NO. Such a simple word, really. Just two letters long, yet it has been such a difficult word to master.
Why is that so hard to say sometimes?
Some days I look at my two year old niece and am just astonished by how quickly she learned the word no. It’s incredible, really. She’s good at it – uses it without hesitation.
It’s simplicity is beautiful. She’s not trying to please anyone. She’s just stating how she feels and what she wants in that moment. Is it lacking a little tact? Yes, but that’s to be expected of a 2 year old.
No is a powerful word, capable of shaping the very direction of your life, yet saying no can be such a chore. It comes loaded with a certain amount of fear that no two letter word should possess – fears of offending or disappointing others, of missing an opportunity, or of being improperly judged as being selfish or self-centered.
Do or do not. There is no try. It’s cliché, and yes, Yoda said it, but if you remember anything I ever tell you, remember that. Better yet, don’t just remember it. Believe it.
In my time as a coach, I have picked up on many behavioral patterns. The most interesting are those that make or break people as they pursue their goals. The pattern I want to discuss today is belief.
Beliefs Are Powerful
Beliefs are extremely powerful and hold the potential to shape outcomes. For example, I believe humans are incredibly capable beings. I believe we all have potential to learn and adapt to just about anything if we put our minds to it. These beliefs shape how I act and how I treat my clients. When you treat people as remarkably capable, they tend to become that, sometimes despite themselves.
In this game called life, our outcomes are largely shaped by what goes on between our ears. The most successful among us are those who have mastered their minds. What we choose to believe is such a vital part of that mastery, but it often starts on an almost imperceptible level. Let me get more specific.
Self-Talk Is Poppycock
We constantly talk to ourselves, often without realizing it. There are a hundred different names for it: self-talk, hidden scripts, inner monologue, etc. Whatever you call it, it happens, and it shapes what you believe, how you act, and what you accomplish.
“I believe we all have potential to learn and adapt to just about anything if we put our minds to it.”
All too often I overhear phrases that start with “I can’t do this…” or “I’m no good at that.” To be fair, sometimes it is 100 percent true. But most of the time it is total poppycock.
Some days you feel like you can climb a mountain, while others, not so much. Sometimes all you want to do is hit that snooze button, roll over, and forget all about your morning workout. We’ve all been there. So what can you do to minimize these motivational slumps? Is there a way to conjure up motivation in moments like that? You betcha! Here are 10 tips next time you find yourself struggling:
A Day in the Life is a series of real, honest sneak peaks into the lives of our coaches and athletes as they wrestle with the same type of things you do.
It’s common advice that you will hear across the health industry: don’t look at the scale every day. Let me tell you something – I’m pretty bad at following that piece of advice. Recently I started several of my clients on a zig-zag approach to managing their caloric intake. I decided I’d dial up the discipline a notch and join them, especially since I’d like to train and race at a lighter weight for next year. It’s been awhile! I can’t remember being consistently this hungry for a long time. Then again I can’t remember the last time my weight really fluctuated very much, either. Hmmm. Funny how that works. Needless to say, I am jumping-out-of-my-skin excited for my re-feed day tomorrow.
A few things I’ve noticed so far (it’s day 3):
1) Our bodies are excellent at maintaining their set points (normal weight). For me that is right around 180-185 pounds. When I don’t make a conscious decision to establish some discipline with my diet, my body finds a way to get back to energy balance and maintain that weight. Consciously choosing to be disciplined and to have a plan are huge.
2) Along those lines, I recently wrote about establishing an abundance mentality instead of a scarcity mentality and how powerful that can be. When paired with having a plan, that saved me from pounding a package of Oreos during those tough parts of the day. I was able to think about my re-feed day (tomorrow, day 4) and push through the afternoon/evening gnawing in my stomach without faltering. Choose an abundant mindset – positive thoughts are powerful thoughts.
3) I recently decided I have nerd problems. My Garmin 910XT decided to end its life last week so I had to give Garmin a call. As usual their customer service was excellent and they kindly issued an RMA and replaced it for me out of warranty (thank you). But, I don’t get the replacement until they receive my old watch and then they send out the new one so I’ve been without my trusty device for about a week now (Garmin addicts are gasping, I know). I’ve discovered how much of a data-head I am and how much it ticks me off to not have it! I’ve had to relearn how to train without numbers always in front of me. Turns out I can hit run splits pretty consistently without a watch. Unplug every once in awhile. It’s not so bad.
4) Along those lines, I am also pretty bad at following my own advice of not looking at the scale daily. Today was a solid reminder of why. Typically I make the weight checking routine as standardized as possible: right after I wake up, take care of bodily business, and before any food or water. I’m always wearing the same amount of clothing. There is very little variance. Today, however, I got my butt out of bed early for a nice run with friends. I ate a small breakfast, drank some Powerboat Perform and had a good chunk of water after the run. I came back expecting to jump on the scale and see the rewards of my discipline (read: constant state of being hungry) only to find a number higher than yesterdays. That sucks. I was bummed, angry and in disbelief all at the same. I was sure the scale was broken. Until I cross-referrence another scale and found out it wasn’t. Drat!After a few minutes I came to and realized that between the additional food and water, I probably had an additional 2-3 pounds on me that I don’t usually have when I weigh in. Two lessons: weigh yourself the same way every time and do not obsess over it and check every day otherwise you will see weird fluctuations and get bummed out.
5) Even though I unplugged, I am super pumped about the new Garmin 920XT and will be like this when I can grab it at my local shop.
That’s all for today. See you all on the flipside!
Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation with a friend and caught yourself thinking “man, I really should do that” when the topic shifts to something that is typically guilt-inducing like putting money in your retirement accounts or eating better? Think back to one of those moments with me for a second and tell me this: did you actually end up doing anything with that thought? Did your behavior in that area actually change?
Let’s be Real. Guilt Stinks, Period.
I don’t know about you, but for me, feelings of guilt can become serious mental roadblocks if allowed. Typically I’ll come to that “I really should do X, Y or Z” moment, feel terrible for a second, but then I’ll move on to the next thing. Classical avoidance (ugh – anyone else feel guilty just thinking about it?). I really should take that moment to make a small plan for some behavior change, BUT I hardly ever do…
Sadly, it’s something many of us struggle with.
Here is what is really bad about guilt: you think that it would motivate change. It doesn’t. It inhibits it. It holds us back from accomplishing so many things, health-related or not.
Now, go back to that feeling we pulled up a moment ago. How did it feel? Like another thing on your plate? An extra load to bear so to speak? Maybe even a little bit heavy and defeating? Not a fun feeling to experience when it all boils down, right?
It gets worse. Guilt can lead to some really untrue self-talk like “I could do X, but I’m just too lazy” or “I’m just way too busy” (more on that one in a bit). That self-talk in turn shapes how we view ourself – our self-concept. Often what you think to yourself becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you continually bash yourself, and tell yourself that you’re too lazy to do something you’ll most likely end up being lazy and not doing that thing. Funny how that works, huh!
So how do you take an inhibitory feeling like guilt and turn it in your favor?
1) Sit back and acknowledge the feeling. When you feel guilt (or any emotion for that matter), much like in meditation, try to view the emotion from an outside, and non-judgmental perspective. Say to yourself, “oh man, there it is again, that guilty feeling. No harm in that, but why am I feeling that?” BUT, don’t stop there. Examine it, much the way a scientist would in an experiment. Start asking some more questions.
2) Ask whyuntil you get to the root of the problem. Let’s use an example to bring this one to light. Let’s say you stumble across a delicious looking recipe online and think to yourself, “I really should try to cook more.”
Why haven’t you cooked more already? This is the turning point. You might try to come back with “I’m just too lazy so it never happens” or some other reason, but really ask yourself why.
Oh! What’s that? You bought that “Cooking for Newbies” book and meant to get started by reading it. But why didn’t you get started?
And then it comes to you. You put it in a box when you moved to your new place and now it’s buried and hard to get to. Got it!
3) Write it down. Once you are here, at this point of realization, just write it down. Just in the small action of writing it down you are more likely to take action and change your behavior.
**Side note: now, I know, if you’re in the middle of a conversation with a friend these first three steps can be more difficult. If you catch yourself in that situation, try to make a good mental note for later, or go out on a limb and mention it to your friend. He could be a good sounding board for the whole process. And then it would be totally less weird to just whip out a pen and paper and start writing something down in the middle of conversation.**
4) Come back later. This one will seem a little counterintuitive, but once you have sifted through all the whys and written some things down, set it aside and come back to it. While I wish it weren’t the case, we have a very finite amount of willpower and mental energy that we need to manage wisely. Just getting yourself through the process of slowing down and asking yourself the hard why question is enough for starters.
5) Make it manageable. While it might not seem like much, when you come back to your note ready for action, take a few seconds to break it down. Keep cutting the initial task “in half” until the first step is small enough to be super actionable. Even simpler examples like the cooking book in the buried box can become much more actionable just by breaking it into small pieces such as:
What first? Okay – walk to the basement where all the leftover moving boxes are stored.
Next – Move the boxes in front of and on top of the “extra books” box without making a huge mess. I’ll organize the moved boxes into two piles so it stays tidy.
Then – Get your book out of the buried box.
Finally – Put stuff back and start reading.
It’s a simple example, but you get the point. If an action seems overwhelming it’s very easy to dismiss that task and tuck away that overwhelming feeling for later. Then, when something triggers some guilt later, we have some misattribution of emotion going on because not only do we feel bad about not doing whatever it is we “should” be doing, but we also have these underlying feelings of being overwhelmed by the task that creep back into our consciousness, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Getting to your book under that HUGE pile of boxes feels like a much bigger and heavier task to our limited will-power if we don’t break it down, so often times we just skip it and move on.
6) Get out of your own way. Finally, don’t be your worst enemy. Too often we get in our own ways, often without realizing it. Much like packing your gym clothes the night before so you can just get up and go in the morning, try and have the book readily accessible and visible so you have lots of visual reminders through the day. But don’t stop there, make the choice to make time for it in your day. Write it in your calendar and make it non-negotiable.
7) Establish an abundance mindset. This is a small mental technique that can make life a whole lot more easier and fun. Let’s use dieting as an example. A scarcity mindset would be what you find for those who are on strict diets with no cheat days. They are always thinking “I can’t have deep fried chocolate covered bacon for a long, LONG time” and they will probably be counting the days for the diet to be over.Scarcity mindsets shift our focus to the negative which is a hard place to stay and achieve success.
The abundance mindset flips that on its head. An example of achieving an abundant mindset is establishing 1-2 cheat or “re-feed” days in your diet plan in which you are allowed to have whatever food(s) you swore off of for the majority of the diet. Instead of thinking about what you can’t have and counting the days until the diet is over so you can eat your bacon, you will be looking forward to that 1-2 days each week where you can splurge a little bit. Your focus will stay in the positive and more importantly, the whole behavior change will become much more manageable and sustainable. Winning!
One last thing…
Okay, last thing that goes back to a couple things I’ve said along the way so far. I want you to remember something, my friends:
Being busy is a choice.
It is so common to be “crazy busy” and be proud of it. Busyness, believe it or not, is not a virtue regardless of how much our culture wants you to think so. Entertain me for a minute. If you find yourself using the line “I’m just too busy to do X.” please do me the favor of stopping for a second and rewording it to be “I’m choosing to not make X a priority and am making other tasks or people a priority in it’s place.” That’s the utter reality. Changing our language reminds us that how we use our time is ultimately a choice. We often make time for what we want to make time for, just like we tend to have money for the things we like to spend money on. In the vast majority of cases it’s a choice. You have say in what happens in your life – take ownership of it and be awesome.
Carry on my friends. And remember:
Don’t Go it Alone
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