The Power of Positive
Habits By Tom Venuto - author of
Burn The Fat, Feed The
How much would your life
improve if you could literally put your behaviors on "auto-pilot" and eliminate
the need for "teeth-gnashing," "gut-it out" willpower?
What would it mean to you if
you could automatically just eat the right foods and automatically carry out
your workouts every day, without straining... without even having to think
How would your body and your
health change if you just automatically did the right thing everyday... as
effortlessly as you shower, brush your teeth or get dressed?
Would you agree that the
most challenging part of losing weight and getting in shape is taking the right
actions every day? (Not "talking"... but "DOING"?)
It's easy to say, "Eat
smaller, more frequent meals."
It's easy to say, "Eat natural foods, avoid
refined food and sugar."
It's easy to say, "Eat ample amounts of healthy,
It's easy to say, "Eat a lean protein with each of your
It's easy to say, "Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity
Yes, easy to say... easy to
talk about... not always so easy to do.
Why is it such a challenge
to DO the things that you know you must do every day to get results? Why do we
say one thing, and then do another?
The answer lies in your
subconscious mind and in the awesome force known as HABIT, which has enormous
power to pull you in a certain direction... positive or negative.
Your subconscious manages
and carries out autonomic functions of your body, including digestion,
circulation and respiration, so you don't have to think about them. If you've
ever studied human anatomy and physiology, then you can appreciate the
importance of this. The complexity and number of human bodily functions is
Can you imagine if you had
to consciously think about or "will" your body to digest food, release
hormones, beat your heart, circulate blood and all the other countless
functions that are going on in your body at the same time?
It would be impossible. And
that's where your subconscious mind comes in. It handles all this stuff for you
on an un-conscious level so you don't have to be overwhelmed.
In the same way, your
subconscious handles many ordinary behaviors every day so you don't have to be
A habit is simply an
automatic behavior. The behavior has become automatic because it has been
repeated frequently and thereby, turned over to subconscious control.
A habit, then, could be
described as a behavior pattern fixed in your subconscious mind as a result of
Habits are a result of
behaviors repeated... but they begin with a single act.
Orison Swett Marden, founder
of Success magazine, once wrote,
"The beginning of a
habit is like an invisible thread, but every time we repeat the act we
strengthen the strand, add to it another filament, until it becomes a great
cable and binds us irrevocably."
I often advise my clients to
become very aware of the behaviors they repeat on a regular basis and never to
do things daily that they don't want to become habits.
Take the habit of drinking
You often hear the advice
that drinking in moderation is okay, and that moderation is defined as "one or
two drinks a day."
I've had many clients say
that they enjoy one or two drinks every night. They defend their behavior by
arguing that "research says it's good for you" (especially red wine), and that
they're even getting good results from their workouts.
I tell them that this may be
true, but I warn them to consider the long term consequences because any
behavior you repeat every day is HABIT-FORMING.
We are all forming and
reinforcing habits every day of our lives. Some are positive habits that move
us towards our goals and some are negative habits that move us away from them.
Some behaviors which appear relatively harmless as a single act are extremely
negative in their cumulative effects, eventually causing much pain and anguish.
Their opposites, if identified and cultivated, would bring us health, happiness
and all else that is good.
Your subconscious mind is a
machine. It functions exactly like a computer. In fact, your subconscious mind
is the most magnificent and powerful computer ever created.
"Behold I set before you
both a blessing and a curse" is not just a famous quote from the bible, it is a
perfect description of the law that governs the function of your "subconscious
Your subconscious does not
care what instructions you program into it or what habits you choose to
develop. The subconscious is completely impartial and will carry out your
"commands" - whether intentional or by default - to the letter, without
question, 100% of the time.
Whatever thoughts you
impress upon your subconscious repeatedly will eventually express themselves in
your body or through your behaviors, and whatever behaviors you perform
repeatedly, will eventually become habits.
Once a habit is established,
it will require no conscious thought or effort to repeat in the future, and in
fact, will take enormous strength to break... very much like swimming upstream
against the current.
Knowing that your
subconscious is your unquestioning servant, wouldn't it be easier to harness
the power of habit in your favor and be swept towards your goals by the current
of positive habit?
I started working out at a
very young age, and I've now been training non stop for over 20 years.
How have I become so
consistent in my training? Pure habit force! There is never a "discussion" in
my head about whether I should go to the gym... I just put on my gym clothes
and go... automatically.
It's HARD to miss a
I guess you could say that
me skipping a workout is like a drug addict skipping his fix. Odd analogy,
perhaps, but isn't it true that people become "addicted" to exercise?
What are you addicted to
through force of habit? Are your habits positive or negative? Did you ever
consider that you can harness the power of positive habits?
The question, of course, is
It seems so hard to form new
positive habits, and maybe even harder to break bad ones.
Well, it takes a method...
you need a strategy. People have written entire books on this, but let me offer
you 4 quick and simple tips you can use right away to harness the power of
positive habits in your life:
Ignorance is not bliss.
Awareness is bliss. You are on auto pilot and probably don't even realize it.
99% of the actions you take every day are habits. Some are positive, some are
negative. All are carried out automatically without conscious thought required.
You don't have to think about how to tie your shoelaces anymore.
That "skill" has long since
been filed away in your subconscious mind. You don't have to think about how to
drive your car... that function too, has long since been filed away in your
subconscious (but do you remember the first time you tried to drive...
especially if it was a stick shift?)
And so it is with dozens of
other behaviors you carry out every day. And thank God that they're
automated... can you imagine if you had to think about them? (your brain would
The question is, do you have
yourself programmed on auto pilot with negative habits or positive ones? If you
don't know the answer, you'd better take an inventory of your habits, and
identify any limiting habits that you weren't even conscious of until just now.
As the old self help maxim says, "You can't fix a problem if you don't know you
2. Begin with your mind,
and your body will follow
U.S. Anderson once wrote,
"Success isn't the result of hard work, it is the result of right
At first, this may not
appear to make sense, because obviously you must take action (work hard) in
order to succeed. However, by examining this statement on a deeper level, you
realize it is 100% accurate because actions are a result of our thinking and
our mental programming. Therefore, the logical place to begin when you want
success, is in your mind, by changing your thoughts and changing the
programming that causes your habitual actions. Success begins in your own mind.
The thought always gives
birth to the action. Too many people focus on "forcing" behaviors, but force
negates and willpower fails you in the long term. The real power lies in your
thoughts which create the habitual behaviors. To change the behavior, you DON'T
USE WILLPOWER alone, you simply trace the behavior back to the thought patterns
that created it and change the thoughts.
3. Replace negative
habits with positive ones
Nature abhors a vacuum. If
you manage to simply remove a negative habit, it leaves a vacuum begging to be
filled. Often the bad habit returns to re-occupy its old space or another bad
habit simply takes it's place.
The way to get rid of a bad
habit forever is to replace it with a positive one. This is especially easy and
effective when it comes to food choices. If there is a particular food you
habitually eat and know you shouldn't, don't just try to eliminate it. Instead
find a better choice to replace it with. Each time you feel the urge for the
old food, reach for the new one instead. It's a simple process of
4. Never repeat a
negative behavior if you don't want it to become a habit; repeat, reinforce and
reward positive behaviors you DO want to become habits
Suppose you've managed to
haul your butt to the gym a few times a week, but you hate training legs. So
you gleefully finish your upper body, then say to yourself, "Ah, I don't need
to do my legs today... I'll do them next time." Sure enough, next time rolls
around and the same urge pops into your mind... "My legs are fine... It's my
chest and arms I really care about most." So you blow off legs again.
Right there in the moment,
you must become aware of what's about to happen, and catch yourself. What's
"about to happen?" A negative habit is about to begin forming.
Forming a brand new positive
habit is not all that difficult - all it takes is about 21 days of conscious
effort for the behavior to be turned over to subconscious control.
Getting rid of negative
habits is more difficult, so the best way to avoid falling under their
influence is to stop them from forming in the first place. If you do something
once... no problem. But if you're tempted to do it twice... kill it, before it
Tom Venuto is a bodybuilder, gym
owner, freelance writer, success coach and author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The
Muscle" (BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World's Best Bodybuilders and
Fitness Models. Tom has written over 150 articles and has been featured in
IRONMAN magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine,
Exercise for Men and Mens Exercise. Tom's inspiring and informative
articles on bodybuilding, weight loss and motivation are featured regularly on
dozens of websites worldwide. For information on Tom's "Burn The Fat" e-book,