Habit Mastery, Weight Loss, & the Secrets of Success w/ Alexander Heyne
I’m joined today by Alex Heyne, the founder of Modern Health Monk and author of the book Master The Day: Eat, Move and Live Better With The Power of Tiny Habits.
Given my recent interest and deep dive into the world of habits, I was really excited to interview today’s guest.
In the episode, we talk about how to create and modify habits, through the lens of someone who has spent years working with people in the weight loss community. It's a great episode, with lots of wisdom to share, and I think you're going to really enjoy it!
In this episode, we discuss:
- Alexander Heyne's “habit journey,” and how he honed in on the secret to creating habits
- Why are habits such an important part of success in anything and everything?
- How does one actually create and modify habits, and why do most of us suck at it?
- “Linear thinking,” and how too many people try to apply it to the accomplishment of their goals
- What are the “inner aspects” of success, taken from the example of weight loss?
- The importance and power of inner dialogue and properly defining your personal narrative
- What is the big idea behind Alexander Heyne's book, compared with other popular books on habits?
- Practical advice for implementing 3-5 new habits TODAY!
- How long until a habit actually becomes second nature?
- What are the 3-5 most impactful habits that Alexander Heyne would recommend you try out?
- What is “The Handshake Technique,” and how can it instantly implement a habit in your life?
- How affirmations changed the life of one absolute top performer
- What is one good habit and one bad habit that Alexander Heyne has changed?
- Some powerful insights into happiness and success from the heart
- Where does Alexander Heyne get inspiration?
- How did Alex pull himself out of a rut of depression and find his calling?
- A special 2 hour bonus video offer for those of you who buy Alex's book on Amazon!
- What is the #1 takeaway Alex would like you to take away from this episode?
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Modern Health Monk – Alex's Blog
- Master The Day: Eat, Move and Live Better With The Power of Tiny Habits
- Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (and our previous episode with her)
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- Coach Brian Grasso
- Erin Stutland
- My new course, Creating a Meaningful Life
- The Pomodoro Technique
- Ginger Tea Crystals
- Portable Water Boiler
- Yerba Mate Tea
- Mastery by Robert Greene
- Jack Canfield and his many books
- Milk The Pigeon, Alex's other blog
Favorite Quotes from Alex Heyne:
Introduction: Welcome to the Becoming SuperHuman Podcast. Where we interview extraordinary people to bring you the skills and strategies to overcome the impossible. And now here's your host, Jonathan Levi.
Jonathan Levi: Before we get started today, I want to let you guys know that this episode is brought to you by the online course, Creating A Meaningful Life. Now, this course is the culmination of 20 years of work and research by my personal mentor and University Professor, Linda Levine, and myself. Now in it, we teach not only the skills and strategies that we've used and taught and which are being used by life coaches all over the world to create a life of fulfillment and balance.
But we also go into how you can design your lifestyle, how you can improve in every aspect, all eight of the aspects that make a complete and rich life. And really we share a lot of our wisdom. So if you've been inspired by the show, by some of the guests on here who seem to have these incredibly rich fulfilling lives, I do encourage you to check it out. And of course, it is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. So to take advantage of a special coupon for listeners of this podcast, visit jle.vi/meaning.
All right, here we go with the show.
Greeting, SuperFriends, and welcome to this week's show. Before we get started, I want to read you guys a review from Thing Of Darkness from Australia who says, “Fantastic love this podcast. Great content, interesting guests and good depth without being too long”.
I find that to be a fantastic review and I really do appreciate it. So if you can take a moment and leave a review, I will make sure to read it on this show.
On to today's guest. My guest today, is the founder of Modern Health Monk. And he's actually the author of a book called Master The Day: Eat, Move and Live Better With The Power of Tiny Habits.
Now, if you guys have been listening to the show or know me from any of my work, you know, that I'm really, really interested in habits because I believe. As you've probably heard me say before that they are the secret to incrementally working your way towards being a better all-around person.
Now, in this episode, we talk about all different kinds of things relating to habits. We talk about habits themselves. We talk about which ones you should implement. We talk about some different thought leaders and gurus and how they approach creating habits. And we talk more than you probably would imagine about the emotions and the stories and the self-talk that either enable you or disable you from creating these new habits.
My guest is a totally inspiring, an awesome guy who has a ton of information to share. And I only later in the show towards the end, find out. That he's inspired tens of thousands of people in their twenties to get unstuck and find their life's journey. So definitely someone who has a lot of wisdom to offer. And so for that reason, let me dive into it and present to you. Mr. Alex Heyne.
Alex, welcome to the show, my friend, how are you doing today?
Alexander Heyne: Thanks a lot. Have a great, great to be here.
Jonathan Levi: Yeah, you've got some really, really exciting stuff coming up. Right. I'm really looking forward to digging into it and hearing what you're up to.
Alexander Heyne: Yeah, I know we're both really interested in habits because we find them to be the secret to success.
So definitely eager to talk about it a bit more.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely. And you know, I think I didn't crack it until recently to where I could reliably say that I can add and modify habits in my life. So let me ask you this. I know how long my journey has been for the last 10 years, trying to figure this whole thing out.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how did you come to learn so much about habits?
Alexander Heyne: Yeah. Well, my habit journey really only started, I would say about five years ago. And really in the last two years, I've really honed in on what I think is the key or the kind of secret to it, but really. I started studying habits.
When I started realizing that people don't fail to lose weight or fail to be successful because of the strategies we implement. It's because of who we are. In other words, our habits of thinking, acting, and doing, and this was kind of an aha moment for me because even though I live in the weight loss industry and habits are obviously the real essence there, I found the exact same habits.
Apply with, you're trying to be more spiritual, more enlightened in a better marriage, make more friends, be happier, or make more money. It's literally the exact same habits because they're habits of character and the science of success is almost always the same across the board, which was, was a huge revelation for me.
That's what really got me into this, the backstory behind habits.
Jonathan Levi: Hmm. So what have you learned?
Alexander Heyne: Well, a lot of things. We'll definitely go into more specific soon, but you know, there are so many different people that talk about the neuroscientific approach to habits or an emotional approach to habits. But for me, it's just trying to have people change their underlying philosophy. When someone comes to me and a typical yo-yo dieter is a great example because they're a great, great, great example of the bigger picture, which is a person who's tried the same goal and has reached it. And almost always, it's not a matter of what information they're doing. In other words, what diet they're doing, you know, what workouts they're doing, what they're eating, even though those all play a role. Obviously what it's really about is what's the story behind why they've been failing.
There's often a huge emotional part there, especially in weight loss, usually much more than many other aspects of becoming successful. And. The fundamental approach the person is taking their fundamental character is what specifically needs changing.
Jonathan Levi: Hmm. Okay. I like that. So let me backpedal a little bit because I feel like we kind of brushed over your bio, tell us a little bit about Modern Health Monk. You said, you know, you are in the weight loss industry. Tell us a bit about how you got to where you are today.
Alexander Heyne: Yeah. So really Modern Health Monk started when I was researching all these things online regarding health and weight loss, because at the time, I mean, I'd been in the gym for 10 years, but I'd been a trainer for a year at that time.
And I wanted to do something online and I realized most of the sites I found it was a lot of the same advice, a lot of this like discipline, grit, grinded out stuff. There was no personal development to it whatsoever. And to me, I hadn't been in the gym for almost a decade. Through discipline, grit, and effort.
I was there because I liked it. I started it because I was dissatisfied with my image, but yeah. What kept me going was not one of the things I found on the internet. So I started telling people about the power of habits, just changing small things to get to the health goal you want. And it's a lot less painful.
And eventually, that led to me writing my book Master The Day, which is about this whole principle of making today perfect. By instead of tracking calories or tracking, you know, I have 95% of the way to go to my goal. Instead, just track daily habits you make today perfect. You will get to your goal without the emotional pain and frustration and all this stuff.
Jonathan Levi: Mm. So as you said, yeah, I'm definitely also a big habits geek and you know, I think so many people are interested in habits and they're interested in kind of hacking this because people realize like, A huge success, a huge win, a huge career is a matter of just every day, repeating that one successful habit or those two successful habits.
But at the same time, you know, if you compare the number of people in the gym on January 1st to January 31st, you see that most people are really quite lousy at creating new habits or modifying their existing habits. Why do you think that is? What are we all doing wrong?
Alexander Heyne: Yeah. Well, I think for many of us, there are a lot of things, you know, it is situational, but at a high level, first is our fundamental philosophy is wrong about what it takes to actually lose weight or achieve that goal.
And the proof of it obviously is like you said, you know, a month in or two, three months in 90 plus percent of the people are gone. The first thing is we assume it may not even be conscious. It can be subconscious that if we go hard, we do more, we'll get there faster. This is human linear thinking, right?
It only works when a goal is linear. So you can only say, okay, if I work twice as hard, I'm going to get to this goal. I'm going to lose this weight. I'm going to lose twice as much weight. It only works when a goal as linear, as linear as walking to the market because the distance doesn't change. You just, if you walk twice as fast, you get there twice as quickly. But weight loss, for example, it doesn't work like that because it is more complex than just calories.
There are hormones or illnesses, there are emotional aspects. And the reality is that it's just not that simple. The second thing is we do too much. So this is the textbook one when I see people come in the new year, where the first day they're working out an hour and a half or two hours from zero to two hours, where most experienced people in the gym that have the results they want, aren't even putting in that much time.
So the fundamental philosophy is we think if we work harder, we'll get there faster. Not necessarily true, especially for weight loss. It's not as linear as people would like. And then we do too much. For example, in my gym, people doing the longest workouts are almost always the beginners or the people who look the same year after year.
And that, to me, it means they're not being deliberate in their strategy about what it takes to see results. So the philosophy tends to be wrong. We tend to do too much and also it may not just be working on the right stuff. And then we get discouraged. But obviously, there are many things behind that.
There's also one of the biggest things I found a full third of my book is on the inner aspects of weight loss. But you could also see the inner aspects of success.
Jonathan Levi: What do you think those aspects are?
Alexander Heyne: There are a lot of them. I mean, I mean, I've gotten on coaching calls with people and I hear a woman that's 50 years old and she says to me, I always fail. So why bother even trying again.
That's a very hard narrative to try to break up for someone. And we see that a lot in every single industry, whether it's someone trying to be successful, they've been trying to start a business and they always fail someone who has a history of relationship problems or someone who tells themselves that I'm always unlucky. It's the, I'm a victim. It's very hard to kind of dig that stuff up and break it up. And that's realistically what it takes to be more successful and a reason why this is so hard for people to figure out is because emotions are so close to home that first of all, they're invisible, but they're also, they're programmed into a so deep.
Like this is habits at an entirely different level than just nailbiting for example, or drinking five cups of coffee. So when someone says to me, you know, I don't have any time. Or I never have the energy to do this. I hate cooking and eating boring, bland health food that tastes like cardboard, or I always fail. Why bother trying?
The first thing is we have to dig up what I call the narrative, because for all of us, whether we're successful or unsuccessful in the approach we're taking to getting healthier, being happier, whatever it is, whatever kind of success you want. We have to dig up the narrative and figure out where it's leading us.
And it's so interesting if you read a lot of authors from about a hundred years ago, a lot of them that were really big into this kind of the inside produces the outside. And what I found is that you can reliably predict almost always the state of a person's internal thoughts by exactly every aspect of their life.
So not only the physical aspects, which is pretty crazy to see, but obviously with the words that you use, because you can detect someone who believes they're a victim or believes that they don't have time or believes they don't have energy. So one of the biggest things, the absolute biggest things is kind of digging up the internal narrative, seeing what it's saying and if necessary kind of rewriting that.
So it supports you to get to the goal instead.
Jonathan Levi: I like that. It reminds me, I had a professor once who we talked about kind of a lot of the psychologic ethical issues in management was the course. And talking about, you know, when people have these bad habits is because they have a story that's not aligned with the reality, you know, reality being a subjective thing.
But the appropriate reality people smoke because they have a narrative that says it's not going to be me. It's going to happen to everybody but me. Um, how do you think we correct those narratives? I mean, besides trudging it up and when it comes to emotion, sometimes hard facts. Like 70% of people are going to end up this way.
Sometimes those don't have any influence over our emotions. So how can we rewrite that narrative?
Alexander Heyne: You know, for some people. It's just completely in their subconscious. They're not even conscious of the narrative at all. And I found that for a good chunk of people. It's as simple as generating awareness around the narrative.
So sometimes it's as straightforward as if we're having a conversation and I just dig deeper and I say, okay, They're like, I've always failed. So I'm not even gonna bother trying screw it. I'm just gonna eat whatever food tastes good. Might as well, enjoy my life. And I say, okay, that's fine. But why do you say you always feel?
And then like, Oh, every time I tried, I was like, all right, give me specifics. And then we go back and back and they say something like in 2011, I did this cleanse and then 2009 and 2005. I'm like, okay. So the last three times it didn't work out so well, and it's almost a process of, for some people showing them that it's just a story that they created for themselves.
A certain percentage of people that will be fine. And then a certain percentage of people, it won't. And in that case, we're going to have to go a lot deeper and it's a much longer process than just kind of digging it up. But for the average person, I would say. When you show them the correlation between this is what I spot as the story we've been saying.
And then these are the results we've gotten for some it's in a big aha moment. It's pretty cool.
Jonathan Levi: Very cool. So tell me if this sounds appropriate, you know, whereas Gretchen Rubin comes from the angle of figuring out what personality type you are and what triggers that personality type. And Charles Duhigg comes from the angle of this is how the brain works, and this is cognitive-behavioral modeling.
You come at it from the angle of, this is the story that I've been telling myself. And these are my beliefs that I need to change in order to change a habit.
Alexander Heyne: Yeah, absolutely. So Charles Duhigg is a very scientific cognitive-behavioral change, a neuroscientific approach. Gretchen, I totally agree with each person figuring out what's going on there.
Mine is, I want to say more simple. I don't know if that's unfair to compare mine like that, but I really do think mine's not based on cue routine reward. It's really based on a fundamental philosophy change, the way we approach goals. So the big umbrella for me is this idea of master the day, which is hence why I wrote the book Master The Day.
But the whole idea is that life doesn't change. Whether it's weight, loss, success, happiness, marriage, it doesn't change until something today changes. And that by itself is a huge revelation because most of us, we may have heard that idea, but if all we did was change something today. Then that would already put us on the path we want to be on.
And that again, right there as a philosophical change, because if we knew that it just took changing small things and that by changing something small today, it would be easier to change something small tomorrow. A lot of this would have a much easier time reaching our goals. So how do you change on a daily level?
And when you think about it, the average person only reflects about what needs changing once a year. Right? The new year we read a resolution and that's the only time we reflect on what's working and what's not working one time in 365 days. Imagine if you did that every day. Imagine if you did that 365 times.
Now imagine how quickly you could iterate on your behavior and your habits. That's how I like to think of it. The way to change on a daily level is first of all, instead of tracking calories, for example, or tracking, I need to earn this much money so we can go on a vacation or I need to do all this stuff to fix my marriage.
Instead, you pick your vital few habits. Usually, I recommend three to five max, and then you just track your daily habits on a daily basis. So rather than a little thing I like to say is don't track calories. Track your daily habits, because you can get the same effect. It's just a matter of what lens you want to look through.
So when you track your few daily habits, one of the things I recommend is putting a sheet. At home, wherever you are a lot, whether it's your desk or in the kitchen or on your phone background, and then another sheet at work on your desk there, and you pick a few vital habits. We can talk more about them later, but to each person, it will be different.
And with these habits, basically, you write down Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then basically you just make a check or leave it blank, whether or not you did the habit. And at the end of the week, All you do is you tally up? What percentage of the time you did the habits? And if it was below 60 or 50%, On Sunday, you do a quick habit review takes one minute, and then you just write down new habits for the week where you've sat down and you realized, okay, I told myself, I'd make a green smoothie for breakfast, but I didn't have the time.
Why not? Well, I didn't have that much time. I didn't know what to put in it. I didn't know all these things. These are all basically barriers to our goals and the new habits for the next week are overcoming those barriers. So if we didn't know what to eat. Maybe that means Sunday, I'm scheduling in 10 minutes to Google juicing recipes.
Maybe it means Monday night, I'm going to go buy a ton of veggies and just stuffed them in the fridge with some fruits and vegetables and all that kind of stuff. And then the ultimate piece of all this is that we do the review after we're doing this nightly checking, basically, you've shifted your consciousness from again, your fundamental philosophy changes from all right.
I have 95% of the way to go, I still have 22 pounds to lose this sucks. You're focusing on that gap, the gap, which creates tension. It can be good tension, but most of the time it's really not. And it shifts from what do I have to do today? Here they are on one piece of paper, these tiny habits. I know that if I just keep doing these every day that I'm going to get to my goal, it doesn't matter what kind of goal it is.
I will get there without all the negative cognitive stuff, all the discouragement and the frustration and the pain and the narrative, the story cropping up just by tracking these core daily habits. That's kind of my own system as to how modifying habits goes and really how to become more successful, whether it's weight loss or anything else you're working on.
Jonathan Levi: That is a really solid explanation. I have to say, Alex, I'm wondering how long until habits become second nature.
Alexander Heyne: You know, the official science has changed over the years. I think it's around 70 days now. I'm finding that some for me, never get easier. One of my hardest habits was getting up earlier. I got an, an opportunity to work apprentice with a Chinese medicine doctor and I had to get up really early.
And even though I am a morning person, I'm not a 5:30 AM morning person. And I found that even after six months of doing that habit, it personally never got that much easier, but a lot of habits, for example, for me going to the gym four or five days a week for an hour is totally effortless. There's not one day do I encounter resistance?
You know, in years I've never encountered resistance once. So it really depends on the person how resistant they've been to the habit and more. And really, it depends to me how much it really disrupts your life. Because surprisingly trying to wake up a couple of hours earlier really does change your day-to-day schedule in a big way where you can't go to bed at 11, you've got to go to bed at nine o'clock and then you have to change when you eat and then you have to change when you go to the gym.
So to me, it depends on a lot of factors. So usually for me, I like to think of it in terms of a hundred-day rule. So that's another advantage to keeping the habit small because if it's too big of the start and you're thinking, Oh man, I could do this for a hundred days. It sounds more overwhelming than it has to be.
Jonathan Levi: I love that you mentioned Alex three to five habits at a time. So I want to ask because you did a nice job of kind of giving our audience a piece of homework with the sheet of paper exercise. I want to ask what are the three to five most impactful habits that you've seen with the people that you work within which people should consider implementing today?
Alexander Heyne: Yeah, one principle I like to help people focus on that comes up a lot around the new year where people may have been off track. Are we talking about overall habits or specific to health or?
Jonathan Levi: Yeah, let's go overall.
Alexander Heyne: Okay. One of them is we'll start with the golden trifecta. So when I'm talking about weight loss, I tend to talk about one nutritional habit, one exercise, habit, one accountability habit.
But one of the principles, when I brought this up to somebody that helped him more than anything else,
was this idea that I call the handshake technique. I had this conversation with Brian Grasso, who's trained Olympic athletes, national athletes, and his big approach is mindset. And when Brian and I were talking, he said that when he was trying to get a CEO to come in early at 6:00 AM, they would rationalize it.
Their narrative was that I'm too busy for this. I'm the CEO. I need to be making money and running this company. And he found that what he could do is. They wouldn't come in for an hour workout. These people were like current exercises, so they didn't have the habit. And he found that if you had them come in at 6:00 AM sharp with their gym bag and just shake his hand and then leave.
They would actually be more likely to come in and work out, you know, the coming days, then you would add five minutes and 10 minutes, and eventually they would start to feel good. And then they realize this is important. And then once you see the results of the productivity that comes after it, and so on, they were sold.
Now, he didn't actually create this idea, but I ended up just calling this the handshake technique, because if we're doing a habit that is so big, Whether it's writing a thousand words a day, going to the gym for an hour, recording a podcast episode. If it's too big, that we procrastinate more than four days in a row, utilize the handshake technique and find the lowest friction.
Easiest thing you can do that still works towards your habit. So if you're writing a book and you say I've got to write 2000 words a day, write a hundred, oftentimes when you do that, you'll naturally write more. But even if you don't, it's okay. It's more important to me that you keep staying consistent with a habit, even if it's an almost negligible way than missing the day.
So this first idea, the handshake technique has been one of the biggest. Now the other thing is shift your fundamental philosophy from the outcome. So this is something we haven't brought up yet. What I call wedding day syndrome. In the West, people are so obsessed with the day of the wedding. We spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for something that's one day.
And we neglect all the training and all the things that really matter, which are the hopefully decades of marriage that come after the wedding. And I thought this was really kind of peculiar, you know, it's so interesting, but really, really is, is we tend to be focused more on the event. The goal, right?
The end, I've lost 30 pounds. I look awesome. I make XYZ dollars a month. My family secure. I don't have to stress so much. I can quit my job. My marriage is better. I'm happy every day, be focused on the outcome and we miss that in order to get there, we have to do the process. So, wedding day syndrome is just a matter of focusing more on your process goals.
So we talked about the handshake technique. The second would be really trying to engrain this philosophy. It takes months, months, maybe years because this goes against much of what we're taught. As far as goal setting goes, goal setting projects are mined out into the future, this distant horizon we're looking at.
And so we stop on the plants next to us. We smack the roses out of the way, and we just run to the endpoint. Not only is there no guarantee we'll get to the goal faster is I guarantee the process of getting to the goal will be a lot less happy. So the second thing would be ingraining, this philosophy of trying to shift from this obsessive focus, with the goal to focusing on, okay, today, what are the daily habits to get there?
This master of the day philosophy, this daily kind of focus. And the third, the third habit would be spending conscious effort. To not only be aware of your narrative but to kind of rewrite it if that's what it takes. I spoke to a friend, Erin Scotland. Do you know Erin? Jonathan?
Jonathan Levi: I'm afraid. I don't.
Alexander Heyne: Okay, Erin. She was originally a dancer and she came to New York City and then got into acting. And she's been in a number of big shows now, but Erin was telling me that when she became a dancer, I'm probably butchering her story a little bit, but I'll try my best. She became a dancer and she was one of the top or maybe the top where she came from.
And when she came to New York City, she was suddenly, she was in a much bigger pond. And now suddenly she was extremely overwhelmed for the first time in her life. It felt a ton of self-doubt about if she could really cut it, you know, in the biggest city in the world were in the biggest city, as far as for what she wanted to learn.
There were now a lot of top candidates there and she found that she became so self-conscious that during her dances, she would mess up because she was thinking all the time. And so what she did was she used what I call reverse affirmation. So she would write down the top five things she's insecure about all the other dancers are better than me.
They have more experience. I don't know if I can cut it. And she would write out the exact opposite on a piece of paper. She would write, you know, I bring new things to the table that these dancers don't have. I'm a world-class performer and dancer and all these affirmations that were the exact opposite.
And she would write them out every single morning and sure enough, you know like all happy and things go, she rose to the top and wasn't an absolute top performer there. And I found that surprisingly, you know, two years ago, affirmations and visualizations were not big on my daily habit list. And now they're staples.
And I find that with any goal with every single person, even the greats, this kind of discouragement shows up almost constantly. And then when you get to the goal, a different kind of discouragement shows up. I found that whatever friction and resistance you encounter on a day-to-day basis, whatever internal negativity is going on.
If you do this kind of morning narrative exercise, write down the opposite, just write them down and read them out. I found that for me if anything, it just makes me feel much better when I'm going into the day and it starts off the day with a really charged-up mood.
Jonathan Levi: That's awesome. You know, I've heard so many people talk about gratitude, journaling, and stuff like that. And I think they're closely related. So it is something that is proven time and time again by all of these top performers, just to set the tone of your morning and the frame of your day by writing things down like that.
Alexander Heyne: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, like I said, I was so skeptical of it, but visualization and affirmation, they do something that is so unique that I haven't been able to find anywhere else. And so I definitely recommend people to take those up, even if it's just a little experiment.
Jonathan Levi: I'm definitely with you there. I spent the entire day today actually working on a new course with a mentor of mine called Creating A Meaningful Life.
And my portion of the course that I've been writing this week is around goals. And I've been trying to essentially explain that, you know, if you write out your goals and you post them publicly, there's some math magic we, that happens. And I don't know how it happens. You can call it a law of attraction. You can call it, you know, your brain being more attuned to opportunities, but yeah.
Something magical happens when you actually put pen to paper with your goals or with your intentions or with your limiting beliefs, I think.
Alexander Heyne: Yeah. Yeah, totally agree. And I've had borderline metaphysical things happen from visualization, just opportunities that were so unique that were, I mean, you talk about, you know, whether it's woo-woo, whether it's the mind being attuned, you know, looking for specific things, I've had things that were so unusual.
Just pop into my life. So there's something there may be beyond what we know and maybe that's the realm of quantum physics, but I definitely recommend to do it.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely. Let me ask you this, Alex, what is one bad habit that you've kicked and, or one good habit that you've added on since developing this methodology for habit change?
Alexander Heyne: One of the most important habits that I've actually changed is as a really ambitious, hardworking guy. Has been trying to remove this obsessive focus with getting there. This is a little bit less tangible than I think what you were hoping to hear, but it really refers to my mental, emotional state because, during the process of achieving most of my goals, I found myself to be, some days I'm happy, most days stressed and some days also wondering if getting there was even worth the price I was paying now.
And that's pretty big, you know what I mean? If I'm spending my whole day if the average day is stressed, unhappy and uncertain. It's almost like what's the point. If there is no guarantee I may get there.
So one of the things that I did was I literally did. I literally went through this kind of mass of the day system and I analyzed my underlying, the emotional philosophy was that if I work twice as hard, I'm going to get there twice as fast. And I had to be honest with myself and looking at my results and realized that, Hey, for example, writing my book for me, writing 2000 words a day just doesn't happen because I could only, you know, I wrote my book when I had a nine or 10 hour a day job.
So I set a smaller goal. I just focused on the thousand words a day. And after that, I didn't think about the book at all. And I found that all the stress, all the anxiety went away. I started using Pomodoro timers. You familiar with those?
Jonathan Levi: Oh yeah. I talk about it in one of my courses.
Alexander Heyne: Cool. Yeah, I use it Pomodoro timers, and I found that this shift from I'm not writing a book, I'm just writing a thousand words and the shift from I'm not doing anything the rest of the week.
I'm just doing two Pomodoros today. That sufficiently pulled me into the present where most of my work became flow producing. And, you know, I used to clock watch quite a lot because I was focusing on the right things and being disciplined about what I was doing hour by hour. And that sufficiently those two things tracking exactly what I'm doing.
Making sure I knew why I was doing it, analyzing the underlying intentions, and then, uh, using this kind of regular, the day system as well as the time, pressure helps quite a lot for really staying in the zone. That really has been one of the most important habits for me. That's why I felt like I really had to share this kind of gospel because just the inner aspects can be awful.
The inner aspects of achieving any goal can be for some of us, we just run ourselves ragged. And if you look at the numbers where the average person may not reach their health or weight loss or financial or happiness goal, at least in the short run, it's like, if we hate the process and we don't get there, it's like you lose.
We just lost in every sense of the word. And I really, really wanted to change that. Now, as far as. What was it? The question changing your bad habit?
Jonathan Levi: Yeah. What's one habit that you didn't like, that you were able to alter?
Alexander Heyne: One that happened. Actually, this is good timing that I've been working on is coffee drinking.
So I was never a big coffee drinker. And even to this day, you know, I've always only had one coffee a day, but I do have a, a long history of GI problems and coffee. Has just been destroying my stomach, giving me acid reflux and all this kind of stuff. And for me, Charles Duhigg has a really good approach where he talks about the cue, the routine, and the reward.
And I found that coffee was just so hard to crack working 12 hours a day. It was like, the one good part of my day in the middle of the day. That break I needed, it was just so satisfying and it was just my mental trigger for productivity. And I'm sure with a lot of people it's the same. So one thing I found that worked better was instead of going cold Turkey or even just having half a coffee.
And again, for me, this wasn't like I wanted to stop coffee. There was physical pain, like stomach pain involved in drinking coffee, and it was still hard. To show you how messed up we humans are about changing. Our habits will destroy ourselves willingly and keep going, keep going, keep going until, uh, until we can't anymore.
But to get off coffee. So the first thing I did was I tried having half a coffee. I tried reducing it. None of this stuff worked at all. So the first thing I did was I bought this kind of ginger tea. That's an extremely strong ginger. I think it's lightly mixed with sugar crystals. It's like, um, a crystallized version.
And at the same time, every day I would bring in a portable water boiler to the office there. And I would just boil this ginger tea and I would have it then instead. So I initially would swap it out just three days a week. I'd have my coffee Monday. I would have it Thursday and then I would have it Saturdays and Sundays.
Cause I'm working in coffee shops. So three or four times a week and I originally swapped it. To what, to me was the lesser of two evils, something that didn't bother my stomach. And then from there that I found it much easier to reduce it to just a weekend when I'm out at coffee shops or then to replace some of those days with water.
But I find that whatever the bad habit is, you can often replace it with something else. And I don't know if a Charles Duhigg talks about it or somebody else, but the whole idea of tracking whatever triggers the habit. Often, it really comes up quite a lot because, for a lot of people, I find that coffee is just a boredom habit, really.
I mean, for many people, you know, they drink decaf, which thereby itself shows that maybe they like the flavor or the 3:00 PM pickup is not really the main thing they're looking for, but it's just that, that mental, psychological link. And I have found that if you carry around your phone for a week and you track what you were just doing and what you were just feeling.
Then you can often realize some of your triggers, but for me, anyways, coffee was a tough one to crack and still I'll have it half the week.
Jonathan Levi: Yeah. I mean, I've pretty much except for when I'm going for the flavor of coffee, I've pretty much substituted as my productivity trigger with a Yerba Mate, which I find is so much better physiologically gets you into a much more relaxed state and gives you more of that kind of nice flow feeling.
Yeah, I love it. I really, really love it. Alex, who are some other thought leaders that you follow in the space?
Alexander Heyne: Interesting in the personal development space? Yeah, I would say I'm actually looking at my bookshelf here, right to the left of me. You know, who I like, I like Robert Green, his book Mastery was one of the most enlightening to me.
I really liked that fundamental approach. I also am a big fan of Jack Canfield, a lot. I really liked that he focuses on and I think in more recent years, he's spending a lot of time on visuals. And that was one of those books that I had to read like three times. I think it was, uh, the success principles and each chapter is a success principle and a story about a person who used it.
And, uh, I think it was that book that really fully pushed me over and converted me to doing daily visualizations. But I would say those are two of the biggest now, otherwise, to be honest, a lot of what. I try to model if I'm actually going back to school to be a doctor of Chinese medicine in the summer.
And one of my longtime obsessions has just been studying the holy men, the sages of the world. And I always find a lot of inspiration from that as well, because there's just a different, this is maybe out of the scope of our talk, but there's a lot of personal cultivation that goes there that I don't normally see emphasized really anywhere else.
There's personal development that we see, but self-cultivation I think is a lot less common and that's a big theme throughout my life as well that I strive towards.
Jonathan Levi: I have a completely random question while we're going on random. What is the deal with milk that pigeon your Twitter handle? Explain that to me.
Cause I know you, you also had a blog about, you know, helping 20 somethings find their path and stuff like that. I couldn't figure out what milk the pigeon meant?
Alexander Heyne: So long story short. When I got my first job out of college, it was a good job, but you know, at three quarters through the year I was a teacher in a high school.
I hated the job. And, uh, I decided why don't I just move to China? Because I'd always been into meditation and self-cultivation, martial arts, so moved to China, learned to speak, read and write Chinese. And I was like, I'm never coming back. I'm going to become a monk. Go live in monastery five years, come back, all hardcore and enlightened.
I ended up staying a little bit over a year, but I did learn to speak, read and write Chinese. And when I came back, I promptly fell into a massive depression because not only could I not see myself in a normal corporate job, because I just live this Epic year, doing what I wanted to do, not what I had to do.
I had no idea what to do next. And I fell into this funk. And around that time, like, I didn't know what personal development was. I didn't have mentors at all. People that were living this great life. And I was so shocked by the fact that I didn't know a single person that wrote out the kind of life they wanted on paper and had either worked towards it or she used it.
I didn't know, one I'd never met one, never even seen one in a movie. None of that. So basically I was like, you know, later on I learned that many entrepreneurs are like this, but I know what an entrepreneur was then too. And then. I was like, this is depressing, but that's fine. I'm going to be the first then.
And so I created this blog, milk the pigeon in which means to do the impossible. I think it's an old English thing trying to milk a pigeon. And I created this site and it just started going viral with 20 somethings. And a lot of people started commenting and sharing and Inc Magazine and HuffPost started interviewing me and things like that.
And it was really because every day I was writing inspirational articles. That we're basically pep talks to myself. Like if you're sitting here, you have all this opportunity, why are you not using it to do something? And other people, the inspiration just became addictive to other people. And ultimately, you know, Milk The Pigeon, there's a book coming out for that one as well next year.
But Milk The Pigeon just became kind of my personal site since then, where I don't write as frequently, but that one has a heavy, personal development focus itself.
Jonathan Levi: Very cool. I feel like I should have asked that at the beginning of the interview. Cause I feel like I better understand you and your journey by virtue of that.
Although I'm resisting the temptation to say we'll edit that into the beginning of the interview. I think we'll keep it just as it is. And the audience can kind of discover a little bit more about you towards the end.
Alexander Heyne: It's important because life is non-linear. This is a one thing. One of my first great mentors, Chinese medicine mentors taught me that we try to control life because we think that the future is going to be linear.
I build this business. I get married at this age. I have two and a half kids. I get the house. But it almost never is linear. If you look at your past, look at the last five years where you've been the things you've done, the things that have changed, the things that have come and gone, it's almost never linear like that.
And five years ago, I never would have thought I'd create a site called Milk The Pigeon. I never thought I would create this online health site and write this book. That's helped a lot of people and be doing this now, or even studying Chinese medicine. I mean, five years ago is a drop in the bucket compared to a human lifetime.
And I think also understanding that the future is not linear than I may be here, there someone I love may die or go away. And that may change everything by itself. Understanding that as also helps me relax and not quite stressed out as much about the future, understanding that it's going to change. And just the worst thing you can do is resist life.
Just accept it, work hard, master the day and keep plugging along.
Jonathan Levi: This is awesome stuff. Alex, as you talk, I'm reading through your blog post about why 2015 was your best year in your life. And I feel exactly the same. I can tell you and I are going to be fast friends.
Alexander Heyne: That's for sure.
Jonathan Levi: Alex, if people want to learn more, get engaged with you. I mean, we've already talked about milkthepigeon.com, but where can they reach out to you and learn a little bit more?
Alexander Heyne: The best place. Yeah. If you're a lost 20 something, go check out milkthepigeon.com. It's very irreverent tone, modernhealthmonk.com. That's M O D E R N. That's. Really, if you want to lose weight, have more energy. If you're an ambitious professional that wants to really, to be fitter and also for readers, my book, Master The Day: Eat, Move and Live Better With The Power of Tiny Habits that's on Amazon. And if you buy it in some of your receipt, I put together this two-hour bonus video course, one's an hour-long case study with a successful student and friend.
I think he lost like 27 pounds. A sit-down interview. I'll give you and another hour of bonus training. So if you grab it and Amazon just send me your receipt, you could send it to. Alexander@modernhealthmonk.com again, that's M O D E R N, health monk. Send that to me and then I'll give you those bonuses for free too.
Jonathan Levi: Awesome. We really appreciate that, Alex. And my final question that I want to ask you before we wrap up is if people take away one message from this entire episode and they carry it with them for the rest of their lives, what would you like that message to be?
Alexander Heyne: I want people to understand that success, whether it's weight loss, whether it's financial, whether it's being happier or enlightened or contributing to the world, it's really about what you do today.
It's not about what you do tomorrow. It's not about the things you're going to do. It's really about what, and that your life doesn't change until you change something you do today every day on a daily basis. And the best way that I found to change your behavior and your life eventually. Is the best way to change on a daily level is by just tracking a few tiny habits, staying consistent, and being patient.
And that's the essence of this whole Master The Day idea. If you paste that on your wall master the day, hopefully, that'll function as a little reminder there.
Jonathan Levi: Brilliant Alex, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and inspiration with us. I've enjoyed the hell out of it and I'm sure our audience has as well.
And I do hope we keep in touch.
Alexander Heyne: Thanks a lot, Jonathan. And we'll talk soon.
Jonathan Levi: My pleasure, take care of my friend.
All right, SuperFriends. That's it for this week's episode. We hope you really, really enjoyed it and learn a ton of applicable stuff that can help you go out there and overcome the impossible. If so, please do us a favor and leave us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, or however you found this podcast.
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Closing: Thanks for tuning in to the Becoming SuperHuman Podcast for more great skills and strategies, or for links to any of the resources mentioned in this episode, visit www.becomingasuperhuman.com/podcast. We'll see you next time.