Okay people, we are nearing week 3. You have ten days to go. We’ve had our few days of not feeling great, we are now on the mend. Now it’s time to RALLY! The Whole30 Day by Day makes a great point on Day 20: “While ten days to go can be an exciting prospect, Day 20 is a reminder that you only have ten days left. Which might lead to, ‘I’m not there yet.'”
Ah yes, a daunting thought for sure. Perhaps you’re either wondering if you will achieve certain goals or still worried you won’t figure it all out. Maybe you’ve had experiences in the past with roller coaster diets that you crash on and rebound after. So that cycle might feel like a prospect to you and that is, of course bothersome. But the reason we have invested so much time in educating you is to help you realize that you now have tools that will last you, well, forever if you want. Like it or not, you know stuff about food now. And you know stuff about yoga. You know that the two together are possibly the two very best things — sustainable things — that you can do for your health. So no matter what Day 31 brings for you, you have tools in your pocket that no one and nothing can take away. Not even your dastardly SCALE.
You may also be starting to think about how you will maintain after Day 30; many of you are already planning to keep going. Or, you might actually have some stress around the idea — I usually hear something like this from participants: “I don’t want to blow everything I’ve worked so hard for, but I’m not sure how to maintain this pace, this diet, this much yoga and this lifestyle — in more moderation.”
These are fair concerns. And the short answer is: with a plan.
I was asked recently if I was going to do a follow-up on the habit blog… a follow-up that included some thoughts about how to sustain a habit after creating it. You have learned about the structure of a habit; how it starts, that it needs a cue, a routine and a reward. Once you have the habit formed, your brain lets that habit ride on auto pilot while it moves on to other things. You know how you can run up a flight of stairs after you take the first few steps without even thinking about it? Or how you can back your car out of your driveway without hardly any deliberate thought? That’s a habit. Those are acts of will that are so ingrained that they take very little presence and almost no deliberation. You’re not quite in the stage of transformation where you no longer have cravings or you don’t have to think about how to structure your day. You’re probably not quite there yet with your diet and yoga, but you are laying very solid groundwork. Now, you are likely asking, when will this willpower become automatic? What if my old habits start creeping back?
“The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards,” says Charles Duhigg, in The Power of Habit. “Without habit loops, our brains would shut down, overwhelmed by the minutiae of daily life.” So they are actually a good thing, if they are a good thing. And, you’ve created a lot of additional good habits. The question is, how do we sustain them and not let the old ones come back?
One of the keystone good habits of success is a little thing called willpower. Willpower is not only a keystone, but a necessity for sustaining good habits.
Now you may be thinking — if I need willpower to create a habit (i.e., I need discipline to get to my mat every day) and I need a habit to create willpower (i.e., I need to get to my mat every day to feel strong enough to build up my willpower) — which comes first? Duhigg suggests this answer to the riddle: Make the willpower itself, the habit. “Sometimes it looks like people with great self-control aren’t working hard — but that’s because they’ve made it automatic,” Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania researcher says. “Their willpower occurs without them having to think about it.”
One of the first things you can do to prepare for “moments of weakness,” when you are no longer in the protective arms of your Indigo30 team, is get clear about what those scenarios might look like. I’m willing to bet that for the most part, you all are doing the program really well most of the time. And, I’m willing to bet that the times that you falter, weaken or even fall off the wagon are times when you are stressed, squeezed emotionally, pressured, uncertain or under duress. It’s in those times that willpower seems to evaporate. What is needed to strengthen the willpower in times of strain is… a plan.
Call it an exit plan, an emergency plan, or even a contingency plan, almost every company, building, or event has a plan in case things break down or get out of hand. It’s interesting that humans don’t have these kinds of standard operating procedures. (I mean, wouldn’t it be great if we all came with manuals?) Call it a 911 plan or call it a routine, it’s something we can call on and follow when our willpower loses its steam and when the ice starts cracking under our feet. We need something to help us not crack with it.
But here’s the thing. It’s not a quick fix. It’s something you have to practice. Your backup plan for when (not if, but when) you start to crack under pressure is something you have to practice and make a routine. You have to determine right now, on Day 20, what that plan is going to be, and start practicing it now… not on Day 31, but today, so that you are ready when the shit hits the fan. Because when the shit hits the fan, it’s not going to wait for you to practice your response. Your main job, from today forward, is to create a new habit loop of willpower that will be automatic after Day 30.
One willpower habit loop you all already have is your small group (if you are engaging with them. If you are not, then you have not created a habit loop of accountability.) So after Day 30, you will likely keep up communication, especially when you hit rough patches. This routine of checking in with one or all members of your group will re-invigorate your willpower. You just don’t realize it’s already happening. So going forward, you can say to yourself, “When I find myself skipping yoga for more than 2-3 days, my plan is to … (check in with my group/make a yoga date with one of my group pals/etc.) You are already doing it. Your work now is to keep the habit loop alive.
It would be beneficial for you to determine which parts of the Indigo30 you want to sustain once the program is officially over. After you have that written down, make a list of situations that you think would throw you off — they don’t have to be unpleasant, necessarily — scheduling, travel, social situations — aren’t negative, but they absolutely have the capacity to disrupt a positive habit loop. Work through these scenarios (role play) with your family and friends (and small group) so they don’t just live in your journal or in your head.
“This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives,” says Duhigg. The better you get at recognizing what will trigger, the more you can ready your plan. And before you know it, you will be communicating with your pals about going to yoga together without actually consciously thinking through how you are trying to get back on track. It will just happen because it’s a bona fide habit.
Friends, you have all the control in the world over what you eat and how you take care of yourself. You have choices that millions of people do not. Take these small lessons, the ones that arrive on your Facebook feed each morning, the ones that your leaders are sharing with you because they love you, and all the little tidbits in between, and take action. Do something amazing with the insight and education you are being given, that I believe is being channeled through me and your other teachers, to help you be the very best version of you. Don’t take it for granted and please don’t let the small things trip you up. You are too grand, too wise, and too informed to let that happen.
Now start planning. You only have ten days left.