What’s so great about inspiration
is sometimes it finds you when you’re not looking.
—Wong Kar-wal, Film director
YOU baby! This book is the definitive guide to creating the best YOU and the best life for YOU. Yeah, baby! It’s all about YOU.
The first time I tried to make pancakes, it didn’t go so well. The skillet may have been too hot, the batter too thick, too thin—whatever. The skillet was smoking with misshapen burnt dough blobs. I threw the whole thing out and started over.
We make mistakes. Some are temporary setbacks—like burnt pancakes. Some we chalk up as a lesson learned, like how not to burn the pancakes. Others might be epic fails with disastrous consequences, like accidentally setting the kitchen on fire because you threw the smoldering pancakes into the trash.
As with my pancake adventure, trying anything new opens the doors for mistakes. Often, the first time we do anything, it doesn’t go exactly as planned. Maybe we’re able to rethink our process and try another way. Sometimes we get frustrated and chuck the whole mess. The first time trying something new can be a trial-and-error process of discovery and experimentation, or more like randomly throwing darts and hoping for the best.
Inevitably, mistakes are part of being human.
The only man who never makes a mistake
is the man who never does anything.
Mistakes are defined as actions or judgments that are misguided or wrong. A mistake can also be an error in our action, a miscalculation, or the result of poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge—must I go on? We mess up. We look back, find ways we might have circumvented our mistakes and limited or avoided the negative consequences.
We tell ourselves that next time we’ll be smarter—but will we?
It takes a lot of effort to learn from our mistakes. You’d think we would make every effort not to make another mistake. But we move too fast, don’t evaluate the options, think we know what we are doing, and convince ourselves that we’ve got it all figured out when many times we’re far from having anything figured out. Our brain is lazy and wants to automate as much as possible, even if it’s wrong. Mistakes, pitfalls, and mishaps—we’re so prone to making them, it’s a wonder any of us make it through life at all.
Screw up once and it’s a mistake. Keep repeating the mistake and it becomes your decision. Conscious or unconscious, repeated mistakes become our decisions and decisions become our habits. Left unchecked, over a lifetime, bad habits can have negative consequences for the trajectory of our lives.
Insanity: Doing the same things over and over again
and expecting different results.
Doable lays out the reasons why we make so many mistakes and how to avoid them. Delving into the neurological process of our shortcomings, we can explore and change the patterns holding us back. Then build new neural pathways to create your best life ever. This book will give you a road map to rethinking the choices you make, from your most basic physiological needs, to love, to your intellectual pursuits, and more. The goal is to be a fully-developed, self-actualized human being living the life meant for you.
It’s estimated the average adult makes a whopping 35,000 remotely conscious decisions every day, with about 225 on food alone, according to researchers at Cornell University.[i] My guess is, for most of these little daily decisions, we could do better.
It’s all about the little decisions that lead to big outcomes. When you take the daily little decisions for granted, the big picture can get lost. The long-term impact of your little decisions can create a life filled with vision and purpose. You’re the accumulation of what you do every day, and that’s a good thing because you can change your life right now by simply changing the little things.
Your life is the result of all your little decisions.
When you wake up every day, it’s like a new birthday:
it’s a new chance to be great again and make great decisions.
—Poo Bear, American recording artist
The phrase “the devil’s in the details” has to do with making mistakes that sometimes snowball into epic failures. Maybe you forgot a step, thought a shortcut would work, or unconsciously made an innocent mistake. Everything after that chain reacted into one colossal screwup, causing you to back up, completely start over, or give up altogether.
Then there is the opposite phrase, “God is in the details,” meaning that attention paid to the smallness will make the largeness possible. Digging into the details creates an opportunity for discovery and creativity, sparking our deepest curiosity to figure things out.
The same is true with our behaviors and habits. When we understand the reasons behind our actions, we rethink and make the best-choice outcomes for our lives.
Do you wonder what drives you?
We look at the social narrative, listen to the advice of others like parents and friends, and try to figure out what box we fit in. If we choose poorly, the box becomes a trap. Instead, how about breaking out of the box and being open to unlimited opportunities?
The secret of concentration is the secret of self-discovery.
You reach inside yourself to discover your personal resources,
and what it takes to match them to the challenge.
—Arnold Palmer, American professional golfer
WHY I WROTE THIS BOOK
There’s usually a reason why we set off on a path of self-discovery and self-improvement. Sometimes life just didn’t go as planned and we stop to reevaluate. The process of learning more about ourselves often gets triggered by some life event—therapy, divorce, graduating from college, changing career paths, or we just wake up and decide today is the day to make some changes. The fact you’re reading this book shows you’re ready to discover something new about yourself.
For me, it was lying on a couch for a year that made me ask myself, “Why am I here?”
LIFE-CHALLENGING EVENT NUMBER ONE
Through adversity, one grows and rethinks the trajectory of one’s life.
Well, I’ve had a few redirects that have caused me to rethink, reevaluate, and reboot my operating system. We walk on the edge of a knife and could fall off either way, sometimes into the abyss of chaos and uncertainty, or to the side of clarity and a sense of purpose. I’ve been on both sides—a few times.
In 2008, I spent the entire year on the couch, sucking down several rounds of antibiotics. I didn’t know it at the time, but my sinus cavities had closed off and were infected so badly that the infection occasionally seeped into the meninges of my brain.
Picture the worst flu you have ever had with a migraine and a tequila hangover, and quadruple it. It was a miserable time for me.
I spent that year watching a lot of movies, too brain-dead to read, meandering aimlessly around the house, and feeling beaten down. I was weak. I had no stamina, and my muscle tone was shriveling away. Even with all that, I noticed something I had never experienced before: my joints ached with searing pain.
I can’t overstate how difficult this time was for me. It wasn’t only the physical toll but the emotional toll. It takes a lot to be sick. Your life is on hold. Your patience is stretched. Time—takes—forever—to—pass. I wondered, If this is living, is it worth it? Do I need to be here?
Before my illness, I had been a pretty good athlete. I regularly did yoga and was an avid hiker. That’s why it was so shocking. Constantly feeling lousy with aching, burning joints, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms had become my new normal. I wondered, Is it age? Arthritis? Being sick? Diet? What is going on?
During this time, while lying on the couch, I saw several news blurbs about Dara Torres. She was a forty-one-year-old mother who was setting off to accomplish what no other Olympian had ever done: competing in her fifth Olympics. She was the only woman in history to swim in the Olympics after the age of forty. [ii]
In the lead-up to the Olympics, magazines and TV shows featured her in the gym doing some very impressive maneuvers with massive weights. She was focused, determined, and razor-sharp. It got my attention. I perked up and wondered, Why her and not me? Is it genetics? Training? Sheer determination? What gives? I needed to know.
After a scan of my sinuses, the determination was I needed surgery to reopen closed passageways that were causing my repeated infections. After the obligatory month of recovery, I went to the gym and hired a personal trainer. I decided to do what I could and see where it took me—maybe not to the Olympics, but at least off the couch.
I started to build my strength up again. Stand-up paddleboarding was beginning to catch on, so I tried it out. Paddleboarding is a water sport where you stand on an oversized, thick surfboard and have a canoe-like paddle that you use to heave-ho stroke your way through the ocean. I liked it, and over the next year of practice I got pretty darn good at it.
I decided to enter a local paddleboard race. In a competition, you go a certain distance, maneuver around buoys, and make your way back to a finish line. In my first ocean race, there were about twenty competitors. I was the only woman and the oldest. I came in twelfth. I felt great! I was off the couch into a lifestyle of fitness and health.
And feeling great is what it’s all about—feeling great about yourself, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
It’s really hard to conquer the world when you feel lousy.
It’s not easy lying on a couch for a year. Putting the apocalyptic health scare I faced behind me, I took the time to get my strength back, train, and focus on my body’s health and well-being.
All this led me to wonder about every facet of my life—love, creativity, finances, where I lived, what car I drove, cat or dog—definitely dog. I wanted to take the opportunity to rebuild a life full of solid choices and productive habits, but I was overwhelmed with where to start—with what should come first in the chicken-or-egg thinking process.
I knew I needed a road map. I checked out all the self-help books, but nothing was hitting the aha in me.
The illness forced me to put my body’s recovery first. As with any illness, you feel so terrible that critical thinking and emotional feeling aren’t even on your radar. During my illness, I was so downcast I couldn’t have cared less or felt less motivated about anything. Everything gets put on hold. I concluded, if the body is unwell, then the brain doesn’t have a chance. The body must come first for the brain to flourish.
The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.
Like the lyrics of a song stuck in my head, Thomas Edison’s quote kept replaying in my brain. The body must come first, as the body is the portal for the brain’s actions. The body provides the brain with a way to speak, share ideas, hear, converse, see, touch, create, dance, smell flowers, feel the ocean water, and experience all the other wonders of the human body.
The body is the brain’s home.
Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
—Jim Brown, American entrepreneur
Self-discovery is exploring and understanding your character and purpose in life. Along the way, there’s a lot to ponder, values to sort out, and decisions to make. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I find three things matter most in life: the health of your body, love in all its forms, and knowledge to help you discover your purpose in life.
For us to even exist, our fragile bodies must be protected, fed, and nourished. Everything starts with our health. We reside in our physical, material world—you can see, hear, smell, and touch. We can also be seen, heard, smelled, and touched by other people, or in prehistoric times by predators, like a saber-tooth tiger, who would like nothing better than to eat us. The material world is your body and everything within and around it. It’s physical life itself.
In our brain, our consciousness, we swing between emotional feelings—the need for love—and intellectual reasoning—the need for purpose. But we are not binary, It’s not an either or but a combination of both. We crave to have our emotional needs fulfilled, and when it comes to love, we need loads of it—from romantic partners, family, community, and other groups. We thrive when we are connected to others.
Our intellectual pursuits reward us with a sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose. Accomplishments are a direct result of satisfying our sense of curiosity, learning new skills, and nurturing our intellectual pursuits to help us figure out what we’re meant to do with our life.
Our consciousness, unlike our body, is not in our physical, material world. It’s somewhere floating around in the weirdness of our brain where strings of chemicals spark neurons that somehow magically let us know chocolate is delicious. Our consciousness tells us how to spell a word, comprehend a mathematical equation, or feel an immediate, deep love for our newborn child. The consciousness, awareness, soul, mind, brain, spirit, essence, or whatever you want to call all those syntactical connections going on in our head is what makes us who we are. When it comes to our consciousness, so much has been discovered but it’s considered a drop in the bucket of what is yet to come.
Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon . . .
Nothing worth reading has been written on it.
—Stuart Sutherland, British psychologist
These three things—life, love, and purpose—define who you are and how you choose to live your life. The moments in your life that define you most are not scheduled on a calendar but happen based on the choices you make along the way.
Watch your thoughts for they become words,
watch your words for they become actions,
watch your actions, for they become habits,
watch your habits for they become your character,
watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist
Life is about our body, every cell, and how it all functions. It’s also about the environment around us that affects the well-being of our bodies. We wouldn’t live long unless we had shelter that protected us from the harsh environment, and we also need protection from things that could harm us. Whether it was a prehistoric wooly mammoth coming at us or a car dangerously swerving into our lane on the freeway—we need safety from things that can kill us.
Our body functions need air, water, food, sleep, and sex. The littlest thing can make a big difference. You’ll discover the science behind how better posture can lead to significantly more oxygen to fire your brain. Drinking water as soon as you wake up can be more vital than that cup of coffee. The food you eat can be either the safest, most potent form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.
We deal with our environment through our fight-or-flight mode that can hijack our senses, creating unwarranted anxiety over things unlikely to harm us. We have the same fight-or-flight response, whether it’s a saber-tooth tiger coming at us or our tax deadline fast approaching.
Life is concerned with every aspect of our material world.
To keep the body in good health is a duty . . .
otherwise, we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.
Love conquers all. Feelings of love have been proven to thwart the negative emotions of fear, anger, anxiety and even stress. And the best place for love is to start with you. Before all else, you must love yourself first. Loving yourself opens you to see the love in others.
We also need to feel accepted, to be part of a family, community or our tribe. This belonging is so vital to our well-being that research has shown loneliness can prolong illness and increase your risk of dying prematurely. Our need for acceptance is a key ingredient to our very survival and happiness.
We may also long for romance and that special someone to share our life. Later in the book, I’ll give you two dealbreaker questions to ask yourself before you tie your life and future to that special person.
Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.
Your purpose in life is the reason you get up in the morning. Purpose can influence behavior, shape our goals, create meaning in our lives and guide our life’s direction. Purpose makes our work meaningful and satisfying, knowing we are contributing to ourselves, our families and to society as a whole.
Our curiosity entices us to learn and acquire a bank of knowledge. What you learn sets you on a path to discover how you can use your knowledge and talents to develop your ultimate purpose in life. But purpose can be found in everything we do; from learning a new recipe for dinner to making ground-braking scientific advances. Great or small, everything we do can have a deeper more meaningful purpose. A new recipe offers a new creative way to supply nutrients to ourselves and our family, ground-breaking scientific advances could better everyone’s life.
Fulfilling our sense of curiosity is like breathing air for the intellect: our intellect won’t flourish without it. Our curiosity has helped us to survive by creating new and better tools, skills, languages, arts and other things. It’s enabled us to continually change, adapt, and find new and creative ways to live. Our sense of purpose is as individual as our very being, from discovering new scientific advances that change the world to new recipes for dinner. Curiosity and awe will lead you to wonder, to ask questions, to learn, and will guide you to discover how to fill your life with purpose, both great and small.
I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.
I don’t have all the answers, but I have the questions. The questions to ask yourself about your decisions, which lead to your life choices and create your future. There’s no one-size-fits-all, and only you have the answers that are best for you.
Alice: “I just wanted to ask you which way I ought to go.”
Cheshire Cat: “Well, that depends on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “Oh, it really doesn’t matter, as long as I—.”
Cheshire Cat: “Then it really doesn’t matter which way you go.”
—Alice in Wonderland
Our emotions, how we think and feel, are so connected to how we feel physically. If you’re depressed, your work suffers. Or if you’re exhausted, children playing become annoying instead of joyful. If your body is unwell, then the function of the brain usually doesn’t have a chance. And put that thought in reverse: if the brain is not making good choices, the body also suffers.
The brain to the body and the body to the brain—it’s a two-way street.
If you let poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle be your mindless habit, heart disease, diabetes, or a stroke may become a life-threatening roadblock in your life. If your brain is prone to unchecked anger, anxiety, and stress, then your body will house that damage like a ticking time bomb. Statistics show people with high levels of anger, anxiety, and stress may also be more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, and stroke in their future. Honestly, if the body goes, there goes life itself.
If I knew I was going to live this long,
I’d have taken better care of myself.
—Mickey Mantle, baseball player
The brain and the body are connected. You’ve heard this before, but has it sunk in? In this book, you’ll discover the intricacies of what it truly means. In turn, you’ll use what you learn to your advantage and create your own remarkable life.
ONE IS NOT WHOLE WITHOUT THE OTHER;
THE BODY-MIND CONNECTION IS A TWO-WAY STREET.
CHAPTER ONE: HABITS, MINDLESSNESS, AND AUTOPILOT
All human actions have one or more of these seven causes:
chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.
Habits are a series of little decisions all connected that make up our daily routines. But how are they formed, and how do you start changing the ones that don’t serve your awesomeness?
There are all kinds of habits: good, bad, endearing, annoying, nervous, healthy, unhealthy—and we, as humans, are defined as creatures of habit. Habits are something we often do, a pattern of action, a tendency to behave in a certain way.
Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.
A Psychology Today headline reads, “New Study Shows Humans Are on Autopilot Nearly Half the Time.” Meaning we move somewhat rudderless through the routine of the day, as much of our daily life consists of the habits that we’ve formed. If half the actions of our day are driven by habits, then why is it so hard to build new and useful ones? It comes down to the difference between habitual mindlessness versus the intentional decisive mind.[iii] Or, in other words, awareness.
In an experiment on mindless eating, participants tasted fresh and stale popcorn, and (as expected) they preferred the taste of fresh popcorn. When participants were offered popcorn at a movie theater, people ate just as much whether their popcorn was stale or fresh. The habit of combining the moviegoing experience with eating popcorn was so strong; it didn’t matter if the popcorn was stale. The mindless habit won out.[iv]
When it comes to bad habits, it all would be so much easier if we never developed bad habits in the first place. If we never picked up a cigarette, ate fast food, drank too much alcohol, missed restorative sleep, swore, bit our fingernails, drank too much coffee, binge-watched TV, racked up credit card debt, checked social media every five minutes, ate sugary treats, and whatever else comes to mind, but in some of those cases—we did. And therein lies the problem. Our bad habits don’t propel us forward but tether us to repeating mistakes.
Tis easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.
We’ve been told making a mistake can be a “learning experience.” We did something wrong, made a mistake, and then used that mistake as a lesson learned.
Unfortunately, research indicates it’s much harder to avoid repeating mistakes than we think. For better or worse, everything you do creates embedded neural pathways that become like roadways for your decisions and habits. We’re more likely to repeat the actions because, by default, we slip back into the existing neural pathways that were created for whatever situation we’re facing. Your neural pathways, like well-traveled roadways, are familiar paths of travel and easily repeatable.
Ruminating over your mistakes might even cause you to reopen that neural pathway for yet another trip down memory lane and to repeat the exact same mistake. Dwelling opens the door again for an encore performance. Our brains do learn from our mistakes—the problem is the brain learns how to continue making them, sometimes over and over and over.
In times of stress, when we’re angry or filled with worry, we tend to throw gasoline on the fire by ruminating over other unrelated stresses and past poor choices, all adding to feelings of self-doubt. To alleviate the stress of the situation, we may revert to previous poor behaviors, especially if something about the behavior was pleasurable.
Our established neural pathways feel familiar and comforting regardless of whether they lead to positive or negative behaviors. The fact we’ve done them before is what’s comforting. The neural pathway forms a habit loop. A negative self-belief triggers a pleasurable but poor behavior to alleviate the stress. Then, we feel ashamed for our poor behavior and feel the negative self-belief is justified. Then the loop repeats.
For example, maybe you messed up and are feeling bad about yourself. Adding to that, you start ruminating over all your past mistakes and feelings of failure and self-doubt arise. To alleviate the negative feelings, you decide to have a few drinks with friends. A few drinks wind up with you getting drunk. Even though you know getting drunk is a bad choice, you still drank too much anyway. Now, you feel your negative self-beliefs are justified because you got drunk. The loop repeats.
Self-destructive behaviors like being attracted to the wrong kind of person, using drugs to alleviate negative thoughts, binge-eating to relieve stress, or overspending to reward yourself are easy patterns to fall into, and tough to break.
Here’s the secret: maybe it’s better not to think backward at our past mistakes or let yourself ruminate over what’s happened. I know it sounds simple, but think about how many times you have been down on yourself for a mistake. What would it have looked like if you had turned that around? If instead, you looked forward to what you wanted to accomplish and who you wanted to be in life.
Not dwelling on your mistakes takes the negative power out of it. It’s great if you can learn from the bad, but it’s even better to focus on the good you want to come into your life.
Instead of mindlessly lapsing into negative habits, develop a new strategy to handle trigger situations. Learn solutions that build positive neural pathways that you happily reinforce now and for your awesome future. Start to recognize thoughts or actions that don’t serve you and instead choose ones that do.
Let the energy of future good decisions propel you in the direction you choose to create. Your thoughts are your choice. Learn to recognize thoughts and patterns that are harmful and hold you back.
Smart people learn from their mistakes.
But the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others.
—Brandon Mull, American author of children’s books
HABITS AND UNCERTAINTY
Since habits are such a massive part of your day, bad habits can trip you up and derail your life like nothing else. They’re hard to break. It takes effort, focus, and determination. Editing bad habits from your life and embedding good habits are two skills that can lead you to a pretty awesome life. It’s as simple as that—but saying and doing are worlds apart.
The good news is habits—all habits, good and bad—are learned behaviors. Just as you learned to ride a bike, operate a cell phone, or cook an egg, you can also learn more productive, useful habits.
Developing good habits means developing awareness and a focus on change. It takes a conscious effort, but good habits can be developed and maintained. Just like the bad habits, any good habit, over time, can successfully be integrated into a relaxed and comfortable part of your routine and become your new automated mindlessness. And that’s the goal, to have your autopilot be on course to live your best life possible.
A nail is driven out by another nail: habit is overcome by habit.
—Erasmus, Dutch philosopher
Habits are routines we’ve fallen into that can be defined by a three-part loop: A trigger or cue, followed by your response, which then evokes a reward.
It’s the loop of a cue, a response, and then a reward that spins us into the mindless rinse and repeat of all good and bad habits that can loop over and over. Because the cues that cause habits, and how to change them are somewhat unique to each individual, there are entire books written on the subject. Atomic Habits by James Clear and How Habits Work by Charles Duhigg are two excellent books that go into detail on the deconstruction of habits, and how to create habits that benefit your life.
For my purposes, I have a slightly different take—baby steps before running.
The triggers, cravings, responses, routines, and rewards occur with all habits. There’s no getting around that—but what if we wiped the slate clean and started at zero? What habits or life would we build? What cues or desires would we embed? Would putting the power of little decisions into play help the big decisions craft themselves? In this book, we’ll do just that. We’ll call out our daily, mindless decisions in order to craft the big decisions that will power our life.
In the next chapter, you’ll discover the science and purpose behind these daily decisions that can change your life. But first, here’s more of my take on habits.
Let’s say your favorite coffee shop started offering freshly baked pastries right next to the cashier. The cue: a Danish pastry fresh from the oven. Your craving and response is to buy the yummy pastry. The reward? It’s a Danish pastry, it’s freaking delicious, and your brain lights up like sugar plum fairies with every bite. This becomes your morning ritual, and after several weeks of your daily pastry indulgence, your pants are hard to button up and way too tight to sit comfortably.
Simply put, a habit formed.
You saw it.
You liked it.
You wanted it.
You got it.
The problem is it all became routine, mindless behavior that eventually leads to a negative impact on your life. Now, your options are to spend money to buy new larger-sized pants or restrict your calories to lose weight. Neither option sounds like fun nor benefits your life. No one wants to spend money on pants you already own, and no one wants to be on a diet.
Our habits are comforting because they’re predictable—even the bad ones. One of our greatest fears is the fear of the unknown or uncertainty. Our brains evolved memory to be able to predict things. Our early ancestors most likely felt safer when they knew what was coming. They probably memorized their migration patterns, what was over the next horizon, or where they could find food. This predictability would have aided in their very survival, and that truth is embedded in our brain.
We still crave predictability. In today’s world, many of us are more likely to talk to someone we have spoken to before, even if they’re downright dull as dirt, instead of venturing out of our comfort zone to talk to someone new. The certainty of a mediocre experience can be more comforting than the uncertainty and fear of putting yourself out there to talk to a new person—the unknown.
With bad habits comes familiarity, and if we’re looking to decrease our uncertainty, a bad habit is comforting, even if it is not to our advantage. Uncertainty can be painful, and our bodies respond negatively to it, both physically and mentally. When our routine is altered, we may feel stymied. Our brain is frazzled, and we go from fear to possibly anger and frustration. The brain can become defiant when challenged.
Changing bad habits can be downright uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, there needs to be a smaller, baby step. If you want to move from A to B, the first step from A is not to leap directly to B, but to go from A to not doing A. First, you must let go of your routine and step into the fear of change—the very place we try to avoid, into the unknown. The unknown of how we can deal with the fear of uncertainty, even in the slightest way, like not ordering the Danish pastry today.
Tomorrow is another day. It takes one shovel-full of dirt at a time when trying to dig yourself out of the hole of bad habits. It’s enough to know you can live with the uncomfortable and get through it. Let your first step be letting go of the behavior by “not doing A” Let it be getting comfortable with the undoing of the negative behavior. Be open to uncertainty and be open to learning something new. To learn something new, you have to risk. You have to let go.
Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains
after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.
WANT AND WILL
There’s a difference between want and will. When someone wants something—it’s a desire that may or may not be in the future, like wanting to buy a house. Want doesn’t lead to a solid plan but conveys more an attitude. Everyone wants, but to have the will is where you step on the gas and put a plan in place.
Will means to express an action that you intend to do or perform, like saying you will buy a house. Will is a commitment to your future. It’s more concrete.
What does it take to be a champion?
Desire, dedication, determination, concentration,
and the will to win.
—Patty Berg, professional golfer
ARE YOU IN 100 PERCENT?
As we’ve discussed, habits are behaviors that are repeated over and over again until they reach an unconscious repetition in our lives. Labeling habits as good or bad empowers them with emotions that may not serve you well. Instead, relabel them and use healthy or unhealthy or maybe empowering or not empowering. This little step will shift the dynamic.
Healthy habits are ones that empower you and help make your life better.
Unhealthy habits are ones that are detrimental to your future, slowing or reversing the progress and trajectory of your life.
Habits are hard enough to change without imbuing them with emotions that don’t serve you. Our unhealthy habits can be comforting as a way to avoid stress, or they may arise out of convenience. Eating fast food daily is an example of a convenient and unhealthy habit. Smoking is an example of an unhealthy habit that is used to reduce stress.
We know we also fear change. Change is uncomfortable. Change takes work and commitment to yourself.
The key is to be 100 percent open to change.
Yep, it’s all about being present 100 percent, being committed 100 percent, and taking responsibility 100 percent. That may sound like a lot, but studies show being 100 percent committed is easier than being “kind of” committed.
For example, when getting married, how would you feel if instead of saying, “I do,” your future spouse said, “Yeah, I’ll give it a shot.” Being 100 percent is when the decision has been made, and you burn the ship behind you—no escape routes. You move forward. When you’re this committed, results happen.
Believe you can do it. With attention and focus, you can do anything. You have to believe in yourself and love yourself.
Loving yourself will give you power. Are you ready to go the distance? 100 percent?
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!
—William Hutchison Murray, Scottish mountain climber
BACK TO ME
Okay, after several months of personal training sessions, I did start to build some new muscles—but it wasn’t easy.
When I woke up on training days, my brain started a negative conversation with me. Trying to find valid reasons to cancel, I kvetched about the pain in my neck: I must have slept wrong, and maybe I should cancel my session? My stomach was a little upset, and perhaps I should cancel? I’m sore, and maybe I should cancel? The sky is blue, so . . . maybe I should cancel my session? I found myself dreaming up more and more creative ways to cancel. Like an out-of-control puppy first put on a leash, I resisted.
It was clear: I was my own worst enemy.
Going from point A—being out of shape, to point B—being fit—was too big a leap for my brain to comprehend. It’s scary for the brain to think so far ahead and make lofty goals. The pressure sets in. It can be frightening and frustrating: since daily, incremental progress is hard to see, we then might only see ourselves not reaching our goal. I needed smaller doable steps so I could get comfortable with the process and not just focused on the goal.
I broke it down. I had to go from A to not A in the littlest way. The first step from point A to point B was to let go of A. I had to let go of being out of shape. Then I could take the first step without having the pressure of future expectations.
I made one decision: that I was not going to be the out-of-shape person I was.
I soon realized that on those days I did get up and go, and did what I could, like a miracle elixir, I always felt better. Even on the days I did an easy, no-sweat workout, I left the gym with an uplifted outlook and feeling refreshed.
That pushed me to make a deal with myself. No matter what, I would go. If, after ten minutes, I didn’t want to be there, I could leave and do something else I enjoyed, but I had to show up. Nike’s motto, Just Do It, was my mantra, but with a little twist: Just Show Up.
Eighty percent of success is showing up.
Months later, my workout sessions miraculously started to show results. People commented on my arms looking buff, that I looked fit, and seemed more upbeat. I heard comments about how I must love to workout. Let me be clear: I don’t love working out. It is hard. But I decided to take the emotions out of it and not love it or hate it. I just let it be something I did. I put it in the same category as flossing my teeth. Most people don’t love or hate flossing their teeth; they just do it. Going to the gym became my new mindless habit. To show up and see where the training session took me. No expectations. No negative conversations. I put it on my schedule and took it out of my emotions.
This one act of stopping the useless chatter in my head and being 100 percent committed to just showing up led me to build a much stronger body and a stronger mind.
Recovering from my illness and building up my strength may have been my motivation, but it took the habit and 100 percent commitment to get me out of the hole.
Now that the body was working pretty well, I wondered, what else could I revamp in my life? Where would I begin? What comes next?
After the illness and now spectacular recovery, I realized anything was doable. The pressure was on: This is my life, and how do I want to live the rest of it?
The little decisions got my body back. So what else? I needed a road map of all the other little decisions that could change my life for the better.
Motivation is what gets you started.
Habit is what keeps you going.
—Jim Ryun, American track and field athlete
1. There’s no small decision or small habit.
2. Creating habit only comes through deep concentration and daily consistency until your habits become a new positive lifestyle.
3. Never let temporary failure be an excuse to give up.
4. Thank you, Nike. I just did it. I showed up and did it. I just showed up and ventured into the unknown.
[i] Dr. Joel Hoomans, “35,000 Decisions: The Great Choices of Strategic Leaders,” Leading Edge Journal, March 20, 2015,
[ii] Dara Torres, the twelve-time Olympic medalist, competed in 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2008 Olympics. In the 2008 Olympics, she won three silver medals in the 4x100 medley relay, 4x100 meter freestyle relay, and 50-meter freestyle. She set a new American record time of 24.07 seconds for the 50-meter freestyle, one one-hundredth (0.01) of a second behind the winner, Britta Steffan. You can’t even blink in one one-hundredth of a second.
[iii] David Rock, “New Study Shows Humans Are on Autopilot Nearly Half the Time,” Psychology Today, November 14, 2010, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-brain-work/201011/new-study-shows-humans-are-autopilot-nearly-half-the-time
Chapter One: Habits, Mindlessness, and Autopilot
[iv] National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine, “Mindless Eating—Would You Notice If Your Popcorn Was Stale?”,