Detail image for January 2023 What It Takes story.

New Year’s resolutions seldom work but forming good habits always do! Instead of setting yourself up for another year of failed goals, here are ways you can hit your mark.

Written by Gia Fey | Illustration by Branden Barker

What do Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, and Jennifer Lopez all have in common? They all had big dreams. Dreams so big that other people told them they were crazy. Instead of feeling defeated by others’ critiques, they believed in themselves and kept going. These now household names started off with humble beginnings and goals that were bigger than themselves. They also unlocked the formula to reach for the stars and actually got there.

According to Science Daily, at least 40% of our actions are driven by habits. When we look at successful people we see their happy endings. We assume they are special, born lucky, or privileged. Rarely do we recognize how much time it took for them to achieve their dreams and all the sacrifices and challenges they faced along the way. Not to mention the valuable lessons they learned in order to become who we know them as today.

Being really good at something requires a lot more than just raw talent. What we think of as peak performance relies more on states of consciousness than just skill sets. You see, almost half of our day is lived on autopilot, through our habits. Our habits can lead us to where we want to go or pull us down into an unhealthy lifestyle.

Anxiety, apathy, and self-critique when done frequently become habits. Our brains get so used to falling into those patterns of dealing with life’s difficulties that we turn to them without thinking.

Success can also become a habit. We can choose to be grateful instead of bitter. We can choose to live up to our full potential instead of being enslaved by anxiety. We can choose to build our self-confidence instead of drowning in self-critique.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?.” Your answer to that question will dictate your thoughts and ultimately your habits.

Your mindset is the lens you see life through. If you don’t like the life you are living, you have the power to create a new one. By building new habits, you can break out of harmful conditioning and create a different reality including achieving your fitness goals.

How to Build New Habits

Building new habits isn’t easy. To be honest, most of us prefer the easy route and stay stuck in our old patterns. If you have a great dream or desire for your life, you deserve to make it happen. Through goal setting, healthy daily habits, and hard work, that impossible dream can be yours.

Just like you would train before running a marathon (an impossible dream for some) you have to train your body and mind to see life differently and cope with problems in a new way. Remember, nothing worthwhile can be achieved without hard work. If you want more, you have to be more.

If you are ready to build new habits, live a life you love or even have the body you always wanted, these tips will guide you:

Automate the Right Processes

Our brains love life on autopilot. Your brain’s main job is to find ways to make life easier. Habits require less thought and energy because we are able to do them almost automatically.

While you are learning new habits that will lead you toward a healthier life, find ways to automate these new habits to reduce your efforts. Let’s go back to the big, impossible goal of running a marathon. You could:

  • Use apps like myfitnesspal to tell you what to eat.
  • Hire a personal trainer to tell you what workouts to do.

Put Fear in its Place

Fear is not necessarily good or bad. It is an emotion meant to keep us safe and warn us of upcoming dangers. But, if you try to ignore fear, it will grow. Instead of running from the fears holding you back, turn around and face them. Identify what you are afraid of, and why. Then, take the time to learn more about your fear and make fear your friend.

If your fear is that you will die trying to run that marathon, look up the facts. Is that really possible? How often does it happen? What can you do to prevent that fear from happening?

Take what you learn and move forward. Do what you can to prevent your fears from becoming a reality or reassure yourself that your fears weren’t very likely in the first place.

Train your Body & Mind

We would all love to be able to decide one day that we are going to change our habits and then just snap our fingers and instantly reprogram our brains. Quick fixes, unfortunately, don’t work. Consistent training does.

Whatever your goal may be, you will have to work hard. That means you consistently show up and work toward your goal each day. Give it your best, even when you are at your worst. When you face a challenge, you will rise to the occasion or sink to your training level.

I often tell my clients that they get what you train for. Train hard so that you can set yourself up for success, no matter what comes your way.

Fitness alone isn’t enough to develop confidence to pursue your goals, it takes mindset and lifestyle habits and daily rituals to transform your life. When I coach my personal training clients, I give them more than just workouts, I guide their self talk, and help them practice healthy lifestyle habits weekly.

Have a Plan

One of the best ways to succeed in building healthy new habits that will help you achieve impossible dreams is to have a plan. By taking the time to decide how you are going to get where you want to go and what you are going to do each day, you are more likely to move forward.

Setting goals literally rewires your brain to help you achieve them. If you set big, seemingly impossible goals, your brain rewires even faster because it recognizes how badly you want to achieve the goal and knows that you’ve got things to do NOW.

So, set a big, scary, impossible goal and then break it down into steps to get there. Think of this as your compass or map.

Be Patient

You know the saying “it takes 21 days to build a new habit”? Unfortunately, that is a myth. There is no magical number to tell you when your new habit will start to stick. Studies show it takes anywhere from 18-254 days to form new habits. So, if a month has passed and you are still struggling to beat your old programming, hang in there. You aren’t a failure, you just need to keep going.

Just like in the training for a marathon example, we all start at different places. For some of us, training will take a few months because we are already in pretty good shape. Others may need years to train for something so big because they’ve never worked out before.

Your brain is the same way. Some habits may be easy to ditch because they are less ingrained, while others will take time. You’ll need patience and self-compassion to stick it out long enough to see results. So, don’t give up!

Achieving the body you have dreamed about, having the confidence to pursue your dream job, training for that marathon or finding that ideal relationship may seem like impossible dreams but really, they aren’t. The key to achieving big, scary dreams is all in your head, literally.

Your mindset is the lens you see life through. What seems impossible to you right now is completely possible in another person who trained for it. The only sure way to fail is to never even try.

Stop letting the past, your fears, and your conditioning hold you back. Train to become the person you want to be. Have the courage, hope, and determination to believe that you can achieve your impossible dreams. Imagine what life will be like and how good that sense of accomplishment will feel. The key to success is already a part of you. It’s just waiting to be unlocked.

Gia Fey is an international fitness trainer, blogger, public speaker and television host. She began her business, Body By Gia to help more people around the world and now does so with more than 3 Million followers on social media.