Small Habits to Reach Big Goals

In the midst of the ever-changing world today, I’m asking you to recall when we started 2020 with big aspirations. You set goals for yourself and created a plan to reach them. In March, our lives took a huge turn, and daily routines changed tremendously. This does not mean that the trajectory towards those 2020 aspirations has to halt or even slow down. Instead, this is an incredible opportunity to implement new strategies. The process may change, but the end result remains in sight – perhaps even from a better perspective than before. I am going to break this down in the context of a weight and body composition with a nutrition focus through building small habits that ultimately lead to big goals. 

Case Scenario

Imagine a 26-year-old male, John, who has been doing CrossFit for 3 years and is now beginning to compete. He knows that his performance will improve if he reaches 12% body fat in order to move more quickly and feel more explosive in his workouts. Additionally, he is aware that nutrition will play an integral role in his recovery. He and his nutrition coach set goals for him to MAINTAIN his current weight of 185 pounds but go from 15% BF to 12% BF over the next four months. They decide upon this conservative goal so as not to stress his body too severely while he is training. 

Moving forward, John’s nutrition coach explains that consistency from day to day is the key. They write up 5 habits that John will perform: 

  • Refuel shake within 1 hour of completing workouts
  • 3 L of water per day 
  • Filling half of every plate with vegetables
  • Prioritizing his protein macronutrient targets
  • Logging 10,000 steps per day 

How can John be sure that he develops these habits and hones them into the point he doesn’t even have to think about them? Here are a few strategies that you can use too, as you build habits, the building blocks of success. 

Habit Tricks

  1. Start small: the easiest habit above is likely the refuel shake after completing workouts. John will be hungry and want something to eat at this time. Choosing his favorite flavor of protein will make this habit simple and something he looks forward to doing. 
    1. Take motivation out of the question. It’s time to rid your speech of “I wish I was more motivated to do… “. Motivation, at the end of the day, has nothing to do with it. You either want this goal, or you do not. Motivation may get you started, but it will not keep you going. Small habits require little motivation at all.
    2. Make it so easy that it takes no effort at all. 
  2. Tally it up: see your progression over time. Whether you use a calendar to keep track of your consistency, use a new app (DONE is one of my favorites!), or log them on your phone in your notes, seeing this add up is satisfying and a positive reinforcement. Perhaps every time John hits his 3 L of water per day, he adds a dollar to a jar. Once he gets to $50, he could treat himself to a new jump rope. 
  3. Have an accountability system. Ways to do this are to place reminders in your environment and tell others about your habits. Does John have the proper containers to meal prep appropriately so that he ensures to hit macronutrient targets? Who has he communicated his plan to other than his nutrition coach? 
  4. Break habits into smaller pieces: John knows that he must have ½ of his plate be filled with vegetables. How does he make sure that happens? The steps are to create a grocery list, go to the grocery store, cook, then divide up his portions. Setting aside the time to do this over a couple of days makes this a seamless habit. 
  5. Forgive yourself when you slip- but get back on track right away. None of us is perfect- this is what makes us human. It is wise to validate this, acknowledge mistakes, and use them as opportunities to improve. Reflect on those times and write down what led up to the slip or mistake. In the future, one can be better prepared. If John did not log his 10K steps per day, why? Did he fail to move hourly? Perhaps he can set reminders on his watch or phone to move for 10 minutes every hour, then go back to working. 
  6. Patience is a virtue. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your body be. It is tempting to seek changes from one day to the next, but this can be discouraging with normal daily fluctuations in water weight, stress, sleep, and exercise. I highly recommend tracking progress over longer periods of time, weekly at minimum. Give yourself grace and reduce the stress of stepping on a scale or body scanner each day. 

Choose Yourself. 

Now, not tomorrow is the time to project yourself the 2020 vision you set in January. Let’s work together to create sustainable habits that ultimately create the best version of YOU.