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Healthy Minds Healthy College

Focus on your process; not your goals

April 11, 2017

By Conor Lloyd

About four-months ago I decided to really knuckle down and focus on improving my health.

Now to couch that previous statement, I am not generally an unhealthy guy. I don’t smoke – I quit five years ago — I am not a heavy drinker, and I really don’t eat that poorly, if you don’t consider pizza, chicken fingers, steak, and hamburgers unhealthy that is.

Suffice it to say I am an expert at talking myself out of going to the gym and will – on many occasions – opt to binge watch Netflix, read a good book, go shopping for vinyl, or head out for dinner. In January of this year, I tipped the scale at what I consider a very unhealthy weight. My doctor threatened a litany of cholesterol medications, and frankly taking the stairs felt like a workout.

Needless to say, it was time to make a change.

But rather than simply setting a goal of losing 30, 50, or even 60 pounds, I focused on changing my process to achieving a healthy lifestyle, and used benchmarks along the way to track my performance. Those benchmarks provided me with valuable feedback to see how I was performing and allowed me to adjust my approach along the way.

Those benchmarks didn’t simply revolve around weight loss, albeit that was probably one of the dominant performance indicators at the start, I used a lot of different markers along the way, and that included:

  • Consistent meal preparation
  • Water consumption
  • Weight-loss; and
  • Level of activity (I aimed to visit the gym and meet with my trainer three times a week).

I really wanted to focus on collecting a lot of small marginal gains from the outset, and I judged everything from how my clothes fit, to how I felt going up the stairs, to how long I could plank at the gym, to how far and how long I could run on the treadmill – as a few examples.

Now I can’t take credit for this type of approach. My trainer, who has played an important part about changing my process. Turned me on to the approach about improving my system a instead of just focusing on goals I focused on creating a new system that resulted in small marginal gains, that have ultimately resulted in a very positive outcome.

Sometimes goals can set you back rather then move you forward. Instead focus on marginal gains and improve your process. You might be surprised at what you accomplish in the long-run.

I am pretty happy to say that not only has my health improved, but I am not longer being threatened with cholesterol meds and taking the stairs no longer feels like a chore. My level of fitness has improved greatly and I am down a little more than 35 pounds in five-months.

While a lot of it was accomplished by changing my system around diet and exercise it wasn’t accomplished with crash diets, intense workouts, or adopting one of the many weight loss trends.

It resulted from making a commitment to say active and make small incremental changes to the way I conduct myself throughout the day, which has resulted in a new system that isn’t only manageable, but a way of life that is easy to support.

If you focus on simply making small changes as you go, you end-up adopting a new way of approaching each day. So rather than dreading hitting the gym or going for a walk, it becomes routine. No different than binge watching Friends on Netflix on a Saturday, or going out for dinner.

If you starting making marginal gains, you end up seeing great results overtime which ultimately leads to a very sustainable and manageable approach to healthy living.

If you’re interested in learning more about this approach I really recommend taking some time to follow the links below that will take you to some great articles from James Clear.

Process Improvement and Marginal Gains:

Forget about setting goals. Focus on this instead: