The 4S formula for taking action

by | September 11, 2018 | Diet and Nutrition, Fitness, Health, Sport performance

I have a secret – I’m actually pretty lazy. 

As in, given the choice between working and sitting my ass on the sofa. 

I will opt for the sofa. 

And given the option of working out vs watching “you gotta eat here”, I would choose the latter. 

But, how can this be true? 

I’m a fitness pro? 

A coach surrounded by athletes all day.

You must be fired up to move around. 

You must be fired up to give it all you’ve got. 

You must be fired up to practice what you preach. 




So, how do I still manage to stay in shape?

Well, it all lies in the four Ss. 


Action > motivation 

The truth is you may not need to be motivated to get into- and stay in shape. 
You may not need willpower to make the right nutritional choices. 
You may not need to be disciplined to resist the Golden Arches on the way home from work. 
These things really may not matter….
It certainly doesn’t hurt, 
Being motivated, disciplined and having willpower are assets that you can use on your journey to a high-performance bod…
But they may not be as important as we once thought. 
Here’s why – action precedes motivation. 
As in, performing an act that is consistent with high-level performance, 
Fat loss, 
And feeling better, 
Often happens before we feel motivated to do it. 
So, then the real key is to set up your life to act. 
Make taking action easy. 
Whether it’s structuring your environment to be conducive to your goals, 
Implementing systems that make choosing healthy foods easier, 
scheduling time to eat right, prep meals or exercise, 
Or stacking high-performance habits on top of existing habits, 
Being able to act is more important than motivation, discipline or willpower. 
And being able to act is all about the four Ss. 


The Four Ss

The 4 Ss includes structure, systems, scheduling and stacking.  

Structure includes the things that you surround yourself with and the things you put in place to get stuff done. 

This can include:

Having fit friends to keep you on track

Hiring a coach to hold you accountable

A Sunday ritual to shop for -, prepare- and cook your food for the week

A daily ritual that sets the stage for healthy choices ie. a supershake in the morning

Doing a kitchen clean-out and keeping your house full of green-light foods and void of red-light foods

Working out in a convenient place ie. the gym at work. 

Or if you’re really getting into your workouts – putting a gym in your house!

Your environment will shape your decisions more than you know. 

So, surround yourself with things that help not hinder your progress. 


Systems include the procedures and practices you can implement to take action towards a goal. 

I love systems. 

I am a system-guy. 

Any time I have a chance to implement a system to make my life easier, I do it. 

Here are some of my faves:

Packing your gym bag the night before and placing it beside the door

Packing meals the night before so they’re ready to go in the morning

A meal plan template

A grocery shopping template

A grocery shopping system ie. moving from the veggies to the meat, to the eggs and dairy to the canned goods then to the cashier. (That way you totally bypass that chip aisle and the candy section). 

S.Y.S.T.E.M. = Save Yourself Some Time, Energy & Money. 

Put these systems to work and you will save yourself time, energy and money in your quest to getting back in shape. 


Next, how much more likely are you to do a workout if you put it in your schedule

How much easier is it to eat slowly when you schedule 20-30 minutes to eat your lunch instead of shovelling food down your gullet as you respond to emails? 

How much easier is it to shop for, prepare and cook your meals when you actually dedicate time in your schedule to do so?

You put all of your important appointments in your schedule – working out, taking the time to eat slowly and mindfully and prepping meals are important too. 

So, put that stuff in your schedule and then you don’t have to will yourself to do them, it’s just there staring you in the face – there’s no question – you just do it.

Finally, stack your habits. 

Stacking habits means taking a habit that you are currently doing and adding a high-performance habit around that same time as the current habit. 

If you brush your teeth every night, stack a gym bag prep ritual right after it. 

Maybe you already prepare your kids lunches in the morning. Good, stack a super shake habit on top of that (it takes 3 extra minutes – you’re not that busy – get over yourself). 

You could stack your alarm-setting-habit at night with an affirmation habit that builds your self-confidence

Stacking is an awesome way to leverage current habits in the service of getting back into shape. 



As you can see the four Ss are pretty simple. 

Nothing earth-shattering here. 

Plan this, 

Get rid of this, 

Prepare that, 

Use this to remind me to do that, 

Put this in my day planner. 

It’s likely that you already do some of these things already. 

So, just build on them. 

Identify those things that you are already doing well. 

Maybe you’re a rock-star scheduler and run your life out of that book. 

Awesome, build on that by booking your meal prep, eating time and workouts into your schedule. 

Maybe you’ve got some old buds that get together to play pick-up on the weekends. 

Awesome, join them…every weekend…or get a double whammy and add it into your schedule. 

Maybe you have a gym at work. 

Nice, use it. 

And again, if you want to double whammy, meet one of your work buds there for a workout at lunch.

Motivation is not always going to be available. 

It will ebb and flow. 

Sometimes you’ll be fired up to train,

Prep food, 

And get back in shape, 

Other times, you won’t.

And, that’s fine. 

Use the 4 Ss to take action. 

Action trumps all. 

You can read motivational quotes, 

You can read inspiring stories of people getting into shape, 

You can try to dig deep and find your will, 

But when it comes down it, taking action is what gets things done. 

Now, stop reading this and go do something! 

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