The day just feels more balanced and I am going to bed without feeling rushed.
Why is this my perfect day? Well I didn’t just pull this out of a hat. I did research, what do successful people do, what do athletes, celebrities, anyone with a physique I am striving towards, do and how is their day structured?
HOW DO I GET THERE?
Great, so I know where I am and where I want to go. Bridging the gap should be easy, right?
Famous last words!
Changing 30 years of behaviors and habits is extremely difficult. I am accustomed to going to bed late and waking up late, not having breakfast, having massive lunches and dinners, eating late dinners and carb heavy meals. There are many videos, books and other resources that can help with motivation and other techniques that can help, I’m not going into that here.
Here are the systematic adjustments I made to make these changes possible:
- Write down your objectives
- Track your current habits (don’t make any habit changes just yet)
- Start with small changes (go for the easy wins)
- Keep tracking your habits
Write down your objectives
It’s great to have an idea for what you want but nothing brings it to life like writing it down on a piece of paper, or some appropriate digital medium that allows it to sink into your core. This acts as a reminder and you should check it regularly. I find purpose drives results.
Track your current habits
You don’t want to make changes when you do this. This is an important step in the evaluation process where you can take measurements. This provides a benchmark and will help determine the steps that need to be taken to reach the objective.
Start with small changes
Don’t take this literally. The point is start small, build some wins to gain momentum and then add onto it.
I went through many iterations of what the end result looks like, in this case determine the life I want to live. I attempted making multiple changes and sticking to it, it did work but it also very quickly unraveled.
In order to craft this lifestyle change here are the steps I took:
- Spend two weeks waking up at 5 am no matter what.
- Spend two weeks engaging in some physical activity for at least 4 days a week
- Start taking one of the assigned supplements
- Start another supplement
- Read a book, or listen to an audio book
- Start taking protein shakes
Keep tracking your habits
As you build these things up your tracker should start showing you a string of wins. You can pile things on as you your confidence and capability build, if things go awry you can unravel a bit and work your way back up.
Having a tracker that can show these wins visually can be inspiring and motivating, and it shows you that it is possible, no need to doubt yourself. The data doesn’t lie.
Here is a snapshot of what my meal tracker looks like:
Observe as the habit of my multi-vitamin supplement starts midway through the month, some wins are strung together and then the training starts and then adding on some more supplements!
This tracker was built in Excel. I have tried many apps, journaling, writing in a notebook, diarizing and attempted to build some stuff with my analytic tools. Since data entry is important and the items to be tracked are fairly tabular I found this offers me the most flexibility to modify and see everything at a glance. It helps to bring some visual elements and colors into the mix, helps keep it interesting and easier to spot the patterns.
The very core of improvements and iterative process. By going back and revisiting your objectives and tracking where you are now you can see the journey and evolution taking place. If the system is working we know to proceed, if it isn’t we should re-evaluate.
This is not a cookie cutter recipe, this strategy could work for you but it won’t work for everyone. We are all unique with different objectives, schedules, places in life and priorities. These need to be taken into consideration when coming up with your destination and your desired path.
Someone once told me, “It takes 30 days to form a habit and 10,000 hours to master a skill.”
It is important to stay consistent. The same way you brush your teeth every day to keep the plaque away, you need to keep chipping away until you find a system that works best for you.
Having trouble incorporating this into your world? You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your story, I’d love to hear about your situation.