The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Fitness Edition

Today’s wellness message is inspired by Stephen R. Covey’s fabulous book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” This is a wonderful book and training program as the simple, yet powerful habits apply across health, career, and family (a theme I try to uphold here at Wisdom & Wellness).


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Here are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Fitness Edition:    

  1. PLAN – This is listed #1 for a reason. It cannot be overlooked.  Anyone who maintains a healthy lifestyle will admit to planning ahead for workouts, but more importantly meals. If lunch or dinner time rolls around, and you don’t have any options, it’s highly likely that unhealthy choices will prevail in the name of convenience. If a lack of time is your primary barrier, start with just 8 minutes a week. In just 8 minutes, you can think through your schedule for the week, what your meals will look like, and how to simply integrate healthy options into those meals.
  1. ONE CHANGE AT A TIME – This builds off of a previous post “Make Your Health a Big Rock, but Move it Slowly.” Before anything else, you need to strive for compliance. In other words, you can put all kinds of great nutrition and exercise strategies in place for yourself, but if you don’t stick to them long-term, the ROI is pretty much zilch. Think about the changes you have wanted to make to improve your diet, exercise, and daily activity. Now think about your lifestyle. Pick just one of these changes that will best fit within the current time constraints or other challenges in your life. What small step can you take today to start the ball rolling on this change?
  1. FOCUS ON ADDING, NOT SUBTRACTING – I love this one. Most people think: “I need to cut back on alcohol, fried food, eating out, sweets, etc.” The folks that have a good handle on their diet focus more on making sure they have the nutrients their body thrives on, and less on cutting the bad stuff out. Start to change your mindset. Can you add more vegetables to you breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Is there any opportunity to add healthy, brain-boosting fats such as salmon, nuts, or avocado to your weekly diet? How about 100% whole grains? When you focus on working the good stuff in, over time, the not-so-great stuff will naturally work its way out.
  1. GET A SUPPORT SYSTEM – Very few people (I would argue none) reach their fullest potential alone, in health or otherwise. This is especially true of diet & exercise. Having a support system will dramatically increase your ability to make and keep positive changes in your health. If you need a work-out buddy, find one. If you need accountability, hire a personal trainer, even if you can only afford it for a short time. If you need to ensure junk food is kept out of the house, make sure your spouse is on board. Putting yourself in an environment that will support, not detract from your goals is truly critical to your long-term success.
  1. DON’T GET CAUGHT UP IN THE HYPE. People who are truly successful in maintaining a long-term healthy, vibrant, & fit life do not get caught up in all the diet hoop-la in the media. Most of the time, diet information on tv or in magazines only tell part of the story, and often, an exaggerated rendition at that. They need to sell advertising slots with new, different, often extreme attention-grabbing stories. At the end of the day, diets are temporary. If you change your diet for a period of time, you will likely see changes for that period of time. As soon as you stop, change, or alter that diet, your body will change right back with it (with potential for residual damage).  There are no magic pills, powders, or potions that provide a lasting short-cut to weight loss, even if that celebrity Dr. on TV implies there is.
  1. EDUCATE YOURSELF. If you’re going to go to the effort to make a change to improve your fitness, you want to make it count. The last thing you need is to eat foods you think will help in your weight-loss efforts that will actually undermine them (like artificial sweeteners, or significantly restricting calories). If your health is a true priority (which I would recommend making it one vs. waiting until you have a serious problem), dedicate a little time to ensure you understand the basics of sound, fundamental diet and exercise. Instead of new purse, or a fat-filled dinner out, ask your family to pitch in for your next birthday and get a few sessions with a personal trainer or registered dietician. Or, instead of reading a magazine driven by advertising sales, take 5 minutes a day to read a blog article run by a reputable, certified organization. (I like Precision Nutrition myself).
  1. KNOW YOUR WHY – WHY DO YOU WANT TO CHANGE? – We often don’t stop to really think this one through. Certainly there are common themes such wanting to look better or avoid the dreaded trip to the dressing room where it’s impossible to find a pair of jeans that fit. Perhaps you’ve had a health scare, or have started to notice aches and pains that you want to avoid. Whatever your reason is for wanting to adopt a healthy lifestyle doesn’t matter. The trick is to think through your own motivation. Your motivation to be healthy has to be greater than your motivation to stay in your comfort zone, surrounded by familiar habits. For more on this idea, read my previous article: “Successful Companies Have a Mission Statement: Do You?”

So there you have it. Hopefully you can adopt one, two, or ideally all 7 of these habits to set you on the path toward reaping the benefits of strong health, an abundance of energy, and true happiness for each and every day that follows. Cheers!

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