By Alan Abbas Published on February 1, 2020 on Linkedin
This article discusses habit formation and attempts to recruit a common addiction for long-term positive habit formation. The article is based on the science of habit formation. All works/images referenced are linked at the end of the article. This article does not discuss specific workout programs, exercises..etc.
What You’ll Need
- A need to get “fitter”
- A binge-worthy TV Show (I am watching Shameless but it’s not for everyone – chose one of this list: IMDB’s 124 Most Addictive Shows)
- A conveniently located gym (<10 mins from your home or work)
- A trusted friend who would love to bet against you
Building an Anti-Fragile Gym Habit
The goal is to make it fun, easy, and sustainable:
- Develop your love of that TV-Show into a full-blown addiction. It may take a few seasons.
- There needs to be friction preventing you from watching it at home so choose a TV show that is not available to stream (more extreme: cancel your Wifi at home).
- Download all seasons of the selected TV show to a cheap electronic device that you don’t need – You can get a 7-inch new RCA Tab for 54$, or use an old phone. Get creative.
- Keep your device containing the TV Show at the gym. If you can’t leave it in a locker, get creative. Talk to the gym staff, hide it somewhere. Figure it out. Don’t keep it your car though.
- For the first 30 days just show up to the gym, watch your TV show for however long you feel like.
- This is the hardest part but it is important: DO NOT WORK-OUT
- If that’s too hard, set an upper limit – Maybe 5/10/15 mins for your workouts. No matter how hyped or excited you are, do not cross that limit for 30 days. Keep in mind, the higher the limit, the less likely you’ll continue.
- Now transfer 100$ to the trusted friend with the following instructions:
Dear Abood, I sent you 100$. Starting this week I will send you a weekly update about my habit-forming-gym progress. If you don’t receive this update by Friday midnight you have my permission to spend the 100$ on something I would hate. Send me pics. No, it’s not weird unless you publish it somewhere.
The goal right now isn’t to lose 20 pounds, run a marathon or deadlift 200 kgs.
The goal, simply, is to build an anti-fragile habit of going to the gym.
Ideally, you’d leave the gym wanting to come back the next day.
The gym should become a fun place where you generally have a good time.
Not Only For Fitness
This is an approach I’ve developed.. in my head..for me. And those like me, those who have repeatedly failed at their fitness goals.
However, while researching for this article I found medical journals that prescribe a very similar approach to making lasting lifestyle changes. However, they use triggers/cues which are also a great idea.
(Below is a screenshot from a published journal from the British Journal of General Practice (Gardner, 2012
Everything is linked at the end of the article so you can dive deeper.
Why Does This Work?
- Doing something is better than doing nothing
- This approach maximizes the chances of building an anti-fragile habit
- No guilt on “wasting” time watching TV shows
- It’s super easy
- I am serious, it can’t be any easier than this
- JUST TRY IT.
This concludes the article. Thank you for reading.
Let me know your thoughts, concerns and personal experiences in the comments below.
For more history and additional resources please continue reading:
“21 Days To Form A Habit”
Enter Dr. Maxwell
A plastic surgeon in the 1950s.
When he performed an operation – like a nose job, for example – he found that it would take the patient about 21 days to get used to seeing their new face.
Similarly, when a patient had an arm or a leg amputated, Maxwell noticed that the patient would sense a phantom limb for about 21 days before adjusting to the new situation.
He also noticed that it also took himself about 21 days to form a new habit.
So in 1960, he published Psycho-Cybernetics. The book was a huge success – selling 30 million copies. Until today, motivational coaches like Ziggler, Tony Robbins base their motivational frameworks on the work in Psycho-Cybernetics.
Read more: 10 Lessons from Psycho-Cybernetics
People began to forget the “minimum” part.
It takes a minimum of 21 days to form a habit
What does Research Actually say?
- It takes between 18 to 254 days to build a
- simple habit (Lally et al, 2009
Other Important Notes (from research on habit formation)
- “Missing the occasional opportunity to perform the behavior did not seriously impair the habit formation process” > Don’t guilt/stress. Just keep going. Cheat-days are fine.
- Automaticity strength peaked more quickly for simple actions (for example, drinking water) than for more elaborate routines (for example, doing 50 sit-ups). > Keep it simple & easy. REALLY easy.
Journal Articles on Habit Formation
Forming New Habits by James Clear
Habits by Owen Shen
A Counterintuitive Strategy for Building a Daily Exercise Habitby Rob Hard
10 Lessons From “Psycho-Cybernetics” By Maxwell Maltz
Nassim Taleb: A Definition of Antifragile and its Implications