As mundane and unsurprising as it is when talking about health and habits, the most significant habit that made a difference in my health and life is exercising.
In 2006 I returned to my habit of doing a consecutive series of pushups every morning.
I missed a day here and there, usually because of sickness or sometimes because I was rushing to work. But I doubt I missed more than several days a month in the first few years, and later my consistency improved. I’m sure (because I started to keep track) that I didn’t miss a day of my morning workout in the last 3.5 years.
How did it change my life?
- Exercising Is a Keystone Habit.
It means a habit that spontaneously breeds more good habits. Brian Tracy explained it neatly:
“Keystone habits are habits that have a multiplier or a domino effect in your life.”
When it comes to keystone habits, there is a lot of noise, but very, very few proven instances of them. One of the very few that were identified by scientists was regular physical activity, aka exercises.
Exercises breed new habits. How exactly it happens is irrelevant. It’s true and it works.
I remember the first habit I picked along with my morning workout. I wanted to pray more consistently, but I very often forgot to say my morning prayer. I also struggled a bit to exercise consistently; it was also a case of absent-mindedness rather than ill will. One day I decided to couple my workout with my prayer. I said a few verses of Psalm 63 (“God, you are my God, I pine for you…”).
The consistency of both my workout and prayer suddenly skyrocketed.
I had been doing my morning exercises for about 6 years when I seriously decided to lose some weight. I introduced more changes into my lifestyle and diet.
- It Taught Me the Power of Consistency.
When I had started my pushups routine, I could do 40 normal pushups. Six years later, when my overweight was at its peak, I could do well over 110.
It happened without an elaborate fitness plan, without a nutrition plan, and without an expert guidance of a personal trainer. Sheer consistency created those results.
I had a grasp of the power of persistence on the downright bodily level.
So, when I read the book “The Slight Edge” in August 2012, I was ready to try its message:
“Success is a few simple disciplines repeated over time.”
When it comes to succeeding, we are our worst enemies. What’s in your head determines actions you take and outputs you receive.
I believed that, to achieve success, you needed this enormous effort and to do grand deeds. I thought you needed an insane amount of willpower, discipline, talent, and — most importantly — luck to succeed.
But Jeff Olson said I need only consistency. Thanks to my exercises, I was able to grasp that concept. My mind opened enough to give it a try.
And, oh boy, when I tried it, I was hooked. Just a pinch of consistency was enough to provide great return on investment. Within one month since starting my speedreading practice, I almost doubled my reading speed. Crazy!
Because I intimately understood the power of consistency, I gave myself enough time to build new habits and get results.
Speedreading was the most rapid and impressive example, but I noticed more than marginal improvement in every area of my life that I put into “perseverance test.” Seven months after reading the book, I achieved my dream weight. I lost 15% of my body weight.
My belief in the legitimacy of The Slight Edge philosophy solidified thanks to those experiences. I kept doing the things in which I could not observe any results justifying the effort. I kept going with ventures I considered absolutely impossible to succeed.
I’m Glad I Did
One of my biggest mental blocks was lack of belief that I can improve our financial situation. I was a lifelong employee, a scion of a lifelong employee, and starting anything on my own was as impossible in my mind as flying to the moon by flapping my hands.
However, I discovered a desire to be a writer. That was preposterous! I had no experience, no skills, no authority and no audience.
Yet, I started to write. Within half a year, I was writing five days a week. After eight months, I published my first, very short, non-fiction book. I published three more books and wrote the fourth one in the next several months.
My effort was absolutely not justified by my results. In January 2014, I earned 2% of my day job’s salary, and that was my record month. I sold a whopping 197 copies of my books.
But. I. Still. Kept. Going.
Writing was the fun part. Bearing my wife’s scolding about “hopeless wannabes” wasn’t. Hard work that is involved in publishing (a few iterations of edition, keywords, categories, books descriptions, coordinating a cover design, and a zillion other activities that self-publishing includes) wasn’t fun.
I persevered only because I had this experience of my exercises saying that persistence brings results.
My fifth book became an Amazon bestseller. I earned half of my salary from royalties in one month.
The later course of events wasn’t a happy end. The ride was really wild, up and down, again and again.
I kept writing and since September 2016, my income from books and coaching exceeded my salary.
Exercises alone are not enough to make you healthy. But this is a good start.
I introduced plenty of new healthy habits when I decided to lose weight and then when I decided to pursue success in writing. I track my sleep amount. I eat a fruit or vegetable at least once a day. I read all food labels. I drink two glasses of water right after my morning workout.
Proper sleep and diet are even more important for your health than exercises.
I was sick only twice since July 2013.
I cannot recommend enough doing a regular physical activity. It has a life-changing potential.