Zeno the philosopher wrote this almost 2300 years ago, “You can know the habits of an individual by its appearance.” To put that in other words: your body reflects your habits -which includes both diet and exercise.
You can either work on your six pack or buy lots of six packs. You won’t be able to get both right.
Epictetus gave these instructions about breaking a habit.
“If you don’t wish to be a hot head, don’t feed your habit. Try as a first step to remain calm and count the days you haven’t been angry. I used to be angry every day, now every other day, then every third or fourth … if you make it as far as 30 days, thank God! For habit is first weakened and then obliterated. When you can say ‘I didn’t lose my temper today, or the next day, or for three or four months, but kept my cool under provocation,’ you will know you are in better health.”
Epictetus was talking about breaking a bad habit. His methodology has been used by psychologists, clergy and institutions such as Alcoholics Anonymous ever since. Let’s now look at how to create positive habits. The same process holds true.
Eat healthily today. If you get that right, continue tomorrow and add one more day as a victory. Want to get fit? Go for a walk-run. Do that today. Do the same tomorrow. Consistency works.
Ryan Holiday writes this, “The comedian Jerry Seinfeld once gave a young comic named Brad Isaac some advice about how to write and create material. Keep a calendar, he told him, and each day that you write jokes, put an X. Soon enough, you get a chain going – then your job is simply not to break the chain. Success is a matter of momentum. Once you get a little, it’s easier to keep going”.
I have had the privilege of seeing people deciding on a daily run-walk ritual build that to the point where they were able to run a marathon and then ultra-marathons. You can establish a positive habit by simply doing the right thing daily.
Author Anne Lamott writes a story about her ten-year-old brother. He was given a project to do on birds. His assignment was to write a report about birds that he had spotted over a period of three months. She writes this, “…he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird”.
So, you cut out negative habits day by day, and you add positive habits, day by day.
Hope that helps.
Ryan Holiday – The Daily Stoic – pg 150 – Profile Books 2016.
Anne Lamott – Bird by Bird – pg 19 – Anchor Books 1995 edition.