We hear these marketing ploys over and over again from the fitness industry; Follow this exercise program for 21 days and you will have the perfect body. Do the ab roller for 21 days and you will get 6 pack abs. Follow the 21 day diet and you will melt off all of your fat. We have all heard that it takes 21 days to change a habit. But is that really accurate? Is it really that simple?
Changing our habits can be extremely challenging, especially when we have a short term mentality. I know I am certainly guilty of wanting a quick fix in my life when things aren’t going the way I want them to.
A recent study showed that it took people on average 66 days for a new healthy habit to be automatic and for some it took up to 254 days. In other words, if you want to set your expectations appropriately it will probably take anywhere from two months to 8 months to build a new behavior into your life, not 21 days.
Let me ask you this question. Do you have a lottery ticket mentality or a sculpture mentality? The lottery ticket mentality is the quick fix approach. It’s having the attitude that I am going to take this pill and I am going to magically lose all this weight in 21 days and I am going to have instant success without having to work for it. The problem with this approach is people give up too early. When they don’t see the results in 21 days they simply get discouraged and give up. People simply give up too soon when things get hard and life gets in the way.
In comparison, the sculpture mentality is taking a long term approach to making life changes. One of the most amazing historic landmarks Mount Rushmore in Rapid City, South Dakota. It took 14 years and 400 workers to carve out the faces of four presidents. The name of the sculptor was Gutzon Borglum. This is a true definition of a sculpture mentality. Imagine the hard work, patience and persistence it took to show up day after day for 14 years to get this amazing monument completed. I have this quote up in my house and it’s titled the Essence of Persistence and it says, “The race goes not always to the swift but to those who keep running. You have powers you never dreamed of. You are capable of doing things you never thought possible. There are no limitations on what you can do."
Imagine if you took the sculpture approach to your life, instead of the lottery approach. There are three things you must do in order to take the sculpture approach in your life.
PICK YOUR ROCK
First and foremost, you have to pick the rock. What are you going to chip away at? Is it your health? Is it improving your nutrition? Is it getting better at your job? Is it exercising consistently? Ideally you would just focus on one area at a time. Research shows if we try to change one thing at a time we have an 85% success rate. If we try to change two things at a time it drops down to 35% and if we try to make three changes in our life it practically drops down to zero success.
Proverbs 4:25 says, "Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you." Stay focused on that one thing and align your life to making it a habit.
CHIP AWAY AT YOUR ROCK EVERY DAY
Secondly, each day you must chip away at the rock. Day in and day out you have to work towards your goal. John Capilari, the University of Kentucky basketball coach tells his players you have to learn to love the grind. Life is a grind, so you might as well embrace it and learn to love the day to day challenges you face.
"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14
YOU NEED PATIENCE AND PERSISTENCE
Finally, you need patience and persistence. Start to think of your life in 18 month sequences. Have you ever come across the book called the 18 month diet? I am sorry to tell you, that you can’t undo a bad diet in 21 days, but you can make transformational life change in an 18 month period if you learn to sculpt your rock each and every day.
I think one of the hardest things people struggle with in making changes in their life is wanting a quick fix, to take a magic pill. But it just doesn't work that way. It takes patience and persistence and that never give up attitude.
Galatians 6:9 reminds us to "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Every single person I have seen achieve health and fitness in the long run accomplishes it by simply showing up every day, not by trying to get it right and being perfect. The world is messy, complicated and unpredictable and things get in the way. It’s vitally important to be flexible and honest with yourself in context of your real human life. Set realistic long term goals and work towards those goals without having that all or nothing attitude. In my experience, this kind of all or nothing thinking, rarely gets us all. It usually gets us nothing.
Let me share with you a little bit of my story. I was in a job for 17 years that wasn’t my passion. It was a great job because it provided for my family and it allowed me to spend time with my two awesome kids. But it wasn’t my calling.
My true calling in life is to inspire, motivate and coach others to take control of their health. My purpose is to help this world overcome the obesity epidemic that we are facing. I made a decision that I don’t want to die with my music still in me. That’s why is started my fitness ministry.
One thing I have struggled with my whole life is self-doubt. I often times find myself listening to that voice inside my head that says who are you, you can’t do this. Do you know what I am talking about? I have started several small businesses and have never stuck with it long enough to be successful at it. This is my fifth attempt at starting a business and you know what, I will be successful this time. This is my rock. This is my Mount Rushmore. This is my one thing.
I decided I am going to work it and work it until it blesses me and I can be a blessing to others through my fitness ministry, public speaking and coaching. I don’t know the how, but I certainly know the why. One of my favorite quote is, “someone who said I failed is ten times more of a man than someone who said what if”. Never give up on your dreams. I don’t care how many times you failed, try again.
Imagine for a moment what you are going to sculpt out of your rock. How do you want your life to be different in 18 months? Imagine you are the healthiest you have ever been. Imagine that body you have always wanted. Imagine having a life full of energy and well-being.
There is only one way to develop life changing habits, you must practice them and that takes time. There are no lottery tickets when it comes to making lasting life changes. Practice these things and devote your life to them so that everyone can see the amazing Mount Rushmore you made out of your rock.
Troy Ismir, MS
Personal Trainer and Health Coach
Divine Wellness Ministries