Here’s the truth: we all know what to do.
We know that eating fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, and drinking water are good for you. We know that drinking too much alcohol, eating too much sugar, and not sleeping well are bad for you. And we all know that sitting on the couch watching Netflix and eating ice cream aren’t a recipe for excellent mental and physical health.
But even though we know all of this, our knowing somehow doesn’t translate into doing.
We do the right things some of the time, and we start to see results. But then we stop doing them, and our results disappear.
We stop and start, go back and forth, and make no progress.
Why do we do this?
Because we don’t have a framework to support our actions.
Think about your money. No matter how much you make, if you don’t have a budget and a plan for saving and investing, it will ultimately vanish. And with none of this infrastructure in place, you’ll feel out of control and desperate — which, ironically, will push you to spend more than you have in order to make yourself feel better.
It’s the same thing with your health. If you try to eat healthy and exercise consistently but have no framework to build on, none of your results are going to “stick.” And to make the pain of your failures go away, you’ll do all the things you’ve been trying not to do: skip your workouts, sit on the couch, and eat crap food.
What’s missing is a foundation, a framework, that helps you take the right actions — and to keep taking them over time.
A Framework That Works
In today’s post, I want to give you the framework I use that helps me make the right health choices, make them consistently, and get long-term results.
Actually, a lot of the things that make up this framework have nothing to do with my physical health — but they support it in a massive way.
They comprise the foundation that my physical health is based on because they push me to make the right choices, and they make it easy to make those choices.
Yes, I fail sometimes (a lot of times). But I’m in it for the long haul — and so are you.
So with that in mind, here are the top 5 things I do every day to ensure that I stay on track with my physical health:
1. Get up early. Jumping into your day frazzled and disorganized is the sure path to failure with your health. Why? Because when you’re stressed, you tend to make the wrong choices.
I know from experience how miserable it is when I don’t organize myself for the day ahead. And I also know how amazing it feels to get up a little earlier and be prepared.
Get up a half hour earlier than usual, review your to-do list, make your grocery list, set and review your goals — whatever makes you feel on top of your day.
It’s worth it to sacrifice 30 minutes of sleep to feel calm, focused, and in control all day. To put it another way, it’s definitely not worth it to hit snooze and watch the wheels come off your health bus when life gives you the backhand. (Because you know it will!)
2. Read something inspiring. I always, always read something inspiring in the morning. It helps me set the tone for the day. I read biographies of successful people, self-help books, and books that have to do with my goals.
If your goal is to be in excellent physical shape, read books about nutrition to educate yourself on how food affects your body. Browse through a new cookbook to get inspired to cook healthy meals. Read books about people who have transformed their health and what they did to do it. Anything and everything that gets you motivated to take action!
Whatever you do, make sure you don’t start your day by opening your laptop and reading the news (unless you want to feel like there’s no hope for humanity). Fill your brain with inspiring content to remind yourself what you want to accomplish in life and reinforce the positive outlook that’s critical to achieve your goals.
3. Review my goals. Speaking of goals, if you don’t have goals, you don’t have purpose — you’re just wandering aimlessly through life.
We all have tasks we want to accomplish each day, but tasks aren’t goals. Goals stem from a “why” — and it’s important to have the right why.
Wanting the perfect bikini body isn’t the right why. If that’s your why, you’re going to feel demoralized at what you look like — and find yourself eating ice cream in front of the TV. But if your why is to feel vibrant and to live as long as possible, you’ll have no problem exercising and eating healthy.
We all have an inborn desire to become the best version of ourselves. We’re not here to check off a task list. We’re here to evolve. Set goals for yourself — big and small. Wake up early, review them, and build your day around them. Oh, and don’t forget to write them down!
4. Choose what to focus on. Every single day, all day long, from the moment my feet hit the floor until I lay my head on my pillow, my inner critic is right there to tell me what a failure I am. You shouldn’t have eaten those cookies. Ten minutes on the bike . . . that’s it?
But I make a conscious choice to focus on what I did and do right. I know that in addition to those cookies I ate, I had a huge green salad. And I know that a 10-minute bike ride is better than no ride at all.
Part of choosing what to focus on is choosing the story you tell yourself. We all create a narrative that we fit into, and this narrative pushes us to take action — positive and negative.
Telling myself that no one ever helps me and feeling like a martyr creates resentment and makes it easy to lose my patience with my kids. Conversely, telling myself that I’m an athlete makes it easier to show up for my daily workouts.
Pick your own killer narrative, and focus only on the things that support it. Let the rest of it go.
5. Do prep work. Hands down, this is one of the most critical things I do every day to stay healthy.
If you wait until you’re hungry to decide what to eat, the chances of choosing something healthy diminish significantly. I am much more likely to grab whatever’s in front of me if I have nothing healthy on hand — and the healthiest options are always the ones that take time to prepare. That’s why I prepare them in advance before I even get hungry.
You can do this in the morning or at night. (I’m too worn out at night to do it, so I do it first thing before I launch into my day.) Chop up vegetables for a salad, make hummus or guacamole, or even just set up the equipment you need to make dinner (you can set the table, too!).
The worst thing in the world is to have nothing healthy to eat, make the wrong choice, and then feel like crap the rest of the day. You can completely avoid this trap by doing 15 short minutes of prep work each day.
Put This Framework Into Action
These actions, except for the prep work, don’t have to do with my physical health — but they create the framework that makes it easy to make the choices that support it.
A workout here and another there is great, but you won’t get lasting results unless you work out consistently enough to establish a habit. And the key to establishing a habit is to create a framework that supports it.
When you wait for the mood to strike to exercise, you’re going to work out sporadically. But scheduling your workout in your day planner, laying out your clothes the night before, and setting your alarm to wake up early pretty much guarantees that you’ll get it done. And if you put that simple scaffolding in place each day, pretty soon a habit is born.
All too often, we try to accomplish the hardest tasks by using willpower and motivation. But just a few simple steps will make those hard tasks easy, because in combination, they create a framework that eliminates the need for willpower and motivation altogether.
You have what it takes to get the results you’ve been working so hard for. And the good news is that you don’t have to keep working so hard to get them.
The one thing you need to change isn’t you — it’s your approach.