You know that little voice inside your head that’s telling you to quit? That voice is not you. It’s the old you. In fact, it doesn’t even know the awesome new you that’s on this journey to being the best you that you’ve ever been.
“Winning is a habit. Watch your thoughts, they become your beliefs. Watch your beliefs, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character.” – Vince Lombardi
When people come to me for help, they all have one thing in common. They’re sick of feeling like the person they are is not the person they thought they’d be and they’re ready to change something. It might not be everything, but it’s at least one thing. So we only change one thing.
We work on one habit. One short-term goal with 100% focus on the process. The process of learning the habits that the client needs to master in order to be the person they always knew they’d be.
It seems odd to think that the most audacious achievements come down to starting with a single habit, but it’s true. I’ve worked with over 1,000 clients and I’ve never seen a failure of willpower. But we all struggle with focus. We try to do too much because we see the people that we want to be and all that they do well and think, “I have to be that perfect all the time and any slip up just means I’m a failure and shouldn’t even bother trying.” We get discouraged when we waste all our willpower trying to do 100 things perfect instead of one thing better. And we quit when we can’t see our own progress through all the distractions.
So the key to getting past that old voice in your head is not willpower; it’s focus. Here are some of the tools I use to help my clients stay focused on their own journey.
- Track it. You need to see you’re getting better at something. You need to keep track of that one habit and see the numbers start to add up. You can use MyFitnessPal, you can use a pitch counter, you can use a calendar, but start tracking the days that you improved yourself. So if you want to eat colorful veggies at every meal, write a happy face on that calendar every day you do it. Don’t write a frown face on the days that you don’t because that’s only going to fuel that old voice in your head. You need to see your successes.
- Keep the cadence; change the distance. When I was a young Marine Officer Candidate, a Marine taught me the key to running uphill is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how small that footstep is. You maintain the cadence, but you change the distance. So no matter how tired you are, you rely on the rhythm to keep you moving forward. I try to impart that lesson to my clients by telling them they can always adjust. If we are working on eating colorful veggies at every meal, but you know you have a crazy day ahead of you, just hit ONE meal. Keep the focus and moving forward.
- Make planning the fallback plan. If there’s a day when you know you’re not going to get any colorful vegetables, sit down and make a plan for how to avoid this situation the future. Did you forget to buy them? Chop them? How did you get here? Going through that process of learning and planning might even be more valuable that getting all your veggies that day. So stay focused on learning and keep moving forward.
- Reflect on what matters. My clients answer 2 questions every day that are so important they started calling them “The Two Questions.” What did I do well today? What did I learn today? These questions will help you focused on what you are doing and learning that is getting you closer to being your best self. The process of putting one foot in front of the other.
I’m not going to lie, you’ll hear that voice from time to time. But by saying focused on the process and always remembering there’s a way forward, it’ll mean less and less when it pops up. You can’t stop that old voice from speaking up, but you can learn to ignore it. It’s just not who you are any more.