Over the last decade of coaching people, I have identified six steps to permanently
changing behavior:

1. MAKE A DECISION: Decide exactly who you want to be and write it down. Use positive words in the present tense, as though you are already this person. It is important that you believe in your heart and mind that you can become this new person you have decided to be.
  • I am____________________
  • I own___________________
  • I have___________________
  • I earn___________________

2. VISUALIZE: Visualization allows you to create a mental picture of what you want to happen as if it has already happened. To visualize is to think in pictures rather than with words. Because your brain thinks in pictures, it is important to vividly see yourself as having the body and living the life you want. In your mind’s eye, see yourself as living and enjoying your newfound body and life. Become excited and emotional about it! Smile, laugh, cry, or do all of the above! The more emotions you can attach to your visualizations, the more real they become. 

Visualization is a performance-enhancing technique used by coaches the world over. You may have heard of athletes visualizing their winning performance before the actual event. By doing so they are providing their subconscious mind with instructions that will cause them to automatically behave in a winning fashion. 

A study by Soviet sport scientists discovered that 75 percent of visualization training combined with 25 percent of physical training had a greater impact on the performance of Olympic athletes than that of 25 percent of visualization and 75 percent of physical training. These findings are not limited to Russian athletes. The great American golf legend Jack Nicklaus writes, “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head. It’s like a color movie.” You do not have to be an athlete to enjoy the benefits of this training method. Start using this winning technique today and program your mind for becoming the person you want to become.

3. ACT: You will often hear stories about Academy Award-winning actors actually “becoming” the character they are portraying in a particular film. Their winning performance is achieved only if they are able to be so convincing in their role that they actually trick themselves into thinking they are the person they are portraying. To be convincing, these actors will actually stay “in character” for weeks or months at a time!

4. BE CONSISTENT: Practice makes perfect and it is only through repetition that we learn new skills. Doing something “once in a while” never produces dramatic results. This is no different. Act out your newfound role each day, preferably twice or more per day. Try to stay “in character” for as long as possible, gradually increasing the amount of time. Remember, your goal is to actually become and transform yourself into this new person you have decided to be.

5. USE PAIN AND PLEASURE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE: It is important to realize that your mind will always move toward behaviors that are perceived to be pleasurable. Conversely, your mind will always move away from that which is perceived to be painful. This is the key to understanding why we engage in certain behaviors even when we know they are not good for us. 

In order to consistently engage in positive behaviors, we need to positively reinforce the behaviors we know to be beneficial to us while simultaneously associating pain with those that are harmful. For many people, the reason they do not start a new lifestyle plan (like the one you are reading about now) is because they have tried other “diets” in the past only to meet with failure and disappointment     therefore, they are associating the pain of failure with a change in lifestyle and subsequently will never enjoy life in a healthy, fit body. Others may fear injury. These people will associate pain with exercise and avoid the gym like the plague!

Then there are the pleasure behaviors so many people are addicted to: smoking, drinking, drugs, sugar, and television. These folks associate these behaviors with pleasure and find it very difficult to cut down or quit. The key to changing behaviors is to associate pleasure with behaviors that move you toward your goal and pain with those that move you further away from your goal. How do you do that?

Perform this exercise. Write down five things you know you must do in order to improve your health and lose body fat. (This is the list of things you know deep down must happen for you to be lean and healthy.) Your list might read something like this:

1. I must start training with weights.
2. I must start doing regular cardiovascular exercise.
3. I must start eating three meals and two snacks daily.
4. I must start drinking eight to12 full glasses of water each day.
5. I must stop consuming white flour and white sugar.

Next, beside each of the above, write down the pain you associate with each of these actions. (This list should identify your fears.) Your answers might read like this:

1. Working out with weights hurts.
2. I do not have the time to do cardio on a regular basis.
3. I do not have the time to prepare all of those meals and I’m not hungry in the morning.
4. Drinking water is boring and makes me go to the bathroom too often.
5. All of my favorite foods contain white flour and sugar—everything else tastes bad. 

Next, identify what will happen if you do not start doing those things you know you must do. (This list should scare you.) It might read as follows:

1. If I do not start training with weights, I will continue to lose muscle and further damage my metabolism and mobility.
2. If I do not start doing regular cardiovascular exercise, I will never burn the calories required to have the body and health I desire.
3. If I do not make the time to prepare and eat three meals and two snacks daily, I will never awaken my metabolism.
4. If I do not start drinking eight to12 full glasses of water each day, I will always retain water, have low energy, and feel mentally “foggy.”
5. If I do not stop consuming foods that contain white flour and sugar, I will never burn off my fat and may develop type 2 diabetes. This in turn will lead to accelerated aging and decreased lifespan.

Lastly, write down the pleasure you will feel by implementing the necessary changes into your life. (This list should motivate you and get you excited!) Your list might read like this:

1. Training with weights will make me stronger, leaner, sexier, more youthful, more energetic, happier, and more optimistic. I will be able to beat my husband in an arm wrestle, outdo my son in a fitness test, and look 10 years younger.
2. Performing regular cardiovascular exercise will cause me to burn fat, strengthen my heart and lungs, lower cholesterol, make me look great in my jeans, increase the quantity (and quality) of my life, improve my mood and outlook on life, give me more energy and vitality, and add life to my years.
3. Eating three meals and two snacks daily will boost my metabolism and burn my body fat. This will also give me improved digestion, increased energy and decreased cravings, increase lean muscle tissue, and will enable me to eat foods I love all the time.
4. Drinking eight to12 full glasses of water each day will improve my skin tone and texture, increase fat burning, reduce water retention, increase strength, reduce appetite, and make me look and feel a whole lot better.
5. Cutting out white flour and white sugar will improve my cholesterol levels, dramatically reduce my chance of developing diabetes, strengthen my immune system, lose body fat, reduce the signs of aging, and give me a lot more energy! Plus there are other alternatives to sugar that taste just as sweet.

6. DO NOT QUIT—EVER: Quitting is not an option; you must persist and succeed. It is not realistic to think that if you plant a seed today, you will see a tree tomorrow! In his best-selling book  think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says, “Before success comes to most people, they are sure to meet with much temporary defeat, and perhaps some failure. When faced with defeat the easiest and most logical thing to do is to quit. That is exactly what the majority of people do.” This is what separates people who are successful from those who fail. In your quest to achieve your goal, you must never quit, no matter how many times you slip up. Babe Ruth, the famous baseball player, once held the record for the most home runs ever hit. The interesting thing is not how many home runs, but how many strikeouts Babe Ruth had. Over the course of his career, Babe hit 714 home runs. However, he also struck out 1,330 times—a near 2–1 ratio! Every successful life has chapters of failure. It is not “striking out” that matters; rather, it is what you do after that makes the difference.

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