Over the holidays in Chicago, I stepped outside to move my car when my Dad pulled me aside and said, "Do you hear that?"
Sure enough –an eerie chirping filled the air. I’d never heard anything like it before. Then he pointed to the sky, where hundreds of cranes were flying at what looked to be the cruising altitude of a 747.
They’re known as the Sandhill Cranes, and they are one of the oldest living birds on the planet. They can fly 200-300 miles per day - sometimes even 500 with a tail wind. But these birds are actually leisurely and opportunistic travelers.
Instead of flying in formation like geese, they seek out thermals (rising hot air) and tail winds to carry them throughout their journey. In fact, they ride thermals so well that they’ve even been spotted soaring over Mt. Everest.
But without the help of thermals, they try to muscle through - and have been known to drop out of the sky from exhaustion.
Riding thermals and tail winds are somewhat like riding your habits. You can resort to willpower and flap your way forward. Or simply catch the tail wind and let it carry you along. That’s what habits do.
They require no extra willpower.
At first, starting a habit feels like the wind is blowing in your face, but eventually the wind changes direction. Then with the wind at your back, they feel natural and almost effortless. But how long does it take to create a new habit?
21 days, right? Not exactly.
A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology looked at the truth about habit creation. Subjects picked one new habit such as “drinking a bottle of water” or “running for 15 minutes” and every day tracked their behavior and how automatic it was.
The results: On average, it took 66 days before a habit became automatic. In fact, habit-creation took anywhere between 18 days to 254 days!
So even if you’ve blown past the 21 day mark – keep going. Because it may take longer before it becomes automatic and effortless. But it will happen.
So learn to ride your habits, instead of willpower. They’ll carry you much farther.
One more thing:
Researchers also found: “Missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.” So even if you’ve slipped up, you can still bounce back quickly – and form that new habit.
For more ways to form new nutrition and exercise habits check out my monthly "coaching session" in print.
Had a great (and timely) question from a private client this week:
“What are good foods to eat for the BIG game?”
(instead of traditional snacks like chips, salsa, cheese and crackers, etc.)
Here are some last-minute, healthy substitutions for 3 common Big Game snacks:
1. Chips and Dip
Instead of traditional chips, grab a bag of Siete Chips (which are made from cassava and coconut flour instead of white or wheat) and then mash up some homemade guacamole or pick up some pre-made Wholly Guacamole®.
2. Cheese, meat and crackers
Ditch regular Ritz or saltines for some Simple Mills Almond Crackers (as the name implies it is made of almonds, flaxseeds and cassava). If you want to really go the extra quarter mile, pick Switzerland or French/Italian cheese. Oh, and instead of salami or pepperoni use tuna on your crackers. Okay… if you really can’t stand a fishy-smelling living room, use some Kielbasa (a type of polish sausage) instead.
3. Taco Salad
For the meat, grab some ground turkey or Quorn (meatless grounds) and cook them on the frying pan with olive oil and a little Lawry’s®. Then take your Siete Chips and add your normal taco salad ingredients. If you want to supercharge this recipe even more instead of lettuce throw in some spring mix for greater antioxidants and polyphenols.
May the best snack win,
Fred Purdue, executive of Pitney Bowes, once the most dominant company in postal services, once said:
“When you turn over rocks and look at all the squiggly things underneath, you can either put the rock down, or you can say, ’My job is to turn over rocks and look at the squiggly things,’ even if what you see can scare the hell out of you.”
It’s said that during meetings at the beginning of the year, they invested 15 minutes talking about the successes from the previous year, while two hours was devoted to “scary squiggly things” that might get in their way or hold them back.
How does this apply to fitness?
It applies in BIG ways.
Because many people don’t want to “turn over rocks” and face the scary truth of how many calories they are consuming… how many days per week they are exercising… how often they visit the drive through… how much sleep they get each night… or what their current weight is (while the scale is just one measurement and there are better “measuring sticks” out there, keeping an eye on it tends to be helpful).
Out of fear of failure or fear of disappointment sometimes it’s easier to stay in the dark instead of facing the brutal facts of our situation.
For instance, yesterday I went into the kitchen and had an omelet with goat cheese and spinach (called Eggs Supreme). I was crunched on time so I ate fast. I didn’t realize how fast until I glanced at the clock and realized a mere 5 minutes had passed. This was a wake-up call to slow down (because fast eating is one of the most destructive health habits out there).
Facing these tough truths can set you free.
They can light a fire inside to get serious and make a change. But only if you are willing to “turn over the rocks” and look at the truth. It takes guts and courage to look at this sometimes scary information but if you do, one thing's for sure:
You’ll gain the power that only comes from having clarity on where you are.
From there you will know how to navigate yourself in the right direction in the same way a lost hiker finds their bearings in the wilderness.
(Because you can’t reach a destination without knowing your starting point).
P.S. For in-depth fitness tips to help you reach your fitness “destination” check out my monthly private “coaching session” in print: the Mind-Body Breakthroughs newsletter where I share delicious recipes… workout tips… and motivation to get serious again about fitness – learn more here.
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