6 non-negotiable habits for health and fitness success

“You will never change your life (or body) until you change something you do daily. The secret to success is found in your daily routine.” –John C. Maxwell 

The #1 lie in the health and fitness industry is that getting in shape involves all kinds of complicated “secrets” that you must discover before being able to build muscle or lose fat.

Mainstream websites, blogs, and magazines thrive on fitness jargon suggesting that building the body you want is always just beyond your reach. 

There’s a new “tip” every week or two that’s supposed to completely change the way muscle is built or fat is lost.

All this does for you is leave you frustrated, confused, and often with a little less money in your bank account.

The lie that you’re being fed is that building a lean, muscular body is complicated. It’s not.

We’ve known what it takes to build muscle and lose fat for a long, long time—and very little of it has changed. People were getting in great shape 100 hundred years ago following the same basic principles that work today.

Being strong and fit isn’t about complicated formulas or unheard-of “secret tips.”

Building muscle and getting lean is about the practice of training and making smart food choices most of the time.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” This is the shift we need to make in our approach to fitness: success (getting strong and fit) is about doing things that align with our goals most of the time; success is NOT about discovering some “secret tip” as the muscle mags would have you believe.

Successfully transforming your body—and maintaining it—is about consistent action.

Let that sink in: Changing your body isn’t about discovering some new “secret” or finding the perfect diet (which doesn’t exist); it’s about the relentless execution of only the essential (most of which you probably already know). 

Your success or failure at building the body you want (and anything else you want to achieve in life) is gonna come down to the decisions you make day to day, minute to minute.

Make “good” decisions most of the time and in time, you will see the results you’re after. 

That kinda talk will blow the minds of many who are educated on supplements and fitness jargon. It’s amazing to me how many people are wasting their time talking about advanced nutrition and training strategies when they have yet to master the basic habits necessary for success on a consistent basis.

So, today, we’re gonna change that. 

If you’re tired of all the complicated, confusing information about how to look, feel, and perform your best, start making these 6 decisions more often and you’ll be thrilled with the results you see.

Habit #1: Leverage the Compound Effect

In his book The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy describes this principle as the reaping of huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. He says, “What’s most interesting about this process to me is that, even though the results are massive, the steps, in the moment, don’t feel significant.

Most of us want to believe that our muscle-building fate comes down to finding the right workout or taking the one supplement that will finally deliver the results we want. We view it as a life-changing “ah-ha” moment that suddenly turns things around.

And most people with this outlook are still looking for that ONE THING that will magically change their body for years on end.

In the meantime, they spin their wheels, jumping from workout program to workout program, constantly starting and re-starting new diets, and buying every new supplement that comes around – all with little to show in actual results.

We like to imagine there’s gonna be a day where we’re jacked out of our mind and while resting in-between sets of bench press at the local Y, someone asks, “dude, how’d you do it?”, and we respond, “I still remember the day I found the perfect workout/supplement/diet that finally gave me the results I was after.”

But that’s NOT how it happens in reality.

On the other side of the “quick fix” mindset is the compound effect, which values consistency over time. Instead of looking for one life-changing moment (finding the ‘perfect’ workout, diet, or supplement), you understand that physique transformation is about consistently making good choices over time.

Transforming your body is actually kinda boring. It’s about making those small, sometimes seemingly insignificant decisions consistently and ignoring most of the fitness jargon.

  • More important than the perfect workout is showing up to the gym consistently and doing a well-designed workout program—and not second guessing it or changing things up constantly.
  • More important than the perfect diet is making smart food choices most of the time—and learning how to do that within the context of your life.
  • More important than finding the perfect supplement is finding a few basic supplements that fill in nutritional gaps and provide some convenience.

How this plays out in everyday life: Applying this to your life will likely require a mindset shift, moving away from a “quick fix” focus and instead making the effort to make good decisions consistently.

Each day, instead of wasting time on google searching for more “secrets” and “tips” or comparing yourself to others, you choose to focus on making sure you’re doing the things that day to reach your goal (the next 6 habits described the things you should be doing).

Habit #2: Make The Next Best Decision

If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that things won’t go as planned.

In your pursuit of transforming your body, you will make bad choices. You’ll ‘accidentally’ eat two donuts in the breakroom at work.

Things will come up that get in the way of getting to the gym. You’ll get sick or your kids will get sick or something else out of your control will stop you from

When this stuff happens, people typically make one of two decisions:

  1. You feel like, since a few things have gone wrong, you may as well just say “screw it” to the whole day or the whole week. I mean, you already missed one workout this week, why not just take the whole week off? Or, you already messed up your nutritional plan by eating one donut, why not just go ahead and stop at McDonald’s on the way home and smash 2,000 more calories of junk?
  2. You recognize things haven’t gone as planned—or you made a bad choice—and you make the next best decision to get back on track towards your goals.

People who successfully transform their physique for life roll with the second approach.

How this plays out in everyday life: Any time something doesn’t go as planned during your day, you refuse to go down the road of letting one bad decision or one mishap lead to a series of more bad decisions. If you miss one workout, you don’t write off the whole week, you get back in the gym tomorrow and get back on track.

Every time something doesn’t go as planned—or you just make a bad decision – you take a moment to assess the situation, acknowledge that something didn’t go as planned, figure out what the next best decision is to get you back on track, and (most importantly) you go DO that thing. 

Habit #3: Be Aware of What You’re Eating

People who successfully transform their bodies and keep it that way learn to track what they eat in some way. They’re not running around shoving food in their mouths with no clue as to what or how much they’re eating.

And it’s not about eating the latest “superfood” or following the latest fad diet. 

It’s about recognizing which foods are going to be most beneficial for your goals and finding a way to track things so that you know you’re choosing to eat those foods most of the time.

The longer you’re in the game, the less meticulous you’ll need to be.  

Habit #4: Track Your Workouts

Here are two scenarios to consider:

Scenario #1: You walk into the gym, unsure of what you’re going to do today. You look around, see that all of the bench presses are being used, and jump on the treadmill for a 5-minute warm-up.

After a few minutes, some curls sound like a good plan (don’t they always?), so you head over to the dumbbell rack and get to work. After 10 minutes of curls, you figure some chin-ups and bench press are next.

As you look at the dumbbells, trying to decide which weight to use, you think, “hmm, I don’t want to look weak, I’ll go with the 60’s.

After a few sets of presses and chin-ups you call it a day.

Scenario #2: You walk into the gym, training journal in hand, knowing exactly what you will be doing today. Up first is Incline Dumbbell Presses for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

You look at last week’s workout and note that you used 50-pound dumbbells and completed 10 reps. 

Time to bump up the weight. 

You grab the 55’s, and go to work. The rest of your workout plays out the same way—systematic choices based on feedback from previous workouts while following a predetermined plan.


Which scenario do you think leads to better results?

In the first scenario, you’re just winging it. You don’t know what weights you should be using for your lifts and you have no idea if you’re progressing or not.

In the second scenario, you have a specific plan and have tracked things so that you KNOW you are progressing and using the right weights for your lifts.

Getting stronger over time is the #1 way to build muscle. That doesn’t mean you have to be adding weight every workout, but over weeks and months and years, you need to be lifting progressively heavier weights.

Most people can’t do this by winging it. Some may get lucky, but they are the exception, not the rule.

How this plays out in everyday life: You track how much weight you lift for each exercise you perform in your workout. You don’t “guess” when choosing weights for your lifts – you look at what you did last week and pick a weight based on that. Use an app or go old school and write it down in a notebook – it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re doing it.

You have a plan. You don’t walk into the gym and “wing it.” You have a well-designed workout program that’s set up for long-term progress, and you follow that plan.

If you train first thing in the AM, review the workout you will be doing the night before. If you train in the afternoon/evening, review your workout before you head to the gym. This will help get you in the right mindset and help you avoid winging it.

 Habit #5: Find an Approach You Enjoy

The best workout and nutrition plan? The one you enjoy and the one that fits with your lifestyle. I spent far too many years trying to do a certain workout or nutritional approach because I felt like I “had to.”

And anytime I forced myself to conform to a workout I didn’t enjoy, something suffered because of it. If you’re dreading your workouts or hating every moment of the day because of your “diet”, you’re doing it wrong.

Maybe—maybe—you’ll be able to suffer through it long enough to see some results. 

Heck, maybe you’ll even muster the willpower to transform your body in a significant way. But the chances of you actually sustaining the progress you’ve made long term is very slim if you’re taking an approach that you hate.

How this plays out in everyday life: It’s pretty simple. You find a type of workout that’s enjoyable to you and follow a nutritional plan that doesn’t make you hate life. This will require that you choose to ignore the latest fads (diet and exercise), regardless of the results they promise, if it’s not something that you feel like fits your

If you hate being on the elliptical for 60 minutes, then don’t do that. Find another way to get some cardiovascular exercise in. If you hate doing barbell back squats, find another variation of the movement that you can do.

Does this mean you never challenge yourself or embrace discomfort? No. 

There’s a difference between “discomfort” and doing something you have no interest in. The point is to find a style of workout and a nutritional plan that fits your interests, while recognizing there is no universal “best” way to do fitness.

Habit #6: Manage Expectations  

Each day, you are bombarded with hundreds of messages telling you that you’re not good enough. On TV, the internet, on magazine covers at the grocery store, and all over social media you will find opportunities to compare yourself to others.

And if you’re like most people, it will be tempting to develop expectations of being like someone else. You’ll start to think…

  • “I’ll be good enough when I look like that insanely ripped dude flexing in 100 different selfies on Instagram.”
  • “If I take that supplement or commit to that workout I can look like the guy on the cover of Men’s Fitness.”
  • “If I follow this program I can gain 52 pounds of lean muscle in 12 weeks.”

Thing is, all of that stuff is a distraction that will not only make it more difficult to build muscle or lose fat; it’ll also make you more discontented with yourself.

After 10+ years in the fitness game, here’s what I’ve learned: If it sounds too good to be true, it is and nothing that lasts comes easily.

The claims you hear of muscle gains are vastly exaggerated (even from the trusted ‘experts’). 

90% of supplements are a scam or overhyped (even when vouched for by the trusted ‘experts’).

 How this plays out in everyday life: Each day, you’re out there trying to be the best you that you can be. Despite the distractions around you—the magazine covers begging you to compare yourself to someone else to see if you ‘measure up’, the supplement ads making promises of massive muscle gains—you stay focused on what’s most important. And that is consistently making good choices with what you eat and showing up and working hard in the gym.

You understand that a great body isn’t built in 12 weeks. Sure, you can (and should) make significant progress in as short of time as that, but building and maintaining a lean, muscular body is something that takes years of consistency.

 “It is not the daily increase, but the daily decrease. Hack away the unessential.” -Bruce Lee

Changing your body is about consistency. It’s about the decisions you make. It’s not about the hype you hear from most mainstream fitness resources. 

Most of that stuff is a distraction. Majoring in the minutia.

Eventually, somewhere down the line, once you’ve mastered the foundational habits for success and you’re looking to up your results by 1 or 2%, maybe you’ll dabble in some more advanced stuff.

But the 6 habits discussed here today, done consistently, will deliver massive, undeniable transformation over time.

You could spend your afternoon googling details about this or that bodybuilder’s or athlete’s workout and nutrition plan. 

You could read about drop sets and purchase the latest, greatest supplement craze. 

You could do those things—and you’ll probably continue to be let down.

Or, starting today, you could make it a focus to consistently practice the most important, time-tested, undeniably important, foundational habits discussed above—and in time, you will build the body you want.

The choice is yours.

– Eric

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