Become Mindful of your Habits

One of the most important things I learned through my transformation, is that you need to become mindful of your routines. I was very bad at mindlessly wasting time daily, without actually noticing, or being completely aware that I was actually doing it. I would come home from school or work, warm up my unhealthy high carb and fatty dinner and sit down on the couch for 3-4 hours of mindless television watching. I had formed an unhealthy habit and didn’t even know it.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the act of being aware of what is actually going on around you and what your mind is actually doing. Human beings are very good at falling into habitual mindless behaviours, simply because they are easy. The formation of habits can be quite good and should not require significant decision making powers. Deciding what clothes to wear each morning, or knowing how to drive your car without actually having to think about it are good habits to have as we do not need to dedicate much brain-power to these choices. The problem occurs when these habitual behaviours are toxic or unhealthy.

Mindfulness is opening your mind and realizing that your actions are taking place out of mindless habit rather than out of the utilization of actual conscious brain power.

Humans are habitual creatures

As a human myself, I am no different. Neither are any of you. We all have our habits that we know exist, we are just not conscious of them. The trick is to become conscious of the triggers that lead to our unhealthy behaviours.

Let’s take driving as an example. This morning, when you left home and drove to work (unless you are lucky and live walking distance away), you got in your car, turned on the ignition, put on your seatbelt (hopefully), put the car in drive and pushed the accelerator to drive away. You learned this behaviour when you were a teenager and have repeated these actions countless numbers of times to make it into a habit. When you first started driving, you likely hit the brake too hard, accelerated too slowly (or quickly in my case) and exaggerated turning the wheel when making a left turn. Over time, your driving became habitual and thus quite smooth and not as jerky.

Now imagine that the next time you got in your car, the accelerator was on the left side, the brake was under your right hand and you had to drive on the left side of the road, rather than the right side (I clearly live in North America). You would be entirely flustered. All of the habits that you had learned over time would not be working and you would have to actively engage your mind in order to RE-LEARN how to drive the new car. The really cool thing is that over time you would learn how to drive this new car and it would eventually become habitual as well. This is called Neuroplasticity.

We can break the old and LEARN NEW HABITS

Neuroscience research has shown that humans amongst all other living things can learn new habits. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to create new connections between different cells or places in our cerebrum to learn new habits. It is for this reason that I no longer believe people if they tell that they can’t learn anything new. It’s not that they can’t, it’s that they DON’T WANT TO.

I still have many habits that are less than ideal. In order to live the daily life that I want to live, I need to continue to become mindful of the triggers that start the bad habits, then use my Brain power to CONSCIOUSLY form newer healthier habits.

Honestly, anyone can do this. The WILL to change and grow is all you need. If you are frustrated with how things are going in your life, your health, your relationships, your business etc. look inside yourself and determine what the habitual root cause of your unhealthy habits are.

My daily food habits used to be incredibly unhealthy – I became frustrated with how things were going and decided to change. I tried many different avenues to improve my eating habits. Once I became mindful and aware of the triggers, I was able to make a conscious choice to break the old habits and form new healthy habits. I used Mindfulness Meditation and deep breathing exercises to improve my awareness of the bad habits that I had accumulated. I am not a meditation instructor, so for more information on Meditation techniques, you can Google Mindfulness Meditation or use an app such as Headspace or YouTube videos for guided meditation.

Now it’s your turn.

What is it in your life that is frustrating you? What do you want to change?

There is no better time than the present – Right now – to decide to make a change. I used to have a really bad habit of saying “I’ll do it tomorrow”. My mom always replies to me “tomorrow never comes”. I finally understand what she means.

There is no better time than right now to look inside yourself and determine the habits that are holding you back.

Decide to do it NOW! Find a way and make it happen!

I Did It For My (Future) Children

What motivates you? What reason do you have to work hard or to change yourself?

Based on the lens through which we each see the world, we will each have our own motivations. Some of these may be similar between people, while others motivations may be radically different.

Regardless, if you feel the need or desire to change, you must have a reason to do so.

Your change may not have anything to do with your health – maybe it’s a career decision, or a financial decision. All of the choices that we make have a motivation. If that motivation is strong enough, then change is enabled and is more likely to occur.

My motivation towards the positive change in my health was deeply rooted in the idea that I never wanted my (future) children to go through the health challenges that I had to deal with. It is my deepest desire that my kids will be given the absolute best chance to succeed in their lives (as all parents want). I want to ensure that they get off on the right foot, in terms of their biochemical development.

The only thing that we can truly control in our lives are the actions that we take. Our actions are based on our circumstances, and deciding that we are either willing to continue living in those circumstances, or that we are not willing to remain on our current trajectory. Beyond our decisions and actions, the world is largely outside of our control.

What has made me successful in my transformation was the fact that my decision to change was rooted in the deep desire to give my kids a leg up so that, ideally they will never have to deal with preventable health challenges. I was unhappy with my current circumstance and my trajectory and so the decision was made to change it.

All of my actions during the active phase of my transformation were made with this motivation as their root.

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether you are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. If you know that the circumstance you are currently in, is ultimately not where you want to be, then it is time to change. This is where clarity on your ultimate goals comes in to play.

I am absolutely clear on what I want for my children in terms of their health. I know that making this change before I even have children will give me the greatest opportunity to pass this message along to them and ideally for generations to come. I decided to be proactive and make this happen before it was too late.

One of my favourite quotes by Warren Buffett is “The chains of habit are too light to be felt, until they are too heavy to be broken.” What this means to me is that we are aware of the habits that we have – the choices that we make, and yet we simply choose not to do anything about it until it is finally too late. We are blind to it, until we finally get a wake-up call, one that is generally quite rude.

Case in point – We all know someone (or many people) who has a horrible diet, makes terrible food and lifestyle decisions and is absolutely not willing to accept that the issues exist, until it is too late – they suffer a major health event – Heart Disease, Cancer, Stroke, Autoimmune Disease. Once they are diagnosed, the chance of complete recovery is significantly lower than if they had acted proactively – they are placed on a myriad of medications to manage their symptoms and become yet another statistic.

How long are you willing to wait before you make the changes you know you need to make?

Are you willing to wait until it’s too late?

Many of my past decisions were REACTIVE decisions. They placed me into a certain circumstance which I did not fully accept. Then something changed – the AH-HA moments.

The day I stepped on the scale and saw the number 250. The day a close family member younger than me, was diagnosed with a largely PREVENTABLE CHRONIC DISEASE in his 20’s, I knew something needed to change. When my 40-something year-old uncle who I look up to immensely was hospitalized in need of a QUADRUPLE BYPASS – In his 40’s!

The chains used to be too light to be felt. Then I accepted that I had put myself on a trajectory to have to deal with health challenges… and yet it was early enough to change that trajectory – that is was truly possible to break the chains of habit, once I finally accepted that they existed. I was digging my own grave, but there was still time to climb out.

I decided that my kids will not go through the crap that I have gone through.

I did it for my (future) kids.

What motivates you?

Step 1: Decide to Change

I get a lot of questions when I meet people who have noticed my transformation. The most common question is “How did you do it?”

People want to know HOW I lost 75 pounds and have managed to keep it off.

There is no simple answer to this question. I have gone through the timeline of the last 5 years in my head over and over. The one constant that remains is that I DECIDED to change.

I was sick and tired, of feeling sick and tired. I decided that I no longer wanted to feel this way.

The single most important thing that needs to occur in order to allow change to occur in your life is to decide what it is that you want (or don’t want). In my case, I knew that I no longer wanted to feel tired and lazy. I could no longer stand the size XXL clothes which were my only option when I went shopping. I couldn’t stand the fact that my nose was always plugged. I hated that every time I performed the slightest physical activity, I would start sweating – profusely. And I had enough of being known as the Big Guy. Every dinner that I went out to with friends or family, I felt like the garbage can. Everyone would pass over the little bit that they could not finish, and I would undoubtedly, not let the food go to waste. I hated being the garbage can, and yet I allowed it to happen over and over again.

I wanted to NOT feel this way anymore. I had decided. And I was willing to do almost anything to make that feeling go away.

That meant getting into uncomfortable situations, which I knew would help me reach my goal in the long term but felt like crap when I was starting out.

I went to a personal trainer and couldn’t make it 25 minutes without running to the washroom to throw up. I decided to keep trying (with encouragement from my wife).

I began playing squash with friends – and man did I ever suck. I felt bad for holding my friends back, but I decided to keep trying (with encouragement from friends).

I changed the food that I was eating – the quantity, quality and content. At first it made me feel like a rabbit because I was just “eating grass”. I decided to keep trying.

I was determined to change, and I was DETERMINED to find a way to change.

Once I decided to stop worrying about the number on the scale and to eat food that made me feel good, the changes just started happening – and it was like dominoes falling down, one by one.

The best part of this positive change in my life has nothing to do with my weight loss. My attitude and perspective have changed for the better. I am significantly happier with every part of my life. My marriage is amazing. The time I spend with friends and family is more fulfilling. The effort that I put in at work is greater and I find a greater sense of accomplishment in it. I am starting a second business and I could not be more excited with where it will take me.

A wise man once said “Change your Mindset, Change your Life.”

Truer words have never been spoken in my mind. I would like to encourage anyone who wants to change a situation that they are in, to DECIDE to change and FIND A WAY to make it happen. Once you change your mindset and DECIDE that you want something better, you will be unstoppable. The improvement in my health and in my life are proof that once you are ready to change, and you decide to change, you will find a way to make it happen.

Step 1 – Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life.