Reaching that goal

Cycle with Serafina on mountain

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” This is one of my favourite quotes of all time. Whether or not Aristotle said it doesn’t matter. These powerful words will change your life when you understand them.


Habits are discipline, discipline to overcome immediate gratification for a goal bigger than what’s sitting in front of you. It might be for a better life or better health, or it might be because you want to be able to ride 100 km. Whatever your goal is, whatever is important to you, it can only be achieved by changing your habits, and you can only change your habits by being strong in your mind. This is discipline.


When I talk about discipline, I’m not talking about getting up at 4 a.m. every morning, having a cold shower, and eating raw oats with water for breakfast. Discipline isn’t a hardship; it isn’t being mean to yourself. No, discipline is identifying the habits that are destructive to the life you want to have and having the strength to change them.

Changing habits takes time (it took time for them to become habits, so it will take time to change them) and patience. Habits pull us so strongly that we associate them with our identity: ‘That’s just who I am.’ No, it’s not who you are; it’s a habit.


For example, I wanted to strengthen my body to help with my cycling and overall health and well-being, so I decided to do weights, situps, and planking every morning.


The first day I started, the maximum number of sit-ups I could do was 5. It hurt so much! Planking, ouch! Everything hurt. It was hard; my mind was screaming at me, and my body hurt. But cycling has taught me that pain is ok and to start small and build on that.


So the next day, I did five situps and 30 seconds of planking, and my weights and squats goal was 10 for each set. Ouch! It still hurt!


The next day, my mind told me, “This is too hard; you need to rest. Don’t do it today”, but I recognised the pattern: cycling has taught me not to listen to my mind when it’s telling me to quit. So again, I did my five situps, 30 seconds of planking, and ten sets each of my weight lifting and squats. And it didn’t hurt as much! I thought, “Tomorrow, I’m going to do six situps and 40 seconds of planking”.


The next day, my mind says, ‘You didn’t get much sleep last night, and you’ve got a lot to do today. I don’t think you have time or energy to do the weights, situps, and planking.’


Again, I recognised the pattern and made myself do it, even though I didn’t want to; this took more effort than doing the actual weights, the effort of overriding my lazy-ass mind.


Every day, I override my mind with my disciplined mind. From an article I read years ago about how NASA trains astronauts to be in space, I knew it would take 30 days to program my new habit.


Every morning, I would wake up to my mind coming up with a new excuse to avoid doing my weights. Ignoring my mind’s bullying tactics took work. Despite my mind’s laziness and excuses, I pushed myself to do weights, squats, planks, and a little more each day.


Within a month, I was doing 50 situps before it hurt, 2 minutes of planking before it hurt, and sets of 30 weights and squats before it hurt, and my complaining mind had quietened. It had not gone away completely, but it was getting used to this new routine.


The following month, something strange happened—after a bad night’s sleep and other sources of stress, I consciously chose not to do my morning weight routine. But despite my decision, I ended up doing it anyway. My body had become so accustomed to the habit I had created that I couldn’t help but follow through with my morning routine every day.


I have chosen this example to illustrate that changing your life is about changing your habits. Developing new habits requires discipline, but it only takes 30 days to become a part of your daily routine. After that, it won’t be hard to maintain them anymore.


You can apply this principle to your eating, spending, relationships, fitness, or anything else you want; it’s the same principle.


But the only way this will work, and this is very important, is YOU have to want it. If someone else has told you to do it, or you’re doing it for someone else, it won’t work. It has to come from you. Your desire to change has to be greater than your desire to stay the same. It’s always you. You succeed or fail based on your own sense of self-worth.

Test it out. Try creating a new habit over a month and see for yourself. Then you’ll see you have the power and control to change your life however you choose.