Darleen Barnard is board certified health coach and personal trainer who specializes in weight loss by using the power of the mind.
The Compound Effect: Book Review
When I started my business years ago, my mentor gave me Darren Hardy’s book, “The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success” as my first reading assignment. It is an easy read with lots of great stories that are relevant in so many areas of our life. Her intent at the time was to remind me that it is the small, insignificant things that we do day in and day out in our business that creates massive results; however, as the years have progressed and I have coached more and more clients in weight loss, exercise, and healthy eating habits, I am constantly reminded of Hardy’s principles and how they apply to health and wellness as well. This book is a life changer which is why I decided to take the time to write The Compound Effect: Book Review.
The underlying principle of The Compound Effect is “Little, everyday decisions will either take you to the life you desire or to disaster by default”. Sure, we have all heard of that one big break, but for most of us, it is the little things we do every day that build up over time that are going to make or break us.
One bacon double cheeseburger is not going to make us fat or give us an instant heart attack – if it did, I highly doubt any of us would eat them. On the flip side, exercising for 30 minutes one time is not going to give us the body and fitness level we desire; otherwise, none of us would have any trouble doing it every day if we saw the immediate results.
The problem is, most of us are impatient and we don’t stick around long enough to realize the positive effects of eating health or exercising over the long run. Or even worse, we wake up one morning and wonder how we gained 30 pounds and why we are so short of breath when we go up a flight of stairs.
When we apply Hardy’s principles to weight loss, he provides a similar formula for success that I teach to all of my clients. So, let’s review them now.
Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = RADICAL DIFFERENCE
It’s the small, decisions we make every day when consistently done every day over time that will help us achieve our goals.
Habits develop over time based on the choices we make every single day. Hardy states, “You make your choices, and then your choices make you…Your biggest challenge is that you’ve been sleepwalking through your choices….Nobody intends to become obese, but often, those consequences are the result of a series of small, poor choices…You inhale a soda and bag of potato chips and suddenly realize you blew an entire day of healthy eating-and you weren’t even hungry.”
We are all responsible for the choices we make. Own it. Be accountable. Raise your awareness. Nobody made you eat a sleeve of cookies while you were watching TV. Nobody made you drive past the gym after work.
Hardy recommends the best way to raise your awareness is to track it. Again, one of the first things I do with my weight loss clients. As boring and unsexy as it sounds, we need to start tracking everything we eat. All of my clients will confirm that it works. Sometimes it is painful to see in black and white, but seeing how many calories we consume in day gives most of us the wake-up call that we need. Once we are aware of our daily choices, we can start to change our habits to improve our consistency. For other choices that you make daily, create a spreadsheet and track those things that are important to you that are going to help you reach your goals. Hardy offers other suggestions in his book as well.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Habits will take over our life. Habits are the things that we do on autopilot without even thinking about it. We get behind the steering wheel and buckle our seatbelt without thinking. We walk into the kitchen and open the pantry door or the refrigerator door without thinking. We don’t know what we are looking for, but we have developed a habit of walking to the door and opening it without even thinking.
Studies show that 95% of everything we think, feel, or do is the result of a habit. Humans are creatures of habit. Habits free up on conscious mind to do or think about other things. We can get more done thanks to habits. How we eat and how often we exercise is also a habit.
We can develop a habit of eating a healthy meal we enjoy just as easily as we developed that habit to eat an unhealthy meal. And we all know that how much we weigh next year at this time will be very different if we have a habit of eating a salad every day at lunch vs a pizza. As Hardy states, “A daily routine built on good habits is the difference that separates the most successful amongst us from everyone else.”
Hardy teaches us that first, we need to unlearn the bad habits that aren’t serving us well.
1. Think your way out of the instant gratification trap
Hardy bets, “If you took a bite of a Big Mac and immediately fell to the ground clutching your chest from a heart attack, you might not go back for a second bite.”
Be aware of the long term consequences of the choices you make today
2. Find you Why-Power
Recognize that willpower alone will not be enough to change your habits. Find your underlying motivation by identifying your purpose and your values. This will ignite your passion and fuel your persistence. WHY do you want to lose weight? To be able to run and play with your kids? Be around for your grandkids? It has to go deeper than just being a size smaller or to “look better”. How will losing weight or being healthier improve your happiness and fulfillment?
3. Create Goals
Without goals, we wander aimlessly through life - we go with the flow and we aren’t sure where we will end up one year from now. We need goals to give our brain something to focus on and when we do that, we give our life direction. We start living with a purpose and an intention.
After we unlearn the bad habits, we need to learn new good habits.
1. Identify Triggers
Look at the bad habits you want to break and identify what Hardy calls the “Big 4” – Who, what, where, and when? Who are you with, what are you doing, where are you, and when do you usually perform those bad habits?
2. Clean House
Change your environment and remove as much of the temptation as possible. Do a “pantry raid” and clean out all the junk food. You can’t eat it if it isn’t there and you probably won’t go through the trouble of driving to the store to get more.
3. Swap It
Replace the bad habits with something else. Instead of drinking a diet coke, drink seltzer water. Instead of snacking on potato chips, snack on carrots.
4. Ease In
Start small. If you currently eat ice cream every day, start by decreasing your serving size. Then only eat it every other day. Then every three days. Then once a week.
5. Or Jump In
Some people actually do better going all in. If that is you, give up your ice cream cold turkey. Most people are more successful easing in, but be aware of your own tendencies.
Hardy then offers 6 Techniques for Maintaining your Good Habits.
1. Set Yourself Up for Success
Plan ahead. Instead of having junk food to snack on, have a healthy alternative for snacking.
2. Think Addition, Not Subtraction
Focus on what you can eat, not what you can’t.
3. Public Display of Accountability (PDA)
Tell other people what you are going to do to hold yourself accountable.
4. Find a Success Buddy
When your motivation is low, you will be more likely to follow through if someone else is counting on you
5. Competition and Comaraderie
Make a friendly competition like a step challenge at work to get in more steps every day
Don’t forget to celebrate and reward yourself for your success
Hardy gets excited when he shares that this (which he calls the “Big Mo”) is where the magic happens! Just like priming a pump, it takes a lot of effort to get that first drop of water; however, once the water starts flowing, it takes less effort. He states that our old habits or old condition is like the pull of gravity when we are trying to pull that water to the surface, but once we get a little momentum and start to break those habits and replace them with new habits, we will be unstoppable.
The problem is that most of us stop before we start to see the results of all of that extra effort in the beginning, or we only get a few drops of water from the well in the beginning and we get frustrated because we only see a small result after a lot of effort. We quit too soon.
Hardy shares that momentum begins when we:
- Make new choices based on our goals and values
- Begin new positive behaviors based on those choices
- Repeat the behaviors frequently to create establish new habits
- Build routines and rhythms daily
- Stay consistent
Routines are those things that we do daily without fail – like brushing our teeth. Just like habits, routines make our actions automatic so we don’t need to think about them. We can either have routines that work for us or against us. If we sit on the couch 5 nights per week for 4 hours a night and eat potato chips, that is a routine. The more challenging our goal, the more rigorous our routine will need to be. If we want to lose weight, we could go for a walk every night after dinner with a friend or family member to hear about their day instead of sitting on the couch, mindlessly eating. We can replace one routine that is moving us away from our goals with a new routine that moves us towards our goals.
Hardy also discusses a practice he calls bookending your day, which I have done for years, and I can tell you it works!! Since we don’t have a lot of control over what happens throughout the day, the one thing we do have more control over is the beginning and the end. Both Hardy and I get up early in the morning and we have routines that we do daily during that first hour or two. We also have a routine that we follow for an hour before we go to bed every night. Our morning and evening routines align with our goals. He then offers suggestions, worksheets and trackers to help us get setup to log our progress. By bookending our day, we just added an extra 3-4 hours per day to do activities that move us toward our goals.
Finally, he reminds us of the basic principle of the book, consistency, and why constantly starting and stopping and re-starting works against us. Nothing disrupts building momentum like constantly having to start again and again. Just like our car gets better gas mileage on the highway after we are rolling vs driving in the city, if we want to enjoy the benefits of momentum, we can’t keep putting on the brakes. We must keep rolling.
The last few chapters of Hardy’s book provide strategies to deal with outside influences that sabotage our best intentions as well as how to create even greater acceleration, but I will stop here.
The basic idea behind The Compound Effect is consistency!! Habits and routines will determine our future success or lack of success. It is the small things that we do every single day that will determine where we are one year from now.
As it relates to your health and wellness goals, I challenge you to take a few minutes right now and write down all of the things that you do every single day, or almost every day. Write down everything from watching TV, to brushing your teeth, to drinking coffee, to eating certain foods. Now, think about where you want to be one year from now. Are all of those things you just listed going to get you to your goal? Cross out the ones that are not moving you toward your goal and start using the principles in this book to stop those habits and start creating new habits. Buy this book and dig deeper and use the dozens of worksheets that Hardy provides to put a plan in place. One year from now, you will be glad you did – enjoy the journey!
© 2018 Darleen Barnard