We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle
We all know that to get really good at something, you have to do it a lot. As Aristotle noted, we are what we do. Do you play hard at practice everyday? Do you eat healthy to support your work on the field and in the gym? Do you put in extra hours when it comes to shooting, fitness and footwork?
These are questions you have to ask yourself, since you are what you repeatedly do. If you want to be a fit, healthy, elite soccer player, then you need to do things repeatedly that will get you there. You need to build the habits of an elite footballer if you want to be an elite footballer.
Well building habits are hard. Everyone who has every had a goal in life knows it. Anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution knows it.
I’ve failed at getting habits to stick. I’ve failed enough times to where I finally learnt how to build long-lasting ones. I’m here with three easy tips for you to start on the path to the player you want to be.
So here they are, the keys to building lasting habits.
Making drastic changes in your life seems, from a common sense point of view, to be the easiest way to change the way your life turns out. All soccer players are guilty of this. For me, it was always after watching a big game, especially played in a style that I liked. I would watch it, then come up with a major plan to overhaul my training and become the best I could be.
This isn’t the right way to do it!
We don’t get anywhere with drastic changes. We have too much to focus on, the hill is extremely steep to climb, and often you know that it is a drastic plan.
Small is the way to go. Instead of saying I’m going to start everything today that will make me a better player, why not take a month to build one solid habit that will put you in the right direction.
Think about this for you game. Instead of saying you need to, become better at everything else all at once, just start building the habit of giving it your all, day-in and day-out. It seems simple, almost too simple. But it’s not.
If you start with a small change, such as giving 100% in every practice and fitness and lifting session, then you will begin to get way more out of practice. You will be making bigger gains, which will add up over time.
You work ethic is completely under your control, so if you begin with a small change of making the most of it, then you will always be giving it your all. What if every night before bed, you thought back on practice, and wrote down in a notebook, if you gave 100% towards your goal. That should be your first step. Did you give 100% today? And you are the only person to look at the notebook. So, if you lie, then you’re only cheating yourself.
When it comes to diet, where can you start with one small change? Do you eat candy everyday? Well why not only eat candy one day a week?
A habit is something you do naturally. It is hard to do something naturally if you rarely do it. Above I talked about writing in a notebook if you gave 100% at practice that day. This is a good way to start getting daily repetition.
If you begin to do something towards making yourself a better player, it gets easier the more you do it. In high school, I began waking up 6am to get in a run before school. It was terrible to start. I hated it, and I had to pull tricks on myself like putting my phone across the room or having multiple alarms. But I eventually got up at 6 for a week straight. Then eventually 2 weeks. Then next thing I knew, I was not even thinking about it.
I had done it so many days in a row, I no longer thought about it. It became a habit.
Writing in a notebook daily is a good way to get daily repetition. I would also recommend checking out Lift, it is an app designed with plans to help you build a habit, simply through daily repetition (don’t worry, an Optimal Soccer plan is in the works).
An extra tip, is that triggers connect habits. What this means it that usually there is something to “set off” your habits. What is the first thing you do when you get to practice and get your cleats on? Is it goof around with friends until the coach calls you in, or is it working on juggling, footwork or getting an extra warm-up in to improve your performance and prevent injury?
Getting to practice and getting your cleats on could be a trigger for any habit, whether it is constructive towards you being a better player or not is up to you.
LIE TO YOURSELF
I really like this tip and just came across it in this ted.com talk here. This social psychologist, who studies body language and its effect on our minds, figured out that we can trick ourselves into truly believing certain things. One example she uses is standing in a “power stance”, where you try to take up as much a space as possible. Doing this simple thing actually made changes to people’s perception of themselves and of their circumstance. They gained confidence and a sense of control over the situation.
This is awesome. Especially for soccer players who participate in a sport where confidence and being in control are a couple of the best attributes you can have.
Where this comes back to forming a habit, is that she realized that if you continuously “trick” yourself, then you eventually become the person you are “tricking” yourself to become. This means that although you will feel like a poser starting out, like you don’t belong in the starting line-up, or that you’re new to being a healthy eater, you will eventually fully be and feel like a starter, and like someone who is very healthy.
Making changes and building new habits will make you feel uncomfortable, and possible insecure. However, if you continuously lie to yourself and trick yourself, you will become the person you want to.
Don’t fake it until you make it, fake it until you become it.
So lets recap these tips, and come up with a simple plan right now for you to begin to change your life.
- Pick something small. Honestly, pick a small step towards a larger goal you’d like right now. I’ll wait
- Come up with a system for you to check yourself on doing this daily. A calendar, Lift, notebook or a daily recap with a friend. Also, find a trigger that you naturally do everyday to help you. Put the calendar in the bathroom and check off everyday while you brush your teeth? Something like that will work great. Go set up the system now.
- Now lie to yourself. Every time your goal pops in your head, literally tell yourself, “I work hard at every practice”. Honestly, this will work. Convince yourself that you are that person. Tell yourself every time you’re making a food decision, “I eat healthy”.
So there, you have it. Three simple tips to build life long habits. If you listened to me, you should be set up for success right now.
And remember the key is to start small. So, focus on only one habit for this month. Then once that becomes a habit, start working on another one. Eventually, you will have built up so many, long-lasting, excellent habits, that you will be excellent.
Keep working hard,
Casey, Head Trainer at Optimal Soccer