Will it make the boat go faster?
You might ask what do boats have to do with your health and fitness goals?
The Australian Mens Eight Rowing team that won the Gold Medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 put every decision they made in the 18 months preceding the games down to one critical question...
‘Will it make the boat go faster?’
...with the simple premise that if the answer was ‘yes’ they went ahead with their choice, and if the answer was ‘no’ they revised their choice to get their metaphorical boat closer to the finish line. There is a widely recommended book by the same title and written by Harriet Beveridge available on this topic.
You can use this type of psychological ‘hack’ to break your more complex choices into something a little bit simpler.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” - US President Roosevelt
I recently listened to a podcast by Irish blogger Brian Keane and he referenced the above quote by President Roosevelt that “comparison is the thief of joy” and it still holds much relevance today.
A recent #StatusOfMind report highlighted the negative impact social media (particularly Instagram) can have on mental health.
This is due to a “compare and despair” attitude as people pit themselves against one another for likes based on body image, social activity, wealth and ability (among other variables). They found that the longer time somebody spent on social media during the day and the higher number of social media channels they subscribed was shown to have a direct and noticeable impact on common mental health and happiness markers.
"I’ll be happy when…."
Have you ever caught yourself thinking ‘I’ll be happy when… I have a new car; I have a new house; I have a new girlfriend; I have a new job; I get a divorce; I retire and spend your life basing your happiness in the chance occurrence of future events?
People spend their lives paralysed by the fear of ‘failure’.
They are terrified that they may not fulfil their dreams so instead of embracing the journey and being motivated by the chance of success they simply never even try in the first place.
To paraphrase a TedTalk by Jon Bowers he explained
‘when the fear of failure is removed, there is only progess’
i.e failure is only what you allow it to become.
From a personal perspective I struggle (sometimes badly) with this because when you play a team sport it is impossible to separate external and internal validation.
Not being picked for a team, losing a match and injury are a selection of external factors that can affect your feelings of worth and happiness.
It is not a perfect science. I have to keep myself in check and accept that there are dreams I may never actually achieve but I will keep persevering to get as close to them as I can to give myself the best opportunity.
There are any number of quotes available that address this from slightly different angles but...
'discipline takes the place of motivation when the spirit in which motivation was established has extinguished'
...and by understanding this you can put in place processes that make it easier to be disciplined.
It's a slightly different scenario with more external influencers than individual health and fitness but I would love to play for Dublin in an All-Ireland Final and with no guarantee I will ever get there as selections, injuries and development of other people can all influence the outcome. I will still give myself the best possible chance with correct habits and have a good time on the way by engaging with the process and letting the outcome influence itself where possible.
"If you are not happy on the journey, you won't be happy with the outcome" - because you are being influenced by factors outside your control and most of the same habits that helped you get to that level will be required to maintain your outcome once you get there.
‘The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our mark too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark’
Success is never guaranteed, especially so when you are depending on external or uncontrollable factors. Set your goals depending on where YOU want to be, not on where other people think you should be or their definitions of success.
More money, more problems?
People often say that more money will make you happier but is this right?
Money is the most widely used social measure of success so we can assume that more money makes people happier? Wrong.
Many studies have been done on the relationship between wealth and happiness and show little correlation between accumulation of wealth and long term happiness beyond a certain threshold or living standard.
In the short-term major ‘success’ spikes perception of short-term happiness but psychology research has shown that happiness levels return to baseline. Would you be 10 times happier if you were earning €500,000 per year as opposed to €50,000 per year?
The research says not, because it has been proven that happiness is mainly driven by internal perception of self and close relationships but money is an external measure metric of your own self worth.
Applying this concept to our health and fitness we can assume that just because somebody looks like they could be on the cover on Men’s Fitness it does not automatically mean they are happy.
Opening your account at the ‘Bank of Fitness and Health’ in January 2018
Common "New Year,New Me" fitness resolutions include 'getting a six pack', 'getting really strong', 'I want to be really lean' and 'I want to do a marathon' amongst others and they are all viable outcomes with the correct time investment and training/nutritional stimulus.
The biggest difference between getting fit and almost all other outcomes we know in society, is that our body doesn’t respond to economics, money alone can’t get you ‘fit' but it can help find you a good coach, a well stocked facility or provide a degree or pre-commitment to your goals - ultimately though, the responsibility for your training lies with you.
Investing in your fitness is different to investing in a physical commodity in that improving your health and fitness outcomes is like investing in the stock market or opening a savings account - the value of your investment can fall as well as rise.
The good news is that there are habits and behavioural principles that if methodically followed, are proven to produce commonly desired outcomes such as lower body fat, increased strength and therefore better health biomarkers including healthier blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Similar to investing in the stock market there is a period of time over which you can reasonably expect and assess returns. You cannot invest in a startup and reasonably expect it to turn into a company that will rival Apple or Microsoft inside a week or even a month. It will take months and years of smart management and habits to build a company that will provide similar returns. You may not ever get to the elite level because by the definition of elite there are only a few that can reach that point at any one time. However, there are multitudes of people that run perfectly successful businesses that are perfectly adequate for their own needs and wants.
Commit to 'depositing' in your fitness savings account consistently by building correct and sustainable habits that you can discuss with your coach, depending on your specific goals.
Typically, the categories that these habits could fall under are (and a sample list);
Eating sufficient protein
Trusting the training program
Staying within calorie range per day
Don’t go bankrupt!
Similar to a savings account or stock market investment - one poor choice does not shut a company down so apply the same principle to your health and fitness management.
At the Sigma Nutrition seminar with Danny Lennon, he emphasised that body composition is the result of average habits and behaviours over a long period of time and is not significantly affected by individual (acute) events.
This is similar to how a company's stock market results or profits from 5 years ago are irrelevant to their current status, the same applies to our health and fitness and the upkeep is consistent.
Even when you have reached your 'point of happiness', you will not stay there in the long term without adopting the correct strategies to maintain and improve our health, fitness and body composition constantly adapt to our habits.
If you have a bad meal, don't have a bad day; if you have a bad day, don't have a bad week and if you have a bad week, don't have a bad month.
If you won 1million euros in the lotto and spent €20,000 that weekend, you wouldn't just say I’ve spent some of it so I should spend it all would you?
Never withdraw all your ‘fitness’ savings and go bankrupt.
"Comparison is the thief of joy"
Set your own goals and find your self-motivation
Expect to progress relative to your current ability
Get off social media
Chase success and embrace failure
If you are not happy on the journey you will more than likely feel no different at your outcome
Body composition is the result of habits and behaviours over a period of time - one bad choice, one night out won't affect your ultimate outcome so don't 'shut down your account' when your discipline slips!
Pick your goal, turn it into a question and when you are facing a choice ask yourself if it will help you get closer to your goals?
Will it make your boat go faster?