Supplements and Habits: How you can choose the life you lead right now
“We are what we repeatedly do” – Aristotle
We all at some point have struggled with willpower and road blocks in the path to our goals, whatever they are. That loss of willpower or road block has sometimes been enough to completely knock us off our game indefinitely. For most of us, myself included, we’ve been primarily focused on immediate results and not on our trajectory towards those results. So while we work for these goals, our 'trajectory' will end up as acting on a spur of motivation to try quickly hurdle ourselves towards it every once in a while.
This sounds like a grand and irrelevant concept when you’re talking about supplements. But supplements do something much more significant than improve your wellbeing. Taking supplements is a habit that holds some really powerful potential in building a trajectory towards your greater goals, whether those are health related or not. By consciously taking a moment of your time to take supplements, you’re engaging in a habit that you have chosen as a mechanism to a bigger purpose, and the action of taking the supplements is you mentally and physically aligning yourself with it.
If you take your supplements every single morning, your trajectory towards your goal starts to become intrinsic. That is, you’re striving for your goal on a daily basis without even realising. Nilsen et al. (2012) in a journal article discussed the findings of habit implementation research that:
“As learned behaviours become increasingly stereotyped and automatic, the sensorimotor loop takes a more active role in encoding the features of the behaviour.” (1)
You're coding the habit into your identity, and you begin to identify not as someone who wants to be healthy, but you become the person who is healthy. If you implement the habit of taking supplements just like you brush your teeth or eat dinner, you’re remaining on your trajectory whether you’re conscious of it or not.
As Baldwin et al. (2006) explained, “once people have quit for a relatively long period of time, their behavior (not smoking) becomes a function of itself (a habit) and, thus, is less sensitive to variability in their beliefs” (2). Essentially, habits will remain in the face of loss of willpower, road blocks, or anything that might be of conflict to you in your goal pursuit.
If you take supplements in the morning, you’re acknowledging a greater goal to test your future actions against for the remainder of the day. Wood et al. (2007) explain that a student with a habit to do homework on the computer after dinner may associate the behaviour as reflecting on his or her strong academic achievement goals. Once that association is made, then subconsciously you will measure your other actions against that association. In the student’s case, they will subconsciously acknowledge that watching YouTube videos or online shopping is counterintuitive to their overarching purpose. Wood et al. explain that in this way, habits may be regulated via standard test procedures involving comparison with goals, even though a habitual response is not itself goal mediated (3).
“No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
Someone who really helped me realise with the importance of habits was James Clear, I’ve popped a link to his book Atomic Habits on audible and amazon at the bottom of this article. The concept he puts forward is that every action you take is a vote for the type of person you want to become, “no single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity”. If you take your supplements every morning, an action that will result in subconscious choices throughout the rest of your day that direct you towards the goal inferred (i.e., taking the stairs instead of the elevator), you’re getting one tiny step closer to your goal. That step however, is tiny, and it will probably feel tiny at times, but you add together 500 tinies and you have a huge leap toward that goal. My favourite quote by Clear that has stuck with me is:
“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”
So I implore you to make sure that if you’re taking supplements, just do it every day, without fail, rain, hail or sunshine. Do it until it’s as intrinsic as taking a shower. Miss your good habit once, it’s a mistake, miss it twice, it’s your new habit. Achieving your goals is not done by revolution but by evolution.
Some other habits I’d recommend that can have a powerful impact on your identity and how you carry yourself through life:
- Meditate (our favourite app is Insight Timer)
- Sleeping and waking at the same time each day
- Dress for the day no matter what you’re doing (get out of those PJs)
- Carrying a large water bottle with you everywhere you go
- Exercising once a day (this can be a 10 minute walk on your lunch break or a back-breaking two hours in the gym)
- Implementing a morning routine you love and look forward to (mine is setting an alarm a bit earlier to have a coffee and read in bed for 20 minutes, then jumping in a cold shower to wake myself up)
- Drive or walk to work/school/wherever in silence (no music, no podcasts)
- Message someone and tell them how much you appreciate them
- Take three long, deep breaths when you’re experiencing unwanted feelings