May 19, 2008

Secret to Success Revealed!

[By Crabby]

[Photo credit: Plan 59]

Here at Cranky Fitness, we're all about revealing those Secret Sneaky Tricks that successful folks use to achieve their goals. True, after a big fat buildup, these "secrets" and "tricks" always turn out to be the same old boring stuff you've heard a thousand times before--but by the time you realize that, you're already halfway down the page!

(And lets face it: it's harder to get people to read blog posts called "Yep, It's That Same Old Self-Help Crap You Know Already.")

So what's today's Magical Solution to your health and fitness and life struggles?

(Is it a pill? Please? A nice cheap pill I can order online?)

Sorry, no.

It's just this simple advice:

Think About The Consequences of Your Actions and Make Conscious Choices About What You Do.

Isn't that a great idea? Can you imagine how much more successful you'd be if you did that?

Gosh, thanks Crabby. I'll keep that in mind.

Yeah, it is kinda obvious. Even if few people actually do it. Perhaps we need a catchier name?

How else can we turn the obvious into a series of self-help books and lucrative seminars? (Hmm, seminars--in Hawaii, say? Or the Caribbean...? Right on the ocean, with a four-star restaurant and a luxury spa and snorkeling and stuff? )

Sorry, what was I saying?

A catchier name, right!

So our new Miracle Fitness Solution? Let's call it:


(Uh oh, maybe we didn't choose too carefully ourselves. Apparently someone has already copyrighted this name. But it's just some "legal services" company. Screw them. What are they going to do, sue us?)

So why do you need to ChooseCarefully?©

Because most dumb decisions happen when we pretend we aren't actually "making" decisions at all. We just do stuff or we don't do stuff--and then we pretend that if we don't think about consequences, there are none.

People who are successful at losing weight or writing books or climbing the corporate ladder or running marathons? They recognize that the decisions they make everyday are important, so they make them consciously.

So how to stop floating around and start deciding? Here are some tips to on how to ChooseCarefully©:

1. Create Opportunities To Make the Right Decision

This is a hard habit to learn, but is worth training yourself to do it. Buy yourself time before giving in to temptation.

Get in the habit of waiting, even if it's only a minute or two, between a tentative impulse to give in, and actually doing something there's a good chance you'll regret.

So if a simple "no I don't need that brownie," isn't working, then tell yourself: "Well, maybe I do need it, but not yet. First I'll go get a drink of water, and then check my email, and then maybe stretch my hamstrings, and then I'll decide if I really want it I can have it. At least some of the time, you may actually change your mind and talk yourself back out of it.

Note: If it's a Big Decision, like whether to have plastic surgery, or buy an expensive sports car, or marry some guy who's really sweet, deep down, just misunderstood so he acts crazy sometimes, then you may need to buy yourself more than a few minutes.

Mom, I swear You'll Learn to Like Him!

2. Visualize Consequences.

This another obvious but effective trick when you remember to do it. Tempted to skip your workout? Don't just ask yourself "do I want to go to the gym now?" Because of course the answer is "hell no!"

Instead, ask: do I want to try to fit in an extra workout later in the week? Will I feel like it more then? How do I feel after a few missed workouts? Do I really want to lose momentum and feel guilty and like crap? How virtuous will I feel afterwards if I just suck it up and exercise?

When considering a big-ass bowl of super-premium ice cream, do you ask whether it's worth an extra five to ten miles on the treadmill in addition to what you normally do? If you eat it, will you feel satisfied or will you still want another bowl of ice cream when the first bowl is gone?

Successful people ask themselves questions like this all the time. (They don't always get the answer right, because imperfection is inevitable and even necessary. The trick is to never stop asking).

3. Little Decisions Add Up

Merry had a great post about this, but it bears repeating.

Suppose you have a very cherished but challenging goal, like saving money for a house. You may realize, theoretically, that it's going to take a lot of effort, but do you make all the small decisions you need to in order to get there?

Because you'll never get there if you forget the house whenever you're faced with an amazing expensive pair of shoes or an evening at a Chi-Chi bar where cocktails are $15.

Too many people won't acknowledge that life is about Trade-Offs. You don't get to have everything. Pretending this isn't true can mean losing your house or your education or your financial security to a steady supply of designer clothes and Starbucks Frappucinos.

4. Not to Decide is to Decide

If you often think wistfully, "I'd love to take a karate class someday" or "I bet I'd be good at selling real estate" or "I'm lonely and could use more friends and there's this knitting class that meets on Thursdays" but instead of doing anything you sit and watch television every night instead?

Well, guess what: you are deciding that you'd rather watch tv than learn karate or get a real estate license or have friends.

These sort of decisions don't feel like decisions, though--partly because if we really put any thought into it, we'd never make them. Would we really squander our precious time on earth doing things like checking our blog stats every ten minutes or watching four consecutive hours of Law and Order reruns?

(And Jen at Semicharmed Wife had a great example of making this process conscious in her blog. "I know I said I’d work on my short story today," she wrote, "but I feel like I deserve to read gossip blogs for an hour instead of working on my life’s dream.")

5. Still Making Dumb Decisions? Shrink Yourself!

No, not physically. Psychologically. Better yet, if you can afford an actual shrink, go see one. They get paid to do this because some of them are actually good at it.

Because if you're making a lot of bad decisions, maybe it's not just a question of willpower. You may have one conscious agenda ("to eat healthier and get in shape!") and a whole different unconscious one ("to never, ever feel deprived," "to distract myself from my feelings," "to stay invisible" or whatever).

Here's where it's helpful to look at patterns. In what situations do your actions typically contradict your intentions? Do you always overeat after a visit with your mother? Do you overspend when you're angry? You may be telling yourself all kinds of silly things to encourage these self-defeating behaviors, and it's helpful to learn how to tune into these conversations. Once you can hear what you're telling yourself, you can start questioning some of the idiotic things you carry around in your head-- so you can ChooseCarefully© instead!

So this is just the first five of a list that's probably at least 100 items long. But, well, this post has run long enough and Cranky Fitness isn't going anywhere. We can talk about the other 95 later on... perhaps someday at a sunny self-help seminar at a fancy resort!

Plus, many of you Smart Readers have much better suggestions about how to make conscious choices about important things rather than flailing around. So if you do, please share!


  1. So many thoughts & yet my Bullmastiff also thinks it's time for him to go & do his bidness.

    Dare I say you've better (read: mo' detail mo' funnies) explained/expanded on my Facetime? Love it.

    A big one for me is the notion of INACTION IS AN ACTION.
    The not choosing is, indeed, a choice to remain (for my purposes/how I apply it) STUCK where you are.

    MizFit, who is now thumbtyping and chasing 150 pounds of canine down the stairs. May I deem this a 'run?'

  2. Frick. is it ok to add that my tactic is Dr. Phil'ing myself?
    that I put on my best Texan Twang and ask:

    usually it's no worse than Ive imagined. I git over my damn self. I CHOOSE ACTION.

  3. All good, Crabby. At it's core you're suggesting we have to think rather than go about our days in a daze hoping things work out and complaining when they don't. Mindful living and taking responsibility for what goes in our bodies and what we do about it. Now, who wants to do that when we can slob around and eat crap and not have to think?

  4. I'm into UnConscious Choices, otherwise known as "Listening to Your Instincts." Unfortunately, ice cream has a really loud voice.

    (Former Librarian Tangent: never accept--much less PAY for-- "legal services" from people who think you can copyright a name! If they don't know the difference between copyright and trademark, stay far away.)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  5. such a great post. too often i tell myself that i "deserve" this now, without realizing the consequences for later.

    I am going to put 'choose carefully' on post-its and decorate my house with them. (and possibly wear one on my head too. Maybe it will finally sink in!)

  6. Given my crazy workout schedule (I now teach at four gyms, yes I'm a certified certifiable fitness instructor), I usually don't give too much thought to the ice cream or cookies or whatever. My worry is that once I'm not teaching/working out as much (like, say, when I have a family), then I'm going to be in big trouble and I'm going to have to actually start thinking about the consequences of the food I love so much...

  7. Choices? Consequences? Damnation, woman, why'd you have to point that out?

  8. Mary Anne--

    Ooops, the copyright/Trademark slip up was my mistake, not theirs. They've got a trademark, not a copyright.

    (And I have a legal background myself and should have known better. But I liked the fact that I could make a cute little copyright sign and I don't know the html to make a trademark sign).

    Yeah, "choosing carefully" is something I talk about a lot more than I do!

  9. Excellent Post1

    Everything we know and ignore placed right out there in front of us!



  10. Choose are right.

    but instant gratification is so much funner.

  11. Damn it, this means there's No Escape. Even refusing to make a decision is in itself a decision. Argh!
    Well, if I'm going to have to make a decision either way, I might as well make one that I'll feel good about afterwards.

  12. What a great post. And, exactly what I needed to hear!

    I'm now off to take some action and head to the gym. :-)

  13. I really wish I had something meaningful to contribute to the conversation. I don't. But I am trying to waste time reading blogs instead of going to the gym.

  14. Great post! Making all those little conscious decisions make such a huge difference. Much of my veggie intake comes from me thinking "damn, I'm hungry. What should I eat?" and then munching on carrots or similar while I'm deciding and making a good choice about what my meal/snack should be. Vegetables are good for that kind of thing.

  15. I stumbled upon your blog a couple days ago and I've enjoyed it. I especially agree with #3 and #4. I've been trying to be better about money and you always hear about if you just didn't get a coffee every morning (or other things you don't think about) how your savings will slowly add up. I've also learned that you can really direct your life by deciding where you want to be and what you want to do.
    Great post!

  16. God, I sympathize with this, and the problem I have is that my conscious brain doesn't even stop to think until I have the cookie in my mouth.

    You have to train yourself to think at these moments. I had done this at one point, and in the beginning I would actually spit out a cookie when I realized what I was doing (I know, gross, right?).

    Pretty soon I'd look at cookies and think: "I don't want that, and I certainly don't want to spit it out."

  17. Sometimes I value my unconsciousness:) I know that if I really think it through, then I won't eat the ice cream and I really want the ice cream so I'm not going to think about it. But you are right, when I really make my choices carefully (TM!) then things do turn out better...

    And hey I'm all about the shrinkage! The trick is in finding one of the good ones. They're usually full up:)

  18. Most people fall into one of two types:

    Feel better after making a decision or

    Feel better looking for information before making a decision.

    Robert Heinlein said: "All decisions are made with insufficient data."

    Therefore, figure out which type you are and:

    If type one, slow down like Crabby recommends.

    If type two, make the decision quicker, you will never have enough data.

    Dr. J

  19. I like the 'buying time' one best! At work, I make myself get to a small project milestone before I get my craving snack.

    At home, well...okay - I'll admit it. I go shave my legs. 3 purposes.
    1) It reminds me how much more I like them now and how much more I will like them if I don't snack, 2) Makes me feel pretty,
    3) Buys time.

  20. Thanks for the shout-out! I love this post. Little decisions add up, indeed. I'm so bad for this. I'll think, "but it's just ONE oreo". And it is. But it was also just one soft taco, just one beer, just one piece of cheese, and just one skipped workout... it really does add up!

  21. This blog has helped me pull out of a looooooong slump

    and so

    I like it very much.

    sagan morrow, that's a pretty magnificent tip. Thank you for that. With your permission, I'm going to use it until it's quite sick of me.

  22. This came across over the weekend chatting with an unhealthy, very overweight family emmber who can't seem to figure out why she can't lose weight...but isn't willing to really *do* anything about if for more than a week or two.
    It is true...sometimes it's just too easy to sit and waste time not doing the things you'd like to do. But in the end, what else are we here for? Having just gotten over (knock on wood) a long lung infection, there is nothing I want more than to get out there and *do* things...because it's when you *can't* do things you realise how much you really want to. :)

  23. I think you hit the head on the nail with "Choose Consciously." Having more of a "choice" mentality helped me live healthier because it helped me take the judgment out of my choices. For example, when deciding to eat that ice cream at 11pm or not. I would tell myself, "You have a choice. You can eat this, and it will sit in your stomach all night, or you can eat it tomorrow earlier in the day so you have time to burn it off."

    What ends up happening is that I choose not to eat it at all because it's not contributing to my goals. But, I always have the choice to eat it if I want. It's more of a mental strategy, and works on almost everything.

  24. Are all you bloggers trying to gang up on us? Half of Me's post is about choosing carefully too. Sigh.

  25. Oh, does this mean I have to take my brain out of neutral? I think I will go with the post it note suggestion! Stick them all over the apartment!

  26. I think mindful living is one of the key components in the search for success. Having a fear of success can also rob us of our true destiny so its important to live in the here and now rather than dreaming about the future.By doing this we can plan for our future without possible future events controlling our present day lives.


Thanks for commenting, Cranky Fitness readers are the BEST!

Subscribe to comments via RSS

(Note: Older Comment Threads Are Moderated)