Clear Lines in the Sand

By Kaydn Jensen, HydroSwell Co-Founder

5 min read
When I was younger, I played rugby, strength-trained, and was in good physical shape. It was something I was known for and proud of, but then in my third year of college, I decided to get a full time job and go to school full time to avoid racking up student loans.
It was brutal. I let my healthy habits slip and bad habits took their place. I gained 60 lbs, which was terrible, but what was worse was losing my confidence and maybe even a little bit of my identity.
Being Vague Got Me Nowhere
I knew I needed to win back my old healthy habits so I decided to eat healthier, cut back on sugar, and exercise more often. Time went on and I wasn't seeing results. I realized I couldn't really define whether I was on track because my plan was vague.
How often is "working out more often", how healthy is "eating healthier" and when I say, "cut back on sugar" how much sugar is that?
Clear Lines in the Sand
Do you have clear lines drawn in the sand for what you will and won't do? 
eg. Change "Workout more often." to "Strength train at 7 am, Monday - Thursday, for at least 45 minutes."
eg. Change "Cut back on sugar" to "Only consume sugar 1x per week on date night"
eg. Change "Eat healthier" to "Consume 150 grams of protein per day and avoid diet drinks with artificial sweeteners & additives."
Do you see the difference? When you draw clear lines in the sand, it becomes easy to know whether you're on track. To make this even more powerful, set a specific reward for keeping your rules and a specific punishment for breaking them.
The Power of P.D.M.
When you start drawing clear lines in the sand, you start conserving willpower due to a phenomenon I call P.D.M.  (The Predetermined Decision-Making Effect)
I worked at a place that catered lunch often but the problem was the lunches weren't very healthy. Sugary baked goods tempted me daily and I justified eating them way too often. After all, what does "cut back on sugar" really mean, one can't hurt right?
Once I got specific and committed to the "Sugar once a week on date night" rule, it was way easier. It's not like I didn't want the baked goods anymore, I had just decided beforehand that I wasn't going to eat them so I didn't have to make the decision when I was tempted most. 
All at Once is Bad
Behavior change is hard and most people fail. You don't have to be like most people though.
The key is to start small. For example, I came to realize that starting two new behaviors, cutting out sugar and working out, at the same time was too much so I decided to just focus on my no-sugar rule.
Once I got to the point that I felt like it was as easy to avoid sugar as it was going to get, I added in working out. Trying to take on too much change at once is a recipe for failure.
To Measure, or Not to Measure
So does this mean you should create a rule for every behavior, make it quantifiable, and then measure it? Nope, we're humans, not Spock. Life is meant to be lived and that requires room for spontaneity and creativity.
However, if something is important to you and could improve your life, it's worth getting specific and drawing a clear line in the sand. Doing so will boost your willpower, and get you the results your after.
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