“Sometimes, it’s the smallest decisions that change your life forever.” ~Keri Russell
Seven years ago I was that athletic, hyperactive person you could look at and admire.
I was madly in love with cardio, and I could easily work out twice a day, six days a week, without a single complaint, not to mention jogging at 6:00AM five days each week.
In college I went through lots of rough times, especially in my senior year. I was always stressed, I procrastinated a lot, and I couldn’t care less about working out, until one day I woke up and realized that I had gained forty-six pounds in less than a year.
In just twelve months, I found myself transforming into a less attractive, obese young man who couldn’t breathe properly or even fit into an old pair of jeans. I also had stress problems and a non-stop bad temper.
I tried hard to get back on track and get my old self back again, but with so much stress in my life, it was only a matter of days until I gave up and went back to my bad eating habits.
I would plan my diet, stick to it for a couple of day or weeks, and then give up. Working out was no longer easy for me, the gym was boring, and healthy food was unbearable.
For seven consecutive years I faced lots of difficulties and tried to lose weight more than 100 times. All failed. I was desperate, I was helpless, and I felt stuck, until one day I asked myself:
Why don’t I start small?
Why don’t I forget about doing too many things at once, and change only one thing and see what happens next?
Why don’t I just go to the gym—without caring about how much I eat, how much weight I lift, how fast I run, and without even sticking myself to a specific schedule?
Why don’t I just put my shoes on and walk myself to the gym three days every week, and consider my daily goal done once I step into the gym. No more doubts and no more worries—I’ll just try to be someone who goes to the gym more often.
I did it, and it was the best thing I ever did for myself.
In a matter of three months, I have lost thirty-eight pounds, gained control over my life, and become more disciplined. And junk food has finally no control over me.
I did that by following a set of universal laws that most people neglect when trying to change their lives. I strongly believe that if you manage to follow these universal laws, changing your life is guaranteed.
I have summarized them in four simple rules that are applicable to almost all types of human behavior. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or build self-confidence, follow these four rules and you will see results.
Rule 1: Make it easy to start.
I asked myself: What are the obstacles that make me hate going to the gym?
The answer was:
- Feeling bad when I fail to reach the specific number of reps for each exercise, or when I don’t lift a lot of weight.
- Feeling bad when I can’t push myself to run on a treadmill.
- Feeling like I’m not disciplined enough and I lack control over my life whenever I miss a workout (even if I have a busy schedule).
So I decided to eliminate all the obstacles and make it easy to go to the gym consistently.
I knew that if I kept lifting weights and running even with 50 percent of my strength, my body would change and I would see progress. That’s why I decided to:
- Lift only what I could, especially when I wasn’t in the mood to lift a lot of weight.
- Do only what I could when it came to cardio. If the ideal intense cardio workout is made of four intervals, then I’d be satisfied if I did two or more.
- Be less strict with timing. I’d hit the gym any day at anytime, as long as I go there at least three times each week.
I did that and I realized something very strange. When I dropped the stress off my shoulders, I started to lift more weight, run faster, and go the extra mile in almost all of my workouts. And that made me stick to the habit more than ever because I made it easy for myself to progress.
If you want to see results, you must make it so easy to start that there is no place for thoughts of quitting or backing up. Life is already hard. Don’t make it harder.
Rule 2: It`s all about consistency.
No matter who you are, you will have some sort of resistance to change. This resistance is at its minimum when you introduce change into your life step by step until it becomes a part of who you are, or face any kind of emotional trauma or a situation when change is a must (like losing your job or getting a divorce).
Since you don’t want to put yourself in a traumatic situation, and because your reasons are sometimes not strong enough to weaken your inner resistance immediately, the best way to change your lifestyle is by starting small and being consistent.
Focus on one—and only one—thing to change at a time (so you don’t stir up your inner resistance) and take consistent actions toward this goal until you have a new way of life.
Take my dieting example:
It was hard for me to exercise regularly and introduce a healthy lifestyle to my daily routine, so I changed only one variable (going to the gym) and left the rest unchanged. Within a month I found myself changing my eating habits completely without feeling bad about it.
Why? Because being a gym-goer had changed the image I had of myself, which made overeating seem less exciting.
I simply didn’t want to lose the calories I’d worked hard to burn in the gym on a can of soda or a cheeseburger.
Consider change as a snowball; all you need is to build a small ball, clear the path, and let the ball roll.
Start small now and build on it. It’s the tortoise that wins in real life, not the lazy rabbit.
Stop trying to revolutionize your life in a single shot. Small and consistent is what you need to explode.
Rule 3: You never start at the end line.
When playing a new video game, the best way to show fast progress is to start at the amateur mode and get used to it for sometime before you move to the pro level.
The same goes with real change; you start at the bottom in the amateur mode and keep progressing until you become a pro.
Your goal is to move from the beginner level to the pro one fast and safe, and to do so you must know that:
- When you demand too much too early, you lose.
- When you be over-judgmental and beat yourself up too often, you lose.
- And when you choose perfection over progress, you still lose.
Don’t look far and forget where you’re stepping. You have two eyes; keep one on the sky and the other one under your feet.
Rule 4: Regret is a complete waste of time.
I had my moments of relapsing. I have cheated many times but I haven’t allowed such mistakes to ruin my diet because I realized that regret is useless.
When changing your life, keep in mind that it’s immediate action that fixes a mistake, not crying over it. It is your reaction toward a mistake that counts, not the mistake itself.
Get over your mistakes fast, and you will be amazed by how far you will go with your life.