I recently acquired a copy of Johnny Bowden’s book, The Best of The Rogue Nutritionist, wherein Dr. Johnny writes about habit. You know I’m a big fan of anyone writing intelligently about habit, and that I often share what I hear on that subject here. I’m gonna do it again today.
Note: The book is about nutrition, but addresses a strategy for developing good habits in an easier way. That is what I will talk about in this post.
In his book, Dr. Bowden writes about his belief that habit is a big part of what keeps us overweight and out of shape. I concur.
He says that of the 5 biggest obstacles to health and well being, habit and conditioning are the worst.
He says we are beginning to be conditioned by our surrounding and caretakers from the moment we pop from the womb.
He says that our own unique combination of favored or loathed people, places, and things create in us habits that are hard to break.
Think about that for a minute.
What people do you absolutely love, or avoid at all cost?
What places have become your “happy place,” and which the abode of the boogie man?
Which activities make you tingle with excitement, shudder with dread, or salivate with the thought of a taste sensation?
Ever lay with your back against the wall, knees pulled up tight to your chest, blankets covering all but your eye holes as you stared into the a darkness that is your room? Me, too! Wasn’t it conditioning that made you so afraid? I know this was my reaction to a lonely bedroom as a teenager, after staying up late, watching horror flicks. I’m a wimp, so I didn’t do much of that as a kid, but enough to know I didn’t want to make scary movies a habit.
I’m enjoying Dr. Bowden’s book, small as it may be (it’s a teeny, tiny thing), and am impressed with his theories on habit. Early on in my reading, on page 25 of the booklet, I read this: “…when we undertake weight loss or body transformation, we need to trick ourselves into winning, at least until we’re hooked.”
Dr. Bowden was talking about exercise when he penned that sentence, but what he wrote relates to any of those new habits we are trying to form when we begin the journey to weight reduction and a fitter self. He went on to write about a strategy for creating winning scenarios that includes setting “preposterously, stupendously easy goals” when trying to form a new habit or learn a new behavior, like running, or dancing, or apportioning food onto a plate in the correct amounts.
Again, referring to exercise, but applicable to any new habit-forming behavior, Dr. Bowden writes, “The subconscious doesn’t evaluate big or little, but only knows success or failure.” My take on that: If you set easy goals and achieve them, it is wayyyy better than setting harder goals and failing to follow through.
I’ve been giving this advice to my friends who are parents for decades. Example: Don’t tell your child that if they hit their brother one more time you will send them to bed without supper. You can’t survive a tirade that goes on for hours, and a hungry kid is a force to be reckoned with, you will fail. Better to tell Junior to go in his room for five minutes, and mean it, than to threaten something you cannot be fully committed to achieving.
My take away from this early reading of Dr. Bowden’s book: Work hard to set easily attainable goals whenever you want to learn a new habit or condition yourself to do something unfamiliar. Keep it simple, keep it easy, and you’ll keep wanting to win. Your unconscious mind will register the win you’ve created and before you know it you will have developed a habit that helps you reach your goal without all the struggle and set backs that go along with a line of repeated failures.
No one wants to fail. Everyone wants to win!
What habit are you working to develop today? Describe your most recent win.