Friday, November 22, 2013

Mental WOD

It seems I cannot repeat this type of thing enough.  What an athlete does to regain fitness/health and stay fit doesn't matter as much as that the athlete does something, with adequate consistency.  Anyone older than 12 knows that will power is over-rated.  Goal setting is cool, but over-rated.  Determination is great, essential even, but inadequate.  Fear of death or senility or feebleness also can be good but only goes so far.  What works to keep folks on track with health and fitness in a world of folks who consistently eat toxic foods is very simple, and very difficult.  What works is to enlist the assistance of the unconscious mind, as that element of our being is more powerful in our behavior than most of us are aware.

Like a dog, the UCM does not know cause and effect, and it does not see the same reality you see.  You could imagine the UCM being like one of the folks in Plato's cave - they see the shadow of the world, but don't realize that's not the world.  You would think that a person who drinks and gets a hangover would have a powerful unconscious association with pain and alcohol, but as we mostly know, that's not true - the events take place too far apart for the pain of the hangover to associate with the booze.  What the UCM associates with the booze is the pleasure of the buzz.  Thus the drinking pattern is easier to repeat than to stop for many.  The same is true with cigarettes and sugary foods.  There's a mountain of suffering that results from eating crap, but the UCM associates to the pleasure at ingestion and fights you when you try to "eat right".

The UCM is a full contact player and like a dog (or a kid) wants two things - it wants to avoid pain and enjoy pleasure.  Anything you do or can't get yourself to do, or won't do, it's likely because the UCM pain/pleasure formula tilts one way or the other.  If you want to do more of something, you have to get the UCM to associate pleasure to that behavior - and vice versa.

How come people do miserably painful workouts day in and day out?  The pleasure of the victory, or movement, or some pleasurable emotion exceeds the physical pain.  Plain and simple.

So, to get the UCM to help you win in your quest to live with vibrant health and abundant physical capacity, you have to train the UCM.  If you have ever had success training a dog or child, you know how this goes.  All bad behaviors have to become a source of annoyance and displeasure, and all good behaviors must be rewarded in ways the UCM finds palpable.  Negatives with undesired behavior and positives with desired behavior must be delivered as quickly as possible to the occurrence of the behavior.  Clear rational thought does not get through to dogs or the UCM - passion on the other hand, emotional intensity, is everything when paired with consistency.

How does this apply to changing lifelong patterns of eating?  You have to make it annoying to eat crap, like my friend who wanted to quit smoking so everywhere he liked to smoke, he couldn't smoke there.  So, he had to stop and get into the back seat to have a cigarette instead of smoking while driving.  How could you apply that principle to your favorite nasty food or drink?  Get creative, find a way that prevents you from going head to head with the UCM (losing formula in my experience to say "I'm never going to eat XYZ again").  You can eat anything you want as long as you are standing naked in the freezing cold dodging cars in the interstate?  Well, that might be taking it a bit too far, but not a bad nugget of an idea.

A really simple start is - get all the crap out of the house.  If you have to get into the car to drive to a place to get the crap, that's going to win many times when your will power will fail.

Another recommendation: find a way to celebrate every time you go to the track or finish a day or a four hour period of time of only eating the good stuff.

It doesn't matter how fast you used to be able to run - going to the track, or whatever, is a win so give yourself a celebration - the more intensity you can muster the better!

Any day that you notice any change - throw a freaking party!  A day without cravings?  Win!  A smaller waist?  Win!  A run faster than last week?  Win!  A week or a month of getting to the gym every time you planned to?  Win!  A day of eating good, nourishing food?  Win!

Can't get yourself to feel proud of what you accomplished today?  Pretend that you are, and act like you would act if you did feel that way.  Why?  Action creates emotion - correct actions can bring desired emotions, desired emotions are a reward for the UCM.

Call your friends, post on Facebook, say a prayer of thanks, give some money to a charity, give some money to yourself, call your parents, call your kids, do something with emotion to mark the success.  You are not a world class athlete using negative motivators to torture a tenth of a second off of your time in order to beat the best competition in the world.  You have a life, it is much too short for negative motivators.  Make success a process oriented game, and give yourself some credit for any success - dammit.  Self flagellation is for monks and the Shiites, you are here to enjoy your life and getting healthy is the best way to start doing that.  You are on a great quest, have fun, when you fall or fail, put it behind you and get back in the saddle.  Learn the lesson, leave the mistake behind with no regrets, unless you fail to focus on where you want to be.

The unconscious mind responds to emotion. If you give yourself an emotion you like after each workout or eating win, of sufficient intensity, the UCM will begin to think it wants you to workout, and it will help you get there. Success comes when the UCM and the CM are aligned.  Train yours with consistency, care and passion and it will serve you better than any dog.

I understand it is the British Special Air Service who say "Who Dares Wins"

PS - for further reading, consult Tony Robbins' work, or contact my performance coach, James Murphy via

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