Don’t Try Harder, Try Smarter

This article is another “deleted scene” from Mini Habits for Weight Loss.

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Available 11/27/16. Pre-order here.

If there was anyone “born lazy,” it was me. Growing up, I was content to play video games all day. When it came to school work or chores, I wasn’t interested. I’ve never had the type of work ethic or inexhaustible motivation that some people seemed to have. Heck, I’d have been happy to have an average work ethic growing up. To compensate for this, and the bad habits I developed as a child, I’ve needed superior strategies in adulthood.

Bad habits prevented me from working harder, so I had to work smarter first.

The Mini Habits strategy changed my life permanently. Because I aimed for small, sustainable goals, I’ve written every day and exercised almost daily for the last two years.

These habits have resulted in dramatic improvements in my writing skill, income, and fitness. Benefits are nice, but the most satisfying result has been my internal change. I’m Stephen 2.0 now, the improved version that enjoys writing and exercise. I don’t have to fight myself anymore.

That’s my story, and I truly was lazy. But I get frustrated when I see people unfairly assume that someone is lazy because they are overweight. I see the opposite.

Overweight Does Not Mean Lazy

Body weight is not correlated with laziness. At all. Sometimes extra weight can cause sedentary behavior, but the idea that overweight people “are just lazy” is a terrible and damaging lie.

An estimated 45 million people in the USA diet every year.1 Dieting typically entails semi-starving for long periods of time and exercising until exhaustion. Does that sound like someone who is lazy or unmotivated? Dieters suffer greatly and work very hard to try to reach their goal.

I’m a thin guy, and I could never do what overweight people do to try to lose weight. I wouldn’t last too long. That’s just to say that those who have tried dieting most likely have better discipline than me. Given what I did with a poor discipline, if someone with the ability to diet put that effort into a smarter strategy, they’d do very well.

Change Isn’t That Hard (Relatively Speaking)

Change is hard compared to sitting on the couch watching TV. Change is hard compared to not changing. But change doesn’t have to be HARD. It doesn’t require you to sweat blood. It doesn’t require you to put forth a superhuman amount of effort.

People may tell you change is difficult to “harden you” and prepare you for a challenging task at hand. But this is misguided.

What if I told you that I’ll give you $20 if you wrestle three hungry alligators in that pond over there? But wait, before you decide, I’ll warn you about how difficult and dangerous it will be! Does that help? Probably not, because you wouldn’t want to jump into that pond in either case. In the same way, warning people that change is very difficult is a weak motivator to get them to change: it won’t improve their willpower much and it could even dissuade them from trying at all.

Humans like easy. This is why our default brain state is to avoid and resist making difficult changes! Our brains are literally wired to do the same things over and over again.

Instead of trying to suffer our way through a big change, let’s just find an easier way to change. That’s smarter. 

Three Common Mistakes Made When Trying to Change

1. Confusing consistency and patience for difficulty and resistance. Most people are plenty able to change, but aren’t patient enough to adopt the proper change strategy. I sometimes get messages from people who say they haven’t been able to succeed with their 10 mini habits. Of course they haven’t, because 10 mini habits is way too many at once. That’s no different than an extreme diet, because when you try to do everything at once, you will do nothing. Occasionally, a willpower champion will make it, but one success story in a sea of failures is not promising.

I had only ONE mini habit for six months, and it was powerfully transformative. More is not better.

Pursuing too much change at once is a classic indicator of impatience. You need time and patience to change, and this is not the same as resistance. If you mistake having to wait as a source of resistance as many do, you’ll think you need a shortcut to change faster. This leads you into the money-loving arms of quick-change weight loss books. Understanding and embracing the slow way your brain (and body) change is imperative to success.

2. Focusing on the discouraging big picture. It’s disconcerting to think that you could exercise harder than anyone ever has for an entire month and still be overweight. You could even zoom out for a full year and not see how you could possibly reach the physique you desire even with perfect behavior. This is precisely why long-term target weight goals are worse than useless. When you try to put a year’s worth of work onto your back today, you will collapse.

I’m not saying you can’t have a vision of where you want to be. This is actually useful and even necessary to design your plan for change. What I’m speaking against is the medium and long-term goals of pounds lost and looking a certain way in the mirror by summertime. Don’t put a timeline on your change, because for one, you don’t know how quickly or slowly your body will respond to the changes you make, and secondly, thinking about timing will discourage you more than it motivates you.

3. Using goals and visible results to push yourself forward. Real progress and momentum are life’s greatest motivators. Seeing progress during a controlled, sustainable change is addictive and motivating. It feels absolutely incredible. Burnout fad diets will bring rapid “progress” in weight loss, but it isn’t the same because they’ve got an expiration date (10 days, 30 days, or when your brain and body get tired of the extreme change).

One time, I went bowling with friends, and to be goofy, I curled my arm around my back and tossed the ball forward through my legs. I got a strike! I’ve tried this move several more times and have yet to get another strike in this manner. When professional bowlers get a strike, they know that they will get plenty more. This is exactly the difference between typical weight loss strategies (amateur change attempts) and mini habits (a reliable change strategy).

Changing your behavior, your life, and your results is not as difficult a task as it may seem. We just tend to make it more difficult than it needs to be. 

Now, a proven behavior change strategy meets a global struggle.

Mini Habits for Weight Loss is a revolution. It convincingly demonstrates through science, logic, and clever strategies that weight loss success is not about how hard you try, it’s about how smart your approach is. The world has been “trying hard” to get healthy for decades. Let’s try something smarter now.

Mini Habits for Weight Loss: The revolution begins on 11/27/16. Pre-0rder here:

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