Want to Change Your Habits? Change This One First

This post is the fourth in a series of six I’m doing in partnership with the Cherry Marketing Institute. As always, opinions and wacky ideas are my own.

If there was one habit you could do that would keep you on track with all the rest of your habits, what would it be?

I wrote about this idea a few years ago, when for me this habit was reading — filling my brain with positive, inspiring ideas each morning kept me excited about improving lots of areas in my life.

But people change. We go through seasons in our lives. And when it comes to my most important habit, I’ve changed my tune.

My friend and accountability partner, Jeff Sanders, was recently asked about his “anchor” habit on Mindful Creator podcast. His answer: energy. From the moment he wakes up, drinking a liter of water first thing in the morning, Jeff focuses on maximizing his energy levels, so that he stays motivated and capable of being the person he needs to be for his business and life.

As I heard this, I realized that — perhaps due to my association with Jeff — energy has become my anchor habit, too.

The Energy Focus

We often read about how willpower is overrated, how it’s depletable like a muscle and is only one part of the habit-change equation.

But let’s not ignore it entirely: willpower is a part of habit change, and it’s a big one. And sleep, stress, and nutrition — all of which clearly influence our energy levels — profoundly affect our ability to stick it out when we want nothing more than to quit.

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The Real Value of Commitment (and a New One I’m Making to You)

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There used to be a quote on a Starbucks cup that started out, “The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating.”

I always liked it and knew that somehow I could relate it to my running, but I didn’t quite understand how. Finally, I do.

This quote has a sister idea, which says that with constraints — take an artist’s committing to napkin-art, for example — comes the freedom to create. In this case, freedom from the tyranny of the blank white page.

Ever since I finished my 100-miler in 2013, I’ve been an aimless runner. It’s been pretty nice: I’ve loved the freedom to run when only I want to, unburdened by a training plan to specify mileage or pace. And I’ve done a decent job staying consistent.

But recently I signed up for my first race since then: the Richmond Marathon, mid-November, six months from now. I chose a training plan (or rather, I stitched together two of them), and I started training.

Since then, I’ve had to run what the plan says, when the plan says.

It was a hard transition at first. I mean, come on, run when I don’t feel like it?

But now, four weeks in, I fully appreciate the value of commitment to a plan. It’s not just that it ramps you up to the race distance. It’s that it forces you to stretch.

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Running on Plants in the Magic City: An Up-close Look at No Meat Athlete Miami

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Members of the fabulous No Meat Athlete Miami group

When last fall we kicked off the No Meat Athlete running groups project, with 75 groups around the U.S. and world, I thought I knew pretty well which groups would thrive and which would have an uphill battle from the beginning.

Surely, I thought, the big, vegan-friendly cities that we all think of as such would provide the most fertile grounds for our running carrots to take root.

Turns out, I was completely wrong.

Eight months after starting, the running groups project has been a huge success, and for me personally, as fulfilling as anything I’ve done with No Meat Athlete. But in a million years I’d never have guessed who our most active groups would turn out to be.

In no particular order: Miami, Virginia Beach, Oklahoma City, and Sydney (that’s right, Australia!).

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