Dave Kerpen | How to Change Your Habits, For Good
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How to Change Your Habits, For Good

How to Change Your Habits, For Good

Last week, I accomplished my weight loss goal for 2013, weighing in at 197 pounds, for a total loss of over 40 pounds in four months, right at my self imposed deadline of December 31st. I was thrilled at this accomplishment, made possible largely by the amazing work of Dr. Jeffrey Morrison and nutrition coach Melissa Wood at The Morrison Center in New York, and my amazing friend and success coach Andy.

But the truth is, as exciting as reaching this goal was, I saw it not as a race to the finish line, but as a race to the starting line. You see, last week marked the fourth time in my life that I have lost more than forty pounds. I’ve lost as much as 69 pounds in the past, only to gain back the weight each time. Like so many other Americans, I’ve yoyo’ed in my weight for most of my adult life. Working so hard to lose weight, only to gain it back, feels miserable. In the past, yoyo dieting has left feeling unaccomplished, self-defeated, and like a total loser.

This time, I’m determined to keep the weight off, by maintaining the good habits I’ve established over the past few months: lots of fruits and vegetables and lean proteins, scarce dairy, gluten, and carbohydrates, and lots of exercise. At this time of the year, so many of us are resolving to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, write a book, make more time for something or someone, and change or recommit to many other habits. So I figured, it’s a good a time as any to share my plan for habit change:

1) Have a Metrics-Driven Goal for Yourself

It’s great to have a resolution, but a goal without metrics is just a dream. My measurable, metrics-driven goal for 2014 is to stay within 3 pounds of 197, every month of 2014. What’s your metrics-driven personal or professional goal for 2014?

2) Be Accountable, to Yourself And Others

In order to meet my goal, I’m weighing myself every month and then sharing my weight publicly as well as with my success coach, real estate entrepreneur Andy Cohen. Of course, it helps to have an incredibly supportive wife and kids and friends, too! A success coach can be a friend, colleague, family member, or professional- as long as it’s somebody who gently but firmly keeps you accountable for your goals. Who will you be accountable to?

3) Reward Yourself For Success

We all respond well to positive rewards, so it’s best to plan them out in advance for yourself. Each month, if and when I weigh in at or within 3 pounds of my goal weight, I’ll reward myself with a new outfit (something orange, perhaps?), a healthy meal out, a tennis outing, or another fun, healthy reward. Any reward is good, as long as it doesn’t reinforce the negative habit you’re trying to change. So, what rewards will you plan for yourself?

4) Forgive Yourself for Lapses, Then Get Right Back To It

While the data behind positive rewards is clear and powerful, the data also shows us that punishment doesn’t work. Habits are hard enough to change, without beating yourself up over lapses and mistakes. So, if I have a day where I indulge in the wrong food too much, or a week in which I miss my workouts, I plan to forgive myself and begin the next day or week with renewed commitment and dedication to my goals. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. How will you forgive yourself for lapses?

5) Make it As Easy as Possible for Yourself

Again, habit change is hard enough as it is, so the easier you can make success, the better. I know that for me, that means only having healthy foods in my home, so I’ve gotten my family to commit to only bringing healthy foods and snacks into our home. I know that means making exercise as easy as possible for this lazy guy, so I’ve hired Inform Fitness, this amazing mobile gym in a van that actually shows up at my house every week with an personal trainer named Vanessa. How will you make your habit change as easy as possible?

6) Have a Long Term Positive Vision for Yourself

Some people stick up a Before-and-After picture on their refrigerator door. Others may put up a picture of an unhealthy lung to remind them to quit smoking. But I believe, the bigger, more long-term, more positive vision for yourself you can have, the better. So my coach Andy and I made a “Road to Oprah” poster that I fill out each month, with the vision of one day sitting down with Oprah Winfrey and talking with her and her global audience about sustained habit change and gratitude, two of our mutual favorite topics. Sure, it may be a far-fetched vision, but if it helps me accomplish my goal, it’s a good thing. What’s your long-term positive vision for yourself?

These are the six elements of my plan to accomplish my habit change goal in 2014. What are your goals for the year? What are your plans to accomplish those goals? Begin the accountability by sharing your goals in the Comments section below, and please do share this post with your network so as many people as possible can change their habits for good this year!

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