Every morning, I have an egg in a hole.

That’s a wholesome breakfast food, friend. Cut a hole in a slice of bread, slap it down on a cast iron skillet sizzling with butter, and fry an egg in the hole.  Fruit jam on the cut out piece, plus coffee, and that’s all of the  basic food groups (being: protein, grains, fruits & vegetables, coffee, and butter) in 3 minutes. I do it out of habit.

In Michael Lewis’s Vanity Fair article about Obama, here is our President talking about how important habits are to presidential life:

‘You have to exercise,’ he said, for instance. ‘Or at some point you’ll just break down.’ You need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. ‘You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,’ he said.’ I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.’ He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. ‘You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.’

Unlike Obama, I don’t have to make decisions each day about which Republican congressman to lean on to keep the country from going over the fiscal cliff, or where to send the next illegal, deadly drone strike.  But like Obama, I know that it takes cognitive resources – brain energy – to make conscious decisions, while unconscious decisions require no such expenditure of energy, and so I try to do as many of the mundane day-to-day things as possible out of habit. Obama does it because he has really important decisions to make. I do it because habits make me efficient, and being efficient means I have more time to do important things like think up the next queerfit workout.

NYTimes reporter Charles Duhigg plowed through a mountain of scientific papers and studies to learn everything he could about the science of habit formation (and of habit change). From that, he wrote a bestseller. The Power of Habit is a smart, serious book filled with talk about neurons and cognitive science, and is adamantly not a self-help book with a glib how-to list of, say, Five Steps to Making Good New Habits.  But really now, there’s nothing wrong with a list. The ponderous grandfather of psychology William James wasn’t above making lists – here in the fabulous Brainpickings.org is his three maxims for the formation of new habits – so I’m here going to do what Duhigg didn’t want to do and give you…

Five Steps to Making Good New Habits:  

1. Create a habit loop. This is Duhigg’s main insight. The loop goes like this: environmental cue → behavioral routine → reward. Simple, yes? The environmental cue can be anything. I tell folks to put their workout clothes by their bed and their shoes by the door so that come Saturday morning, you don’t think about it. What you’re doing is making it so that getting to queerfit is part a behavioral routine. You put on your clothes .You eat or don’t eat breakfast. You run or drive or bike to queerfit. You stretch. You’re golden.

As for the reward part of the loop, do not reward yourself with an ice cream cone after doing queerfit. This would be counterproductive. Also, you might throw up. Rewarding yourself with an Arden’s garden and a book from Charis is OK. Even better would be to make it so that the workout itself is the reward. This requires a little self-psych-ops. That point in the workout where you think maybe someone has ripped your leg open and poured Sriracha sauce down your thighs? That’s a very, very good moment. That’ s money. That’s the reward in the habit loop you’re trying to build.

All the good things that may result from working out consistently may be goals, but they’re too remote to work as rewards in the environmental cue → behavioral routine → reward habit loop. This is why there’s a ton of positive self talk happening during the workout. We’re helping you build your habit loop. Also, to keep you from throwing up.

2. Find the things that, if changed, will cause a cascade of other changes. People who start exercising, or who significantly bump up the intensity, tend to make a whole series of other changes pretty soon after.  They eat better, quit smoking, take more breaks during the day to stretch and move around.  It’s not because they’ve consciously decided to eat better, etc. (though they may have); it’s because their bodies demand it.  It’s a very good cascade.

3. Change the norm. This can happen on the individual level, but it’s more likely to stick when you can change the norm of an entire group. Take seat belts. Hardly anyone buckled up in 1984. Then there came this slew of ads telling you to buckle up, cops started enforcing seatbelt laws, and the norm shifted. Today, over 85% of us buckle up when we get in a car.

A big part of what makes queerfit work is being with a group of people who expect you to be strong as an ox, even if you’re not yet.

4. Practice, practice, practice. Then practice some more. To be a Buddhist, you don’t just read doctrine. You practice. To be a trumpet player, you don’t just listen to Miles Davis and drink hard liquor. You practice. To be a sexy beast, you don’t just read the queerfit blog. You go to queerfit. What you’re doing when you practice is making some things automatic. Then you don’t have to think about those things, and can pay attention to other things – preferably, the details of what you’re doing that will make you better at what you’re doing.

5. Start. Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan has lasted for a quarter century, I think, because so many people want to just do it, but don’t. So they want to believe that buying a pair of shoes will help. They won’t.

That’s because not doing something is just as much a habit as anything else, and old habits are hard to break. William James had this to say about starting a new habit:

New habits can be launched…on condition of there being new stimuli and new excitements. Now life abounds in these, and sometimes they are such critical and revolutionary experiences that they change a man’s whole scale of values and system of ideas. In such cases, the old order of his habits will be ruptured; and, if the new motives are lasting, new habits will be formed, and build up in him a new or regenerate ‘nature.’

So if buying a new pair of shoes is super exciting to you, knock yourself out, buy the shoes. It can be part of the “new stimuli and new excitements” that gets you going. But in and of itself, a new pair of shoes is probably not going to be the kind of “critical and revolutionary experience” that will change your life.

For that, there’s queerfit. More from William James:

The acquisition of a new habit, or the leaving off of an old one, we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided an initiative as possible. Accumulate all the possible circumstances which shall reenforce the right motives; put yourself assiduously in conditions that encourage the new way; make engagements incompatible with the old; take a public pledge, if the case allows; in short, envelop your resolution with every aid you know.

That’s queerfit. We are here to reinforce your right motives, to encourage, to make your pledge public, to envelop your resolution.

10:00 in the little park on Euclid Ave., just north of the Inman Park/Reyoldstown MARTA station. Put your shoes by the door and see you tomorrow, you would-be sexy beasts!