From Unbearable To Unstoppable: The Real
Secret To Forming Habits That Will
Transform Your Life (In 30 Days)
Successful people aren’t born that way. They become
successful by establishing the habit of doing things unsuccessful people don’t like to do.
The successful people don’t always like doing these things themselves; they just get on and do them.
Motivation is what gets you started.
Habit is what keeps you going.
It’s been said that our quality of life is created by the quality of our habits. If a person is living a successful life, then that person simply has the habits in place that are creating and sustaining their levels of success. On the other hand, if someone is not experiencing the levels of success they want—no matter what the area—they simply haven’t committed to putting the necessary habits in place which will create the results they want.
Considering that our habits create our life, there is arguably no single skill that is more important for you to learn and master than controlling your habits. You must identify, implement, and maintain the habits necessary for creating the results you want in your life, while learning how to let go of any negative habits which are holding you back from achieving your true potential.
Habits are behaviors that are repeated regularly and tend to occur subconsciously. Whether you realize it or not, your life has been, and will continue to be, created by your habits. If you don’t control your habits, your habits will control you.
Unfortunately, if you’re like the rest of us, you were never taught how to successfully implement and sustain (aka “master”) positive habits. There’s no class offered in school called Habit Mastery. There should be. Such a course would probably be more important to your success and overall quality of life than all of the other courses combined.
Because they never learned to master their habits, most people fail at virtually every attempt to control them, time and time again.
Take New Year’s Resolutions, for example.
Habitual Failure: New Year’s Resolutions (NYRs)
Every year, millions of well-intentioned people make New Year’s resolutions, but less than five percent of us stick to them. A NYR is really just a positive habit (like exercising or early rising) you want to incorporate into your life, or a negative habit (like smoking or eating fast food) you want to get rid of. You don’t need a statistic to tell you that, when it comes to NYRs, most people have already given up and thrown in the towel before January has even come to a close.
Maybe you’ve seen this phenomenon in real time. If you’ve ever gone to the gym the first week of January, you know how difficult it can be to find a parking spot. It’s packed with vehicles owned by people with good intentions, and armed with a NYR to lose weight and get in shape. However, if you go back to the gym closer to the end of the month, you’ll notice that half of the parking lot is empty. Not armed with a proven strategy to stick with their new habits, the majority continue to fail.
Why is it so difficult to implement and sustain the habits we need to be happy, healthy, and successful?
Addicted To The Old: Change Is Painful
Yes, we are, at some level, addicted to our habits. Whether psychologically or physically, once a habit has been reinforced through enough repetition, it can be very difficult to change. That is, if you don’t have an effective, proven strategy.
One of the primary reasons most people fail to create and sustain new habits is because they don’t know what to expect, and they don’t have a winning strategy.
How Long Does It Really Take To Form A New Habit?
Depending on the article you read or which expert you listen to, you’ll hear compelling evidence that it takes anywhere from a single hypnosis session, 21 days, or even up to three months to incorporate a new habit into your life—or get rid of an old one.
The popular 21-day myth may come from the 1960 book Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Way To Get More Living Out of Lif e. Written by cosmetic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz, he found that amputees took, on average, 21 days to adjust to the loss of a limb. He argued that people take 21 days to adjust to any major life changes. Some would argue that how long it takes for a habit to become truly automatic also depends on the difficulty of the habit.
My personal experience and the real-world results I’ve seen working with hundreds of coaching clients has led me to the conclusion that you can change any habit in 30 days, if you have the right strategy. The problem is, most people don’t have any strategy, let alone the right one. So, year after year, they lose confidence in themselves and their ability to improve, as failed attempt after failed attempt piles up and knocks them down. Something has to change.
How can you become a master of your habits? How can you take complete control of your life—and your future—by learning how to identify, implement, and sustain any positive habit you want, and permanently remove any negative habit? You’re about to learn the right strategy, one most people know nothing about.
One of the biggest obstacles preventing most people from implementing and sustaining positive habits is that they don’t have the right strategy. They don’t know what to expect and aren’t prepared to overcome the mental and emotional challenges that are part of the process of implementing any new habit.
We’ll start by dividing the 30-day time frame necessary to implement a positive new habit (or get rid of an old, negative habit) into three 10-day phases. Each of these phases presents a different set of emotional challenges and mental roadblocks to sticking with the new habit. Since the average person is not aware of these challenges and roadblocks, when they face them, they give up because they don’t know what to do to overcome them.
[Days 1-10] Phase One: Unbearable
The first 10 days of implementing any new habit, or ridding yourself of any old habit, can feel almost unbearable. Although the first few days can be easy, and even exciting—because it’s something new—as soon as the newness wears off, reality sets in. You hate it.
It’s painful. It’s not fun anymore. Every fiber of your being tends to resist and reject the change. Your mind rejects it and you think: I hate this. Your body resists it and tells you: I don’t like how this feels. If your new habit is waking up early (which might be a useful one to get started on, now), during the first 10 days your experience might be something like this: [The alarm clock sounds] Oh God, it’s morning already! I don’t want to get up. I’m soooo tired. I need more sleep. Okay, just 10 more minutes. [Hit snooze button]
The problem for most people is that they don’t realize that this seemingly unbearable first 10 days is only “temporary.” Instead, they think it’s the way the new habit feels, and will always feel, telling themselves: If the new habit is this painful, forget it—it’s not worth it.
As a result, 95% of our society—the mediocre majority—fail, time and time again, to start exercise routines, quit smoking, improve their diets, stick to a budget, or any other habit that would improve their quality of life.
Here’s where you have an advantage over the other 95%. See, when you are prepared for these first 10 days, when you know that it is the price you pay for success, that the first 10 days will be challenging but they’re also temporary, you can beat the odds and succeed! If the benefits are great enough, we can do anything for 10 days, right?
So, the first 10 days of implementing any new habit aren’t a picnic. You’ll defy it. You might even hate it at times. But you can do it. Especially considering, it only gets easier from here, and the reward is, oh—just the ability to create everything you want for your life.
[Days 11-20] Phase Two: Uncomfortable
After you get through the first 10 days—the most difficult 10
days—you begin the 2nd 10-day phase, which is considerably easier.
You will be getting used to your new habit. You will also have developed some confidence and positive associations to the benefits of your habit.
While days 11-20 are not unbearable, they are still uncomfortable and will require discipline and commitment on your part. At this stage it will still be tempting to fall back to your old behaviors. Referencing the example of waking up early as your new habit, it will still be easier to sleep in because you’ve done it for so long. Stay committed. You’ve already gone from Unbearable to Uncomfortable, and you’re about to find out what it feels like to be UNSTOPPABLE.
[Days 21-30] Phase Three: Unstoppable
When you enter the final 10 days—the home stretch—the few people that make it this far almost always make a detrimental mistake: adhering to the popular advice from the many experts who claim it only takes 21 days to form a new habit.
Those experts are partly correct. It does take 21 days—the first two phases—to form a new habit. But the third 10-day phase is crucial to sustaining your new habit, long term. The final 10 days is where you positively reinforce and associate pleasure with your new habit.
You’ve been primarily associating pain and discomfort with it during the first 20 days. Instead of hating and resisting your new habit, you start feeling proud of yourself for making it this far.
Phase Three is also where the actual transformation occurs, as your new habit becomes part of your identity. It transcends the space between something you’re trying and who you’re becoming. You start to see yourself as someone who lives the habit.
Back to our example of waking up early: you go from having an identity that says I am not a “morning person” to I am a morning person! Instead of dreading your alarm clock in the morning, now when the alarm goes off you are excited to wake up and get going because you’ve done it for over 20 days in a row. You’re starting to see and feel the benefits.
Too many people get overly confident, pat themselves on the back and think: I’ve done it for 20 days so I’m just going to take a few days off. The problem is that those first twenty days are the most challenging part of the process. Taking a few days off before you’ve invested the necessary time into positively reinforcing the habit makes it difficult to get back on. It’s days 21-30 where you really start enjoying the habit, which is what will make you continue it in the future.
But I Hate Running
“I’m not a runner though, Jon. In fact, I hate running. There’s no way I could do it.”
“Come on, Hal—it’s to raise money for the Front Row Foundation,” Jon Berghoff responded. “Look, I didn’t think I could do a marathon either, but once you commit to it, you’ll find a way to make it happen. And I’m telling you, it is truly a life changing experience!”
“I’ll think about it.”
Telling Jon I would think about it was really just my way of getting him off my back. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believed in and supported the life-changing work done by the Front Row Foundation. I had been donating money to the organization for years, but writing a check was a little easier than running a marathon. Unless I was being chased, I hadn’t intentionally run so much as a block in the 10 years since I graduated high school. And even back then I only ran to keep from failing PE class. Besides, ever since breaking my femur and pelvis in the car accident, back when I was 20, I was always afraid of what might happen if I put too much pressure on my leg. In fact, every time I went snow skiing, I couldn’t help but have visions of me tripping and taking a hard fall, then having the metal rod in my leg break through the skin of my thigh. It’s a gruesome thought, but breaking your limbs and being told you may never walk again can do that to you.
A week later after my conversation with Jon, one of my coaching clients—Katie Fingerhut—completed her second marathon. “Hal, it’s so amazing… I feel like I can do anything now!”
Between Jon and Katie’s enthusiastic testimonies for marathon running, I was starting to think maybe it was time for me to overcome my limiting belief about not being a runner, and just start running.
Like everything else in life, if they could do it, then so could I. So I did.
The next morning, intent on completing my first mile on my journey to completing a marathon, I put on my basketball shoes (sound familiar?) and headed out the front door of my house. I was actually looking forward to it! (Remember, the first few days of any new habit are often exciting.)
Down the driveway I hustled, motivated and inspired. Onto the sidewalk I ran. As I stepped from the sidewalk to the street, my ankle twisted on the curb and I collapsed. Lying on the pavement, writhing in pain and gripping my ankle, I thought to myself, everything happens for a reason, so I guess today wasn’t the day for me to start running… I’ll try again tomorrow. So I did.
30 Days: “From Unbearable To Unstoppable”
That next day I officially began my marathon training. My excitement only lasted for a few blocks, as the physical pain began to remind me of what I believed for so long: I am not a runner. My hips ached. My femur was sore. But I was committed.
I completed my first painful mile, but I realized I needed help—I needed a plan. I drove to the bookstore and purchased the perfect book for me: The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, by David Whitsett. Now I had a plan.
The first 10 days of running were both physically painful and mentally challenging. Every single day, I fought a constant battle in my head with the voice of mediocrity, telling me it was okay to quit.
But it wasn’t.
Do what’s right, not what’s easy , I reminded myself. I kept running. I was committed.
Days 11-20 were only slightly less painful. I still didn’t like running, but I didn’t really hate it anymore. For the first time in my life, I was forming the habit of running every day. It was no longer this scary thing I only watched other people doing on the sidewalk while I was driving my car. After nearly two weeks of daily running, it was starting to feel normal for me to wake up every day, and just go for a run. I remained committed.
Days 21-30 were almost enjoyable. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to hate running. I was doing it without much thought. I just woke up, put on my running shoes (yes, I had invested in a pair), and logged my miles each day. The mental battle was gone, replaced with reciting positive affirmations or listening to self-improvement audios while I ran. In just 30 days, I had overcome my limiting belief that I couldn’t run. I was becoming what I would have never imagined in a million years… I was becoming a runner.
The Rest of the Story: “52 Miles To Freedom”
Just 30 days after beginning the habit of running—something that had been so foreign and unpleasant to me for my entire life—I had completed 50 miles, culminating in my first 6-mile run. I called Jon to celebrate. He was excited for me, and always looking to help me raise my own standards, he presented me with a challenge. Jon knew me well enough to know that in the peak emotional state I was in, I would likely accept any challenge. “Hal, why don’t you run an ultra-marathon? If you’re going to run 26 miles, you might as well run 52.” Only Jon would suggest such logic.
“I’ll think about it.”
This time, when I told Jon I would think about it, I actually meant it. I was intrigued by the idea of pushing myself even further and running 52 consecutive miles. Maybe Jon was right. If I was going to run 26, I might as well run 52. I mean, shoot, if I could go from running zero miles to being able to run 6 consecutive miles in just four weeks, and I still had six months until the Front Row Foundation’s annual Run for the Front charity run, why not set the bar a little higher and go for 52? So I did. I was even somehow able to convince a friend and two of my brave coaching clients to do it with me!
Six months later I had logged 475 miles, including three 20-mile runs, and had traveled across the country to meet with two of my favorite coaching clients James Hill and Favian Valencia, and long time friend, Alicia Anderer, so the four of us could attempt to run 52
miles during the Atlantic City Marathon. Jon even flew out to show his support. There was just one logistical challenge though: Atlantic City wasn’t set up for any “ultra” marathon runners. So, we improvised.
We met on the Boardwalk at 3:30am. Our goal was to finish our first 26 miles before the official marathon began, then complete the second half with the regular marathon runners. The moment was surreal. The energy between the four of us was a blend of excitement, fear, adrenaline and disbelief. Were we really going to do this?!
We might have been able to see our breath in the chill October air had the moonlight been brighter. Nevertheless, our path was well enough lit, and so we began. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time, we moved forward. We all agreed that was the key to our success that day—keep moving forward. So long as we didn’t stop putting one foot in front of the other, as long as we kept moving forward, we would eventually reach our destination.
Six hours and five minutes later, largely due to the collective support and accountability of our group working together as one unit, we completed our first 26 miles. This was a defining moment for each of us. Not because of the twenty-six miles we had behind us, but because of the mental fortitude it was going to take to get ourselves to run the twenty-six miles we had ahead of us.
The excitement which permeated every fiber of our being just six hours earlier had been replaced with excruciating pain, fatigue, and mental exhaustion. Considering the physical and mental state we were in, we just didn’t know if we had it in us to duplicate what we had just done. But we did.
A total of 15 ½ hours from the time we started, James, Favian, Alicia, and I completed our 52-mile quest… together. One foot in front of the other, and one-step at a time, we ran, jogged, walked, limped and literally crawled across the finish line.
On the other side of that line was freedom—the kind of freedom that can never be taken away from you. It was freedom from our self-imposed limitations. Although through our training we had grown to believe that running 52 consecutive miles was possible, none of us really believed in our heart of hearts that it was probable. As individuals, each of us struggled with our own fear and self-doubt.
But the moment we crossed that finish line, we had given ourselves the gift of freedom from our fears, our self-doubt, and our self-imposed limitations.
It was in that moment I realized that this is a gift of freedom not reserved for the chosen few, but one that is available to each and every one of us the moment we make the choice to take on challenges that are out of our comfort zone, forcing us to grow, to expand our capacity, to be and do more than we have been and done in the past.
This is true freedom.
Are You Ready for True Freedom?
The Miracle Morning 30-Day Life Transformation Challenge (in the next chapter) will enable you to overcome your own self-imposed limitations so you can be, do, and have everything you want in your life, faster than you ever thought possible. The Miracle Morning is a life-changing daily habit, and while most people who try it, love it from day one, getting yourself to follow through with it for 30 days—
so you can make it a lifelong habit—will require an unwavering commitment from you.
On the other side of the next 30 days is you—becoming the person you need to be to create everything you’ve ever wanted for your life. Seriously, what could be more exciting than that?