Don't you love the confidence expressed when your hear "I got this!" - especially when it's coming out of your mouth? What areas engage this magnitude of certainty in your life and how can you apply the fortitude to transform the parts that are below par? It starts with an understanding of how our brains work, why we make the choices we do, and what it takes for us to be at our best.
If your resolutions for the New Year have been washed down the drain, know that you are certainly not alone. But - don't fall into the pits of despair by focusing on failure: pick yourself up and get on with the business of achieving what you set out to do. As it pertains to reaching fitness, diet and health-related goals, decades of research imply that the way we handle our body has an enormous consequence on the way our brain functions. What's tremendously exciting about this is that it's actually very easy to prompt desirable, and immediate, performance shifts within our brain. By taking just a moment to smile widely, sit or stand taller, relax your shoulders and breathe deeply, your brain will already start shifting towards a more positive bearing. Then, without delay, set your intentions and clarify your priorities.
If your issue is a tendency towards procrastination, this is a function of your brain comparing short-term outlay to long-term interest. It's just easier for our brains to appraise our current situation over the unfamiliar providence of tomorrow and choose what we know. So, we tend to roll in 'autopilot' mode, giving more import to current events over a vague futurity. This simply means we want what we want and we want it now-otherwise, what's the point? Like Wimpy, who would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today (unless today is Tuesday!), we want the immediate treat over putting energy into an imagined future reward.
After all, our brain is rationalizing the effort put towards something that may not even materialize vs. present-time temptations like shopping at the mall, visiting with friends, surfing the net, etc. The future reward might not even show up! Even Wimpy knows he needs to work to earn his burger but he can see it and smell it -he wants it so bad right now- but he can't pay for it until he earns it. The future event of a paycheck is too far removed from the present so he relies on the generosity (and gullibility) of his acquaintances to fill his burger-fix. He gets stuck in this round-about and of course, Tuesday never comes. There's a huge downside to all of Wimpy's good-natured cajoling: an ever expanding girth. While Popeye is shown lean and trim and prone to bouts of superhuman strength based on his intake of spinach, the connection between immediate reward over long-term benefits is irrefutable. Real life illustration:
So how to kick procrastination to the curb? In the book How To Have A Good Day, Oxford- and Cambridge-trained management consultant/executive coach Caroline Webb shows how to use behavioral science to boost professional effectiveness. The methods she describes can be used to increase your productivity on many levels and would adapt particularly well to your fitness goals. Here are her tips for beating procrastination:
Picture the benefits. What will be better as a result of getting this done, for you and for others? How great will that feel?
Plan a short-term reward. How could you plan to reward yourself for today's progress toward the end goal, if it's a long haul?
Tie the first step to something you like. Identify the first small step you need to take. Then find a way to link that to something you are definitely going to do today and that you enjoy doing.
Amplify the downside of inaction. How can you sharpen your sense of the costs of not getting it done? What precommitments can you make, ideally involving other people?
Ask the five whys. If you're still finding yourself reluctant to make progress, ask yourself five "why" questions. What surfaces as the real blockage? What can you do to address that?
I am a fan of visualization though I tend to think of how bad I'll feel for not accomplishing something. I crave reward and my brain does not like the thought of not getting something done. I think of times I achieved what initially seemed to be beyond my ability (skydiving, racing motocross in an all-male field as the only female-and taking a first-place trophy!- remodeling a house predominantly alone-these have been some big ones for me) as a reminder that I can do what may seem impossible and how amazingly good it feels conquering that. I carry this photo in my wallet as a reminder of how scared I was to even learn to ride and how desire to become a bad-ass propelled me to levels I hadn't imagined.
Of course, bad-ass when it comes to motocross has definitely morphed over the last 40 years!
I wasn't a natural at many things I've accomplished and the five "whys" have also worked well for me. I love the process of discovery this puts you through, particularly when faced with something you really want yet that little voice inside you says "Yeah, but..." and ends in a dispirited "...no." Here it is important to acknowledge the "but" while understanding that "So much of our daily behavior is driven by our brain's automatic system. Deeply coded needs and fears drive our choices in a way that's largely invisible to our conscious mind. If we get stuck in a behavioral loop that we don't like-such as avoiding tasks that we genuinely want to get done-it's a good cue for us to pause and reflect. By definition, we can't know all the inner workings of our automatic system, otherwise it wouldn't be doing a good job of being automatic." Asking yourself a succession of "why" questions will usually reveal the cause of your inhibitions, typically by the fifth "why." I remember wanting to learn to become a good enough slalom skier to run the slalom course at 15' off @ 34 MPH. It took me years of practice to do this! My 5 "whys" went like this:
1. Why do I feel intimidated to do this? (Because I learned in summer camp and you only got a few tries before the next person's turn and I fell a LOT trying to get up on one ski; I felt foolish because so many others that could do it witnessed my anguish.)
2. Why did I feel foolish when there were many who were also trying and having difficulty? (I wasn't the only one -after all, it was a learning environment.)
3. So, why was this a problem? (I didn't like being the weak one in the group.)
4. And why was this a problem for me? (I didn't like to admit that I needed anyone for anything-even if it was to teach me something I desperately wanted to know!)
5. And why was this a problem for me? (Because I had been hurt, let down and disappointed way too many times and was afraid of allowing it to happen again.)
I decided that the fear of being hurt (my ego, not my head, LOL...) was a ridiculous reason for not aggressively pursuing water-skiing! Who hasn't been hurt or disappointed? For this to keep me from living, experiencing, growing, learning, or having fun became unacceptable. So I put myself out there and went for it. Result?
From my first attempt with water-skiing at 13 years of age, 14 years passed before I was able to run a slalom course pass at my above stated goal, but I did it. There were years when I didn't ski at all but once circumstances allowed me to follow my ambitions, fear no longer existed and by then I was learning with competitive skiers. Most of us aspire to improve ourselves throughout our lives; it's essential to our intellect to experience our aptitude and capabilities as adaptable with great potential to flourish and improve. It gives us the hope for the seemingly impossible to become possible and this keeps life gratifying-something we all desire!
Stories of overcoming fear to try something one has never tried truly inspire me and the motive behind this post came from a woman's story about her first foray into the weight room area of the gym. This was truly intimidating for her, on many levels, and while I felt tremendous empathy for her, imagine how empowering this must have been for her! So much of what we experience daily in our lives is entirely subjective and our own intentions, mindset and presumptions determine to a great degree that which our brain attends to while also directing our attention to seeing the things in life that will agree with our suppositions. If we approach our lives looking for opportunities to transcend our limitations, we're more likely to incur favorable circumstances. Inversely, if we tend to give audience to fear, negativity, antagonism and the like, this we surely shall find. This is hardly a novel concept but because so many people quit on their goals, I tend to devote a lot of blog space to perpetuating the truth of this universal law. No one is more deserving than another to realize personal dreams; you have the ability to make it happen!
The only difference between you and those that are living their dreams is the effort and willingness you put into making it a reality. Pretty darn simple really. It does mean that you have to step outside your box (in this case, your brain and its current thought process) and set a new direction. And then-it's all about follow-through.
Speed up your process for accomplishing goals, especially those that seem to elude you. Check out How To Have A Good Day - Caroline Webb, Crown Business New York, copyright 2016.