We all know that extrinsic motivation doesn’t last long. In takes less than 90 days for the excitement of New Year’s resolutions to wear off. In fact, if you look at fitness gym falloff, statistics imply that the external motivation provided by one’s calendar only lasts about 50 days. A big part of the problem is that New Year’s resolutions are rarely true resolutions. They are wish lists. And we typically don’t get what we wish for. We get what we must have. Until your wishes become must haves, they will continue to be fleeting. Long-term fitness progress cannot rely on temporary positive emotions stirred up by outside sources. Our feelings are much too volatile. We need more solid ground to stand on if our healthy habits are going to endure the storms of life.
Here’s a secret that I’ve found after years and years of coaching people toward their full physical potential. And this principal applies beyond your body. The fact is, if you want to make large and lasting improvements in ANY area of your life, then …
Progress = E + E > I + I ©
That is, your Education + Esteem must be stronger than the Impulses + Illusions you encounter.
Allow me to explain and expound on each the things represented in this equation:
Without education, there isn’t the slightest reason to change, or knowledge of how to change. If you think everything is ok, you will continue in your ignorance down the same path of self destruction as everyone else. Confronted with multiple confusing paths, a person usually stays where they are, even if they know it’s wrong. It’s the old “the devil you know is better than the one you don’t” mentality. “I know I’m on the way to premature death, but at least I’m familiar with the path.”
It’s sad that people won’t try something else if they know what they are doing isn’t working, but that’s the way we tend to be – lack of clarity results in lack of action. So we must get educated – and the responsibility is ours. The information is available. Books, internet, webinars, seminars, professionals … you name it. Though you might absorb different perspectives, the accumulation of knowledge combined with the accumulation of experience allows you to build wisdom – which always steers you straight. But just like you can’t turn a car that isn’t moving, you are never going to get on the right road if you don’t at least start pressing the pedal and moving.
All the education in the world won’t conquer a lack of self esteem. How is your self esteem? If you don’t care about yourself, you aren’t going to act upon the education you receive. There’s just no reason to. You don’t see your life as worthy of being better. Or perhaps you want a better body, but you really don’t believe that it is worthy of being improved.
Where do you derive your self esteem? Is it dependent on your environment? That’s a dangerous source – our environments change, and we could lose it. Does it come from your money? Another dangerous source – money comes and goes. Will your self esteem follow it? Do you source it from the people you know? People both change AND come and go. That’s again very dangerous.
Look, I’m not trying to preach to you and get you to adopt my source of self esteem, but I can tell you that I’m blessed to know where I come from, why I’m here, what I’m going to do about it, and where I’m going. There is a peace I derive from my assurance, there is a passion instilled within me, there’s a purpose for living, and there’s a pursuit to chase after, and paradise in which to relax when my time here is done. I know who’s image I’m created within. I know the family into which I’ve been adopted. I know my eternal Father, and I know that nothing can separate me from His love or pull me out His hand. Who I am is not determined by what the people or the economy thinks of me, but by what God knows of me.
Many people talk about self esteem and how it shouldn’t be tied to our bodies. You might be surprised that even though I make my money as health and fitness professional, I agree. However, this message is getting across in the wrong way, bringing an additional unhealthy and just as devastating message with it. You’ve no doubt seen over various social media channels – we are now supposed to “love ourselves the way we are.” You see obviously overweight and unhealthy individuals parading their lack of self discipline and modeling barren bodies in what more accurately could be described as a celebration of premature death.
Our bodies do not define us. Agreed. Who we are is a mixture of our perspectives, our passions, our personalities, and our pursuits. But … and it’s a big “but” (pun slightly intended) … our bodies DO either empower us to lead fuller and better lives, or put limits on our potential – not the least of which would be our time here on this earth. You see, the house that your family lives in does not define your family – but a stronger, cleaner, more organized living space adds vastly to the quality of life for your family – with more security, health, and productivity. It’s the same with our souls, who we are, and our bodies – where we live.
When your children behave self destructively, you don’t tell them to just love themselves the way they are. Quite the contrary, you DO LOVE them the way they are, and that’s precisely WHY to do everything you can to eliminate that self-destructive behavior – before it hurts them. So who loves themselves more, the person who’s willing to do what it takes to have a healthy body that serves their soul well, or the person who lazily accepts their unhealthy and unnecessary limits? We’ve been approached to be a partner of different magazines and websites that promote the celebration of overweight women. I was told it was my target market. Maybe it’s one of the markets, we help, yes. But I told them I disagreed with their entire perspective, and if any of the subscribers became my clients, my first goal would be change the destructive mindset that made them subscribers in the first place – and that wasn’t fair to them. So I declined.
Your self esteem goes hand in hand with your personal standards. We all have standards, whether we know it or not. We might have standards regarding our hair, makeup, our clothing, our jewelry, our technology, jobs, our cars, and our homes. For many of our clients and prospects, settling for a job at McDonald’s is simply not an option, yet for some reason settling for a meal there … is. Why? There is a minimal level of quality that we accept in different areas of our lives. Why does our body and health not hold as high a place as other things? You must think enough of your physical self to treat it as well as you do your financial self.
One of the reasons humans have dominion over this world is the amazing ability to overcome our impulses, and instead reach for higher purposes. It’s a spiritual component that makes us 4-way creatures, a step ahead of other 3-way species with only the physical, mental, and emotional parts. But when we just simply continue to give in to impulses, we act like animals … and lose much of the power that sets us apart and allows us to get ahead.
Illusions are common: it tastes like a lot of this will make me happy, but after going to town on it, we rarely are more joyous for having eaten it, right? It’s usually a feeling of sickness and regret. It seems that this will make me accepted – maybe everyone is partaking of alcohol, and it seems that if you drink, it will make them like and respect you more. The reality is that it’s easy to be one of the crowd. The bell curve is packed with mediocre people. What’s lacking, and what draws true respect, is people that are willing to be themselves, and to do the things necessary to achieve their goals. Those are the people that draw crowds to watch them, create fans that adore them, become the subject of movies, get books written about their lives, and cement their place in history.
In summary, we don’t make many in-the-moment decisions; our actions are largely predetermined.
A while ago, I read the title of a scientific article on the brain that proposed this idea, and quickly read the whole thing, motivated by my desire to form an argument against their hypothesis. But although I disagreed with certain angles and assumptions, the more I thought about the basic premise, I reached a similar conclusion. We act largely according to our beliefs, perspectives, and convictions – NOT by weighing costs / benefits at the moment of decision. Sure, we can hit the “override” button intentionally while mustering a surge of temporary self discipline, possibly motivated by someone else’s beliefs, perspectives, and convictions, but most of time we are pretty predictable – if someone knows our deepest views of both ourself and the world in which we live.
Consider the “flowchart of a friend.” If we could create our own “matrix” of world, and place your friend within it, giving him or her choices in a variety of situations, you could pretty accurately draw the line through the flowchart – why? because you know their deepest beliefs, convictions, and perspectives. They are “pre-programmed,” if you will, to behave in a certain way. The good news, and powerful fact to understand, is that we are reprogrammable. But it takes work. Certainly, rewriting software is harder and takes longer than pushing an override button. But it’s oh so worth it.
So the next time you feel that you are not making progress, ask yourself: are the “E’s” lacking or fading? Are the “I’s” too abundant or growing? Once you determine the problem, resolve to correct the balance of your progress equation. That’s how you keep moving forward. The heavier the left side of the equation compared to the right, the faster you’ll go. Remember:
Progress = E + E > I + I ©