You may be educated, experienced, and give great advice — but giving advice isn’t enough.
To be a life-changing fitness pro, you need to take responsibility for both the advice you offer, and your client’s ability to follow that advice. Yes, even those “difficult clients.” The ones other fitness professionals tell you to fire.
Here at Precision Nutrition, we don’t fire our clients. We take a completely different approach.
In this 4 part video series – filmed live at the 2011 Perform Better Summit in Long Beach, California – we’ll share that approach with you. And, by the end of the series, you’ll be better equipped to get unbelievable results with every type of client you work with. Even the challenging ones.
In part 2 of this video series we presented the first of four lessons to help you better apply the principles of change psychology. That lesson? Coach to both sides of the brain.
Today we’ll discuss the next lesson…
Lesson #2: Only one new habit at a time.
Arguably the most important principle of change psychology is this one: Give clients only one new habit at a time.
One of my favorite books, The Power of Less, shows how you can accomplish more by doing less. Author Leo Babauta shares these interesting data:
- Adopting one new habit at a time results in an 85% chance of success
- Adopting two new habits at once: a 35% chance of success
- Adopting three or more new habits at once: less than 10% chance of success
Now think of how many habits are required when we tell clients to “eat right and exercise regularly?” Grocery shopping, cooking, joining a gym, learning new exercises, drinking more water, getting to bed earlier… it’s literally hundreds of new habits!
Sure, the type-A clients — the ones fitness professionals often pray for — can handle all those new habits, at least for a little while. But those driven, type-A people are rare. Plus, let’s face it: They’ll get in shape anyway, with or without our help.
So let’s quit praying for the type-A clients who rarely need our help anyway. Let’s start learning how to help everyone else. These are the clients that need us the most. These are the clients whose transformations are the most meaningful and hard-won.
And the way to help these clients is to focus on one habit at a time.
However, just limiting your advice to one habit isn’t enough. The habits you recommend must be small and manageable.
Here’s an example from my life. When I decided to learn to play the guitar, I told myself that I had to play just five minutes a day, when I was putting my daughter down for the night (she loves music).
Five minutes isn’t a lot of time, yet by making it easy on myself, I found that there were nights when I’d play for an hour, even two. But had I promised to play an hour a day every day, I never would’ve even started.
Our clients do the same thing with all the information we give them. They get overwhelmed and think “Well, I can’t go to the gym, so I might as well do nothing” when 50 air-squats and some stretching would’ve been acceptable.
In addition to small and manageable, habits should be clearly defined and easy to measure. Again, when I was learning guitar, my goal wasn’t to play a little bit every day but to “play five minutes every day.”
So while “eat more veggies” is good advice, “eat two servings of veggies a day” is far better. While “exercise daily” is good advice, “do 15 minutes of exercise a day” is a superior approach.
Another important key is to assess confidence. Rather than just giving your client a habit to do, what if you asked them whether they felt like they could actually follow your advice?
If the goal is to eat more veggies, you might ask, “On a scale of 0-10, how confident are you that you can eat two servings of veggies a day?”
If the answer is 9, we know we’re on the right track. If it’s 2 or 3, then we scale our recommendations back until the client is more comfortable and can answer 9 or 10 out of 10.
Sure, sometimes you’ll have to scale it back until the habit seems ridiculously small — to you. However, this isn’t about you. It’s about your client and what they can manage in their life at the present time.
Even if the small habit won’t change everything starting today, it creates — and more importantly, maintains — momentum and gives us something to build on in our coaching relationship.
After all, we teach complicated exercises like the squat or snatch by breaking them up into smaller chunks, right? It’s called a progression. Well, we have to do the same with nutrition.
Wrap-up and today’s takeaways
That’s it for part 3 of The Compliance Solution.
For now, here are some key points.
- Giving clients one new habit a time works much better than trying to give them complicated systems to apply and multiple habits to perform.
- Each habit should be small enough to be done every day. And clear enough that your client knows whether s/he was successful.
- Each habit should be small, and the client should be confident that they can do it. If they can’t answer 9 or 10 out of 10 on the confidence scale, start smaller and build as confidence grows.
If you’re a coach, or you want to be…
You can help people build sustainable nutrition and lifestyle habits that will significantly improve their physical and mental health—while you make a great living doing what you love. We'll show you how.
If you’d like to learn more, consider the PN Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification.