For most things in life, there’s a “right way” and a “wrong way”
Driving a car, holding a knife and fork, using a pen, writing a letter – you name it, there’s a way.
This creates a certain type of thinking that is hardwired into us, when we start to pursue something, we seek the complete system to take care of the task.
Obviously as far as health and fitness are concerned, you’ll be very familiar with this idea.
We get drawn into things like Paleo, Carb Backloading and low carb because they have an end to end system, methods and processes, even an FAQ.
This appeals to our desire to say we’ve got things covered
“I’ve got a tool, app or system for that part of my life”
it feels nice, it feels complete.
Of course, there’s more than just one issue with this way of thinking and being.
The mindset it creates.
Believing that health, fitness, strength and self development can be covered by one system or tool is the foundation of black and white, all or nothing thinking.
It leads to being “on” or “off” and ultimately to derailing when things don’t quite go to plan.
While I’m sure many fitness fanatics wish that life was a predictable pattern that they could plan for and work into their complex routines and rituals, this would only be removing the true essence of life – the variety, the idiosyncrasies and the new experiences.
It stands to reason that black and white thinking has no place in a process that needs to be flexible by design.
Secondly, subscribing to a system creates a narrow minded, ad hominem approach. As soon as you find yourself criticising an approach simply because you don’t use it yourself, or find yourself dismissing methods because your favourite blogger wrote a scathing piece on it – this is narrow mindedness at play.
You are not better than someone else because you fit a pancake into your diet today.
Someone is not a moron because they add butter to their coffee.
You’re the moron for attaching such value to your diet and food decisions and choices.
I’ve experienced it in my own self development, in assisting clients and in watching friends and family try to lose weight or get a little fitter.
We take a “ready to go”, shiny package off the shelf and we think that THIS program/system/book will be the last fitness program we’ll ever need to read.
You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 5
We assign an identity to the program, we crave the acceptance of a group or a like minded cult and we start to talk about our new, fancy meal combinations in the office canteen.
Using the “right way” makes us feel good, we feel superior and we feel like even though we haven’t actually seen any measurable results, we’re already winning.
The reason for the popularity of this phenomenon isn’t due to stupidity of the masses, it isn’t crazy and it isn’t unusual – it’s purely by design.
It doesn’t take much enquiry to work out that marketing preys on fear and uncertainty. We’re pushed quick fixes in shiny boxes because the experts know that we’ll bite.
We’ve spent our lives being told that there is a way things are done – a best practice – it only makes sense that (insert fad diet here) is that “way” for weight loss.
2 months in when the system fails to offer a way to manage your diet and training around your friend’s birthday, your holiday or Christmas – we fall back to our old habits, worsened by the black and white thinking we’ve created – the fall out of pastry and cream is magnified and extended beyond reason.
The single most common problem we ever experience when working with someone new is a lack of clarity.
I don’t mean that they don’t have an idea of what they want to achieve or where they want to get to.
I mean that they have no real hold over where they actually are.
“Numbers always tell the truth” – Paul Mort
They don’t know any of the key measures that actually drive change, instead, they know that gluten might be bad or bacon might be making them fat.
These blanket statements are useless without measurement.
As Peter Drucker put it – “What gets measured, gets managed” – I could not agree with this statement more.
Not losing fat? – fine, how do you know?
Need to add curls? – really? Why? what isn’t changing?
I’m doing 40 minutes of cardio 3 times per week – OK, is it working?
It comes down to this simple idea:
Is it working and how do you know?
I don’t mean what do you think, how you feel or how difficult something it. I mean show me the numbers, show me the data.
Through the lens of our programming and systems that we use with clients, our intention is to engender 4 principles that will stand the test of time. Principles that flex under load that will work today, tomorrow and in 10 years.
If you want to subscribe to a system and a way to quiet your inner desires, let this be it:
What do you want to achieve?
This MUST be numerical or measurable, if not, it has no place here
WHY do you want to achieve it?
Ask yourself why 4 times and really connect with any deeper reasons as they emerge – this connection will be the only thing you can rely on when things get difficult and you can’t be bothered. Want to get lean? Don’t care. I care about how looking how you currently look makes you feel. I care about how looking leaner would make you feel.
Measure it. Measure everything.
Pick a suite of variables that you correlate to actions to be taken on a daily, weekly and monthly basis – measure the numbers without fail. Without data we have nothing.
Make it a game
Without self competition, without crystal clear checkpoints to shoot for – you will fail. Consider sports on TV – the only reason we watch them and get sucked in is because we can keep score, we’re pushing to beat the opposition.
If you’re the only one watching over your progress, when push comes to shove, you’ll lie, cheat and con yourself out of your own progress. One thing your chimp brain cannot deal with is looking bad in front of others and accountability is the only way to ensure your primal self is onside.