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If you’re like most people, you’ve tried and failed at creating new habits multiple times.

Looking at what we’ve done in the past, we know what doesn’t work: saying you’re going to make a change, intending to, and then failing to do it.

We’ve all done it … we say, “I’m going to start eating healthier and exercising!” And we truly mean to do it. And we start out trying our best. And then things just kinda fade away, fizzle out, flop.

That’s what we all do, repeatedly, and it absolutely doesn’t work.

So what does work?

Holding your own feet to the fire. Making it happen. Really committing to it. Finding accountability so you don’t back down.

How to Hold Your Feet to the Fire

What does holding your own feet to the fire look like? Here are some examples from my own life:

  1. When I wanted to quit smoking, I signed up for an online smoking cessation forum … I promised people on the forum that I wouldn’t smoke without posting to the forum first … I found an accountability partner … I made a promise to my wife and daughter … I publicly logged my successes. Because of all of this, I didn’t back down, for the first time in my life.
  2. When I wanted to run a marathon, I signed up to write a column every two weeks in my local newspaper. Everyone on Guam knew I was running my first marathon, and because of that, I didn’t let myself weasel out of it. I finished the marathon despite wanting to quit numerous times over the course of a year of training for it.
  3. I wanted to get into better running shape a few years ago, so I let my friend Scott talk me into signing up for a 50-mile ultramarathon. That motivated me to actually train, and having him as a training partner, I got into probably the best running shape of my life.
  4. I wanted to get leaner, so I asked my friend Dick to coach me. He gave me a nutrition and workout plan, and kept me accountable for about a year. It worked, and I became as lean as I’d ever been since my early 20s.
  5. I wanted to break the habits of snacking on my kids and eating mindlessly when I ate out at restaurants, so I made a 6-month commitment to my friend Tynan, where he promised to throw a pie in my face and post a video of it online if I failed. I didn’t fail.

If you want to get better at something, sign up for a race or tournament.

If you want to stick to something, make a big commitment. Tell people you’ll do an embarrassing consequence if you fail.

If you want to do something daily, ask a friend to hold you accountable. Report daily. Get a coach or a trainer. Sign up for a class.

Most people are reluctant to take that big step, which is why they keep doing the same thing over and over: the way that doesn’t work.

Instead, take that big step today. Hold your feet to the fire, and don’t let yourself back down when things get tough.

The First Step

You must make a commitment. You have to decide that you really want to make a change, and that it’s more important than almost anything else.

For me, these changes were more important than anything except my family — and in fact I was making these change for my family as well as for myself. So these changes I was making were really my top priority in life.

It has to be that urgent for you. Think of this not as “improving your life” but saving it. The changes I made saved my life — I am so much healthier, my marriage is better, my relationships with my kids have improved, I am happier rather than depressed.

If you don’t feel you’re saving your life then you won’t make the tough changes needed.

Next Steps

Once I made the mental commitment, I took small steps to give myself a little room in my life for the changes I wanted to make:

  1. Cut out TV. I watched less TV than ever before (eventually I watched none, though now I watch a show or two a night). For many people this one change will free up a couple hours or more.
  2. Read less junk. I used to read a lot of things on the Internet that were just entertainment. Same with magazines. I cut that stuff out early so I could focus on what was more important.
  3. Go out less. I used to go to a lot of movies and to dinner and drinking. I cut that out (mostly) for awhile, to make time.
  4. Wake earlier. Not everyone is going to do this but it was a good step for me. I found that I had more time exercising and working in the morning before anyone woke up — the world was quiet and at peace and without interruptions.

In general, find the things that eat up your time that are less important than the changes you want to make. That’s almost everything except the things you need to live — work and eating and stuff like that. Cut back on them where you can.

Exercise for Today

Today, if you haven’t yet … make the commitment to your exercise habit to keep it consistent for the next month, or two.

How can you make the time and commitment to make this happen? Is it important to you?

Discuss in this lesson in Slack.