It’s always interesting to be in this business and read the health headlines. So often, they seek to hook us with the promise of ultimate clarity: “Rehabing Health: Diet or Fitness First?” or “Should I Sleep or Exercise?” The underlying assumption is that there’s a conclusive rule to this – that we all conform to the same pattern, a universal law that will remake the game for everyone.
Sure, I believe our physiology conforms to some pretty standard principles. The Primal Blueprint is based on them. As such, I incorporate these direct-route, often multi-functional strategies whenever and wherever I can. But my work and life experience have taught me something important about these laws and “hacks”. The mental versions of these, when properly and personally applied, tend to have the biggest and broadest impact.
It’s not that we can’t maximize physical gains with certain tactical approaches, but our most dramatic improvements will always come from living out the Primal basics. These aren’t hard in and of themselves but do require a degree of motivation to put in place. Hence, the most significant ploys will always be those that work on the distance between intention and action.
A few months ago I wrote a post about fitness related non-negotiables – the choices we make daily (or at least regularly) that we consider least common denominators for our well-being. For whatever reason, we’ve assigned to them “required” status. Maybe we consider them easy wins. Or maybe we just have some random mental or social association tied to them – conscious or unconscious. Regardless of our specific reasoning, we view them as standards for our daily overall health commitment. No matter what else falls apart that day, we’re going to follow through on the non-negotiable point – to know we accomplished something, to stay on track with one element of progress. This is good.
What I want to talk about today, however, is something more discerning – and focus more on the how-to element. I’ll call them hinge habits, and they will vary considerably from person to person. They’re choices we make that – for our individual mentality – set the board for the rest of our day. The relative success and sanity of the day literally hinge on these simple practices. When we do them, the rest of the day seems to fall into place. We at least have an easier time staying on a solid, healthy path. Skip them, however, and everything else feels “off.” We flounder. Some days we can nonetheless steady ourselves, but it requires more effort.
Identifying our hinge habit necessitates knowing ourselves pretty well (and being able to be honest about our tendencies). It might even entail a bit of self-experimentation. If you’re unsure what habit has the most pre-emptive impact, try out some ideas – particularly toward the beginning of your day.
Maybe if you can just avoid the carb dump at breakfast, you stay on a good track. Maybe it’s getting up early (or going to bed early). Maybe time doesn’t matter but having a solid eight hours does. It might be working out before you head to the office or before the kids wake up. Perhaps it’s a meditation practice or a walk in the middle of the day. Perhaps it’s taking a nap mid afternoon.
Journal about your practices and what effects they seem to have. Make different choices and see how you respond. What decisions seem to play a fulcrum-style role, tipping your day one way or the other?
Alternatively, you might believe a new practice would be a better game changer. How about 50 burpees each day? Maybe a walk after dinner instead of television. Perhaps it’s a big a$$ salad for lunch every day instead of what you usually have. Whatever experience has taught you or intuition tells you will make a substantial difference – that’s what you can latch onto.
Got it? Hone it or define it a little if need be.
So, here’s the next step. Ask yourself if you’re willing to commit to that hinge habit for the next ten days. Forget signing onto a whole plan for ten days. Just imagine applying yourself to one habit each day – your hinge habit. There’s no need to worry about the rest.
The idea here is to establish a string of successes – accomplishing one single, strategic task each day for ten full days. I’ll even post a handy PDF here that you can print off and stick on the fridge. (But you can always use a notebook or make a quick Excel spreadsheet.) Each day all you have to do is literally check off whether you performed that one task.
Consider the list an easy way you can keep yourself accountable and motivated. Sure, it’s not groundbreaking, but sometimes the simplest things just work. Who’s with me on that?
We’re going for only task here. Push yourself to make that goal every day but don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. That said, take the string concept to heart. Aim for perfection on this choice as much as you reasonably can. See how much your life and choices change in this ten day period. What do you think will shift? Are you willing to be surprised?
Thanks for reading, everyone. I’m curious to know: what’s your hinge habit? Share your commitment on the board and your support for others’ string of success.
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About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.