There is no way to sugar coat the first fact of self-improvement: Staying the same just isn’t going to work.
Whether you are talking about fitness, your relationships, your mindset, your job performance, or any other aspect of your life, in order to make improvements, you will likely need to do something differently.
Without striving for more efficiency and constant improvement, the Law of 1% will never take effect for you. The Law of 1% improvement relies on compound interest. If you continually improve by 1%, the increasing baseline will enable that 1% to have more of an impact at each step. The result is an exponential pattern, and once you hit “the tipping point”, you will be flooded with results.
The question remains, “How do we make continual and gradual improvements over time?”
For some, that question might be easy to answer.
If you would like to decrease the fat you have on your body, the solution may be automating your intake, to ensure against over-indulgences.
If you would like to increase your strength, the solution may be to apply the concept of progressive overload in an intelligent manner, to ensure you’re gaining muscle/force production over time.
If you would like to eliminate binges, the solution may be to plan your meals in advance, to ensure you aren’t tempted and using up your finite willpower.
No matter what way you look at the topic of self-improvement, one fact is crystal-clear:
In order to continually self-improve, you will need to become comfortable doing things which are out of your comfort zone.
Simply put, you’ll have to figure out a way to do things you don’t want to do.
Re-Frame Your Thoughts
I am lucky enough that once I found a dietary and training method which produced results, I found it easy to follow along. I had been busting my ass for so long – at all the wrong things – that I was extremely grateful to run across macro counting and intermittent fasting.
Although I don’t fast any longer (surprise), it was an excellent “starter template” for overall dietary compliance, and I highly recommend it to many (not all) of our clients.
I didn’t need to do much “re-framing” of my thoughts on fitness – I had my habits in order already.
There are many other aspects of my life, however, which I need help on. My mindset needs work at times.
Two helpful strategies that will enable you to improve your mindset are the strategies of “re-framing” and/or “checking in”.
First, let’s discuss “re-framing”.
When faced with a task you do not wish to tackle, there are inevitable thoughts which will flood to your consciousness.
Work is finished and you’re tired, but you know you should head to the gym. Your thought is likely:
All I really want to do is put on sweatpants and call the pizza guy. I would be home and comfortable in 10 minutes. I’ll train tomorrow.”
In this frame of mind, it will be nearly impossible to beat your mindset and get to the gym. We need a change in consciousness.
Let’s re-frame the situation. After re-framing, your thoughts:
I am tired and I don’t feel like training. This is the perfect opportunity to show that I can train even when I don’t feel like it. I will feel great when I am finished, and the next time I don’t feel like training, I can look back at this moment and know I can do anything. This is my chance to shine.”
Same situation, but after a re-framing of the task ahead of you, you will find an inner strength and make it into your gym.
One more example. You are about to attend a party, but you’re currently on a diet. You are having anxiety about all the delicious food and drinks that will be served. Your thought is likely:
How on earth will I ever stay on point at this party? There’s always loads of craft beer and munchies. All my friends will want me to eat, and I’m embarrassed to admit to them that I’m on a diet. I should just throw my plan out the window.”
In this frame of mind, you’re beaten before you even get to the party. If you try to stay on track, you’re likely to become derailed, as you’ve made up your mind before even trying.
It’s time for another re-framing. Your new, re-framed thoughts:
I am in total control over what goes into my body. Social events are meant to be social. I will make the event about conversation and laughter, not about food and drinks. When someone offers me food, I’ll simply say, “No thanks, I’m good,” and leave it at that. This is an opportunity to test my resolve and prove I can tackle any situation. I’m ready – let’s do this.”
Again, same situation, but after a positive re-framing, you will feel your confidence swell. Instead of feeling anxious and defeated, you’re feeling in control.
Re-framing is an excellent tool to make undesirable tasks become tolerable. Always keeping the right angle in your thought process will allow you to reap the benefits of sharpening your mental toughness.
The re-framing is an excellent tool for Step One – committing to the undesirable task.
There’s an extra piece which still looms – completion of the undesirable task.
In the examples above, let’s assume the person made it to the gym………..and the party. There is still a crucial step left – executing the game plan. Just because you made it to the gym doesn’t mean you’re going to push yourself to the max. And just because you made it to the party with newfound resolve doesn’t mean staying on point with your diet will be easy.
This is where “the check-in” comes into play.
During the difficult task itself, “the check-in” is used when your anxiety levels begin to rise, and you can feel yourself about to “crack”.
Let’s say you’re in the gym, you get through your warm-up, and you’re still not feeling it. The lure of your couch and Netflix is pulling you towards the door.
It’s time to “check-in”. Checking in works with the following self-talk template. You say to yourself (or out loud):
I am currently <name the task> . Completing this task will benefit me by <reasons the task will benefit you> .”
To the unmotivated gym-goer, the check-in would look something like this:
I am currently in the gym to strength train. Completing this task will benefit me by making me a stronger person mentally and physically. It will give me more confidence, improve my posture, and relieve my stress and anxiety. I will feel amazing in an hour when I am finished.”
To the anxious party-goer, the check-in would look something like this:
I am currently on point with my diet during a social event. Completing this task will prove to myself that I can handle any situation. I will not feel any guilt associated with binging and eating carelessly. I will wake up tomorrow morning proud of myself for turning down food offered by my friends. I will be rewarded at my next weigh in with verified results.”
The check-in is a technique I have personally used lately in order to deal with a 5-year old child who is having potty training issues. My daughter, Brooklyn, is struggling with mastering the final stages of bathroom usage – using the restroom in the middle of the night and going back to bed independently.
Brooklyn is used to being tucked in. Therefore, when she uses the restroom in the middle of the night, she then wants someone to walk her back to her room and tuck her in.
This has resulted in my wife and myself being awakened at least 3-4 times each night for about the last 3 months. We have begged, pleaded, threatened, and offered rewards, all to no avail.
We thought we would get our sleep back after our kids were finally out of the newborn stage.
I knew what had to be done. I needed to take a firm stance and refuse. I also knew a stand-off would ensue.
Instead of being negative and upset about the upcoming night of no sleep, I re-framed my thoughts. I said to myself:
Although tonight may be terrible in the short-term, in a few days, Brooklyn will stop coming into our room. My wife and I will have uninterrupted sleep again, and our whole family will be happier and less stressed.”
That night, as predicted, Brooklyn came walking through the bedroom door at 1:45 am, wanting to be tucked back in.
I walked her outside the room, and to her surprise, I shut the door, stood right where I was, and said to her, “I’m not moving. I’ll wait until you walk yourself back to bed.”
Brooklyn cried, begged, pleaded, threw herself on the ground, threw a temper tantrum, and tried every childlike trick under the sun to get me to budge. I refused and stood my ground.
Which isn’t to say it was easy. On the contrary. About 4 different times, I felt my anxiety and frustration levels rise to the roof. I felt like screaming out in annoyance in the middle of the night.
It was during these times, I used the check in technique. I would say to myself:
I am currently standing my ground and making Brooklyn grow up a bit. This will benefit us by giving Brooklyn more self-confidence and showing her she will not get her way by using immature, childish antics. My wife and I will get our sleep back in another day or two.”
The standoff ended at 4:15 am.
Yep, that’s two-and-one-half-hours of me standing there in the hallway, in the middle of the night, refusing to move, with a defiant child.
At 4:15 am, she admitted defeat, walked back to her room, shut the door, and went to bed.
All future standoffs (there have been 2 or 3 more instances) have been 10 seconds or less. She now knows she will not win.
Next time you are faced with a task you don’t want to do, be sure to utilize these techniques. They are invaluable and will enable you to power through the undesirable items you know will help you in the long term.