[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?
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?
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.
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!