Aristotle said that we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
There’s a some truth to that, but I think we’re missing a few things when we look at behavior as a whole.
Later in this series, we’ll talk about the positive underlying motivations below all of our behavior, but for now we can look at the dichotomy between WHO we are, and WHAT we do.
Obviously, these concepts are interconnected. Identifying myself as a gym rat will make me more likely to reinforce that identity with gymrat behaviors.
That identity may shape my social circle and, as a result, put me in more environments that nurture gymrat behavior. But is that who I am? No, There’s a developer, a pickup artist, a friend, a coach, a lover, a fighter, and a blogger in there too.
To look at one aspect of my behavior is not to identify me, to pidgeonhole and limit myself to a subset of things. We as human beings are nearly infinite in our potential, and a fraction of that infinite composes our present. There’s no way one label can define me.
I ate half a pizza on saturday. Not the good kind of pizza, the Little Ceasar’s $5 shit tons of sugar kind. Is that behavior that is conducive to rapidly achieving my fitness and weght loss goals? Fuck no.
Does that make me a fatass? No. Doing that 3-5 times per week plus soda makes me a fatass.
I put up 500 pounds on the squat machine last week. 6 times. Does that make me a bodybuilder? No. Doing that (and other exercises) 3-5 times per week does.
If excellence is a habit, then so is mediocrity.
Who I am is malleable, and is not defined by my behaviors. Behaviors, stacked up over time form habits, and those can have a massive impact on identity. One badass thing about this is that isolated mistakes don’t define us, and to define ourselves better, we just need to define what an effective behavior is, then wash, rinse, repeat.
We all have viewpoints and perspectives that support our values and beliefs, and they’re not static.
The Bhudda said that we need to have compassion for ourselves as much as we have compassion for others, which, in this case seems to point to respecting your own opinion of yourself as well.
You see, I can look in the mirror and see a fat piece of shit who can’t get laid. I can look in the mirror and see an athlete who is on the road to greatness. My worldview is valid in either case.
The magic comes in non-judgement of the states that we’re feeling with I make these self-assertions. It’s almost as dangerous to try to correct “I’m a fat piece of shit” as it is to try to correct “I’m fucking awesome”
Both of those things are a true expression of my mood at the time, and to deny those moments as false robs them of their power. A present, mindful approach to this is to simply notice that the thoughts are there, and let them pass as they roll through the brain without judgement. Another way to handle them emotionally is to focus on the state and ask questions about these states as they pass in a truth seeking way, letting the answers spring from ourselves and surprise us.
Beyond our spiritual connection with our states, we still must respect what comes out of our heads. To refer to our models as somehow invalid in the present because they don’t meet our future goals robs the moment of its power and impedes progress.
If I’m able to judge an idea as false, I can box it into the “Don’t respect this idea” category and dismiss its ability to motivate creative thought that would lead to behavioral change.
If “I’m a fat piece of shit” is rendered invalid, we can choose to use self-hate, andger, and depression as tools to invoke maladaptive coping behaviors (like Chili Fries from the Hat). The true power of a negative belief is its transformative drive.
So many proponents of the “You’re fucking beautiful for you, on the inside, don’t let anybody tell you different” camp attempt to eradicate the real feelings of inadequacy in a push for a flood of positivity that motivates positive states and, by proxy, behavior.
But this cannot be maintained, because negative states are real, and carry with them just as much power as the positive ones.
The real power of negative beliefs is when we can link self-dissatisfaction to action. To make the pain real and vivid and create an approach-avoidance dissonance with our maladaptive behaviors. We can quickly unseat poor habits by linking pain to them, and we can’t do that when we’re minimizing and invalidating the negative concepts in our lives.
The more action taken to minimize that pain, the more positive reference experiences we gain, and the less potent the negative belief becomes, but it only gets to do that when it’s recognized and respected for its momentary truth.
Sometimes, we feel that we should honor our own belief systems because it’s not the kind of belief the person we want to be would have. We are afraid we’ll cement a negative belief that will hinder us later. This only happens when we half-ass our belief indulgence, getting to the dissatisfied part, but skipping the actions and goals that would naturally spring from it, given time.
Bullshit. We are dynamic, constantly changing people, and we are better now because we chose to seek out new experiences yesterday.
Believe in yourself, and honor your beliefs. Each moment brings a change and a new understanding, if we let it.
Skills can be developed. If you suck at something, you don’t have to suck forever. Everything from a conceptual grasp of a concept to a complex muscle memory of how to kick somebody in the head is a skill, and therefore can be learned.
We piece together our new results by applying new skills. We can learn this the trial-and-error way, or we can hack it by modelling and mimicry to determine the submodalities of each new rep system.
Workout and Nutrition are great examples.
Trouble with fat loss is by and large a behavior motivation issue for most people.
Either we lack the information they need to make good decisions, or we have mistaken beliefs that lead them to ineffective behavior.
No matter what theory you follow from the science community, fat loss has been mapped out and studied from angle after angle, and we have a great corpus of knowledge from both scientific and anecdotal sources.
Losing weight is not procedurally difficult. While “healthy” is more complicated a concept, “fat loss” is measurable, and you can actually get skilled at losing fat.
We can learn a procedure, a system of beliefs, and/or representational systems for each skill we want to improve.
My eating plan, for instance, is a culmination of new, better informed beliefs about food. I eat mostly paleo, slow carb sometimes, and I cheat my ass off a few times per week. I also party super hard, but only drink whiskey.
I’ve cut out most simple carbs, and stick to things like beans, lentils, and yams to keep my calories up. This system has been studied and extrapolated by a whole ton of people, and it’s not simple.
Whether you follow the carb-restricted approach or not, the bottom line is there’s a proven system I can model. Once modelled, I can tweak it to meet my goals, I don’t have to start from scratch. I’m better at eating, sleeping, and thinking because of the work I’ve done to choose my eating plan.
Workouts are the same way. You can get simple models like “buy insanity. then do it everyday”, or any one of these calisthenic pics that floats around the fitblr community. They all work to some extent.
Or, you can hire a personal trainer, or get a degree in kinesiology or do all the studying yourself. I used to be a certified personal trainer. I picked up my old PT books and made myself a workout plan. Did you know that NASM has a book for under $50 that tells you EXACTLY what to do when choosing your workouts?
You don’t have to guess. It’s all right there in the text. Everything from exercise selection to flexibility training to sets, reps, tempos, periodization, stabilization… it’s all in there. It tells you what to do, when to do it, how long to take, and how to know to move up. It teaches you how to measure your fitness level, and how to progress while minimizing the risk of injury.
There’s a system. You can actually follow this system to get skilled at fat loss, muscle growth, strength, power, and or agility.
NLP presupposes that most things are skills, they can be learned, and that learning them can be done by adjusting the way you represent them in your head.
The path is there. It’s been done before, and that’s empowering.
We are integrated. What our mind focuses on will manifest physical characteristics, like shaking when nervous, or brain fog when we’re sick.
Conversely, what our body is doing will affect our mind, like when we put our shoulders back and chin up and start feeling badass.
Has your body ever stopped wanting to work while you were working out and then you cranked up the music and pushed through it? Mind over body.
Have you ever felt like shit, not wanting to do anything, but you just started moving and then started feeling amped about 5 minutes in? Body over mind.
The point is, everything is connected. When the tired, draggy spots are in your mind, you can shortcut the process by taking your body in the direction of success, and then your mind catches up. Similarly, when your body is weak, your mind can make you do things far beyond the perceived capability of your muscles.
When Motivation is low, just move. Put your shoulders back and your head up with a big smile on your face and tell your workout you’re going to kick its ass in a loud voice.
When your body is tired, imagine all of the benefits you’ll get from pushing through the workout, envisioning the jealous people who won’t work as hard as you, or the skinny, agile you that does whatever it wants.
Either way, you can pick up the weaker you and kick it into flow state, and check the day’s goal off the list.
This presupposition basically means that meaning doesn’t exist outside of our ability to assign it.
If I look at a crunchy leaf lying on the ground, it simply lies there without meaning. It is only when we interact with it, ponder it, and link it to other things in our head that we that we begin to assign meaning to it.
I can look up and wonder which tree it came from, look at its color and determine if there is a disease that made it fall. In abscense of that evidence, assume that the natural course of growth made it fall, and feel good for the tree.
That leaf can symbolize fun and autumn and memories of when I was dating my first high school girlfriend, jumping on crunchy leaves in the park.
While I’m busy assigning meaning to it, the leaf continues to sit there, having no meaning of its’ own. In a similar way, some psychology theories think that the concept of self doesn’t exist without other people to define it. Interesting stuff, for sure.
The key point though, is that there’s no INTRINSIC meaning to anything.
We assign meaning to things, people, events and experiences based on our own values and beliefs.
These meanings can empower us or it can take our power away.
When I look into the mirror, for example, I can see my shape and compare it with my mentors and my peers and say that means I’m fat. In the world of men, I am fat.
I can say that being fat makes me unworthy of love, or that I don’t deserve acceptance in certain social circles. I can use that meaning to make new meaning about my identity, like I’m an ugly person, or I’ll have to settle for less beautiful women when dating.
Closer to reality, the shape in the mirror reflects what is; A physical culmination of my eating and fitness habits. All that self hate has really nothing to do with fat. Fat just sits there, waiting for me to assign meaning.
The beauty of this presupposition is that meaning, not being intrinsic to anything, can be molded, shaped and redefined whenever we want to.
I can simply assume that fat is fuel for my jog. I can look in the mirror and see potential, I can see the bright and mischeivous look in my eye and know that women swoon for a shot to be with me.
I can look at the contour in my shoulders, arms and forearms that have appeared because of my affinity for throwing free weights around and notice how much bigger my muscles are getting, ignoring the fat altogether.
I can choose a new, more empowering meaning, whenever I want, for whatever I come across.
Things have no meaning by themselves. We can redefine meaning whenever we want, and that’s power.
I talked about maps earlier this week, how my view of reality (or map) kept
difficult things in the distance, that allowed me to make excuses to put
off fitness or make it fuzzy so I didn’t have to do anything aboiut it.
The second NLP presupp is “People Respond to the world according to their
maps”. Which gives an impetus to change these things to be a little more
effective. That’s why I have Rebuttal sections, so I can take not of the
excuses I make to myself and come up with answers to them. In a way, I’m
rewriting my map of the fitness territory.
Excuses are one thing, and complete distortions are another. I’ve spent my
entire life with a distorted viewpoint of my own self worth, the way I look
to people, and how much social value I have in the wake of how I visually
Even last night, I was talking to two cute girls, and was wondering if I
was too fat to be talking to these bitches for like a minute. I’m pretty
good at snapping myself out of a negative state when I’m out, it’s when I’m
alone that the poison comes in.
This shit may have been external to start with, but it’s all internal now.
In the last 3 years I’ve hooked up with girls who were way out of my league
on the looks scale, eradicating any solidity in those negative beliefs.
That shit just doesn’t matter. But I spend my days wondering if I’m good
enough, simply because I haven’t gotten my body under control.
I spent three years studying social dynamics, communication, building a
social circle… and did fairly well for myself. built up a lot of
confidence, and provide a whole lot of value for people now. There’s still
that physical thing that haunts me day to day, so 19 days ago, I decided to
succumb to it.
If my own perception of my fitness is in my way (if that’s what’s screwed
up on my map), then we’re gonna rewrite it. I’ve tried to shortcut around
it so many times, but in the end, I just need to get it handled. I don’t
subscribe to the “Just love your body for the shape it is” bullshit. That
may work for the mediocre masses, or the ED peeps who need to stop hurting
themselves… but not me.
Laziness, fogginess of concepts… these lead to inaction, and the only
cure is action. I did positive thinking exercises for 3 fucking years and
meditated a whole lot. Great. I’m still fat. Time to take the science
that’s out there and the discipline and peer support to modify my behavior
to overcome what might be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to experience…
because I’ve never done it. I’ve bungee jumped, competed in the BJJ
Mundials, Quit smoking… but I’ve never been in shape.
And that’s up to me to fix. With action. Anyways, rant over. I’m super sick
right now and it hurts to move. I hate it because I can’t work out without
coughing my lungs out and a headache the size of God flaring up. We’ll see
how fencing goes tomorrow.
What was my point?
Oh yeah. rewriting my maps. it only took me nineteen days to view myself as
the kind of person that works out. I’m a fucking gym rat. Where June would
have been riddled with shoulds and excuses, july has been riddled with
Kettlebells, big fucking plates, left hooks and sprawls. I walk around all
shoulders back like I was Vin Diesel in pitch black. It’s funny.
My new map is one of those guys who wears warmup pants and trainers
everywhere. It’s hilarious, the comparison to what I used to think about
myself, not 20 days ago. Fuck you people who say fitness isn’t a
destination. Hell yes it is, and my milestone ends at 16%. This journey
started, and this time, it won’t stop until it’s finished.
*NLP has a concept they call “The map is not the territory”, which
basically boils down to the fact the people build their own view (or a map)
of reality (or territory). What we think we see, we do not see.
Unfortunately, we spend so much time and investment drawing our maps that
we tend to trust them exclusively, and forget our cartography skills when
dealing with reality.
When new points in reality get built but are not reflected on our map, we
tend to forget they exist. We run into things and get baffled and dazzled
by things we weren’t expecting to be on the map. At the end of the day,
realizing that our view of reality is only one representation goes a long
way to efficacy in the world.
In light of this concept, I was wondering how it applied to my fitness
goals. As a former certified personal trainer and competitive athlete,
tempered by a perpetually poor body image, I held onto many beliefs and
values about nutrition, workouts, behavioral motivation theory, and
physical ability that didn’t hold water for my current wieght loss goals.
I had an old map. I had to rewrite it.
Knowing what I now know about behavioral motivation, I must do things
differently than I’ve been doing for the last four years. The whole reason
I haven’t been able to effortlessly reach my fitness goals by the book is
not because of lousy workout programs or poor nutritional guidelines, it’s
totally tied to my self-worth.
Is my self-image a self-imposed success barrier? While at first glance I
would have said that is ridiculous, with a little digging, I can see that
this is the most likely reason that fully explains my self-sabotaging
thoughts when trying to accomplish other goals in pickup.
I give myself an excuse to not go after the super hot girls because I know
that someday, in the future, I’ll be physically worthy enough to talk to
them. I actually talk to myself like this, and that’s fucking ridiculous.
That way, I just justify my failure to approach with my future workout and
feel better in the moment, avoiding the growing pains in the social arena.
My map, much like in one of those video games my roommate plays, is only
partially illuminated, and darkness is on the edge. I don’t know where the
enemies are coming from, or what traps I’ll find there until it’s
illuminated, so I avoid it, believing the ghost stories of eccentric old
people. I fill in the blank spots in my map with all sorts of scary toothy
monsters and limit my scope of travel so as to avoid the justifiable danger
that now lurks in the shadow.
Fitness is simple. It really is. Work hard. Don’t injure yourself. Eat
enough, Don’t eat crap, and keep at it until your body gives up trying to
fight you. Making it all complicated is only structures drawn in on the
edges of the map I’ve not been to in years.
So I made a progressive lifting routine, my trainer buddy made me a
kettlebell swing routine to follow for the next few months, and I’ll just
put all this shit on autopilot to remove all of the random map-driven
behavioral motivation problems. Plans, even inefficient ones, beat
avoidance every time.
I’ve been going through a new phase of learning Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP. At the peak of its popularity in self-help, NLP is used for everything from getting rid of phobias to increasing confidence in public speaking, to quitting smoking.
After reading “Awaken the Giant Within”, I’ve decided to apply general NLP theory to weight loss and overall fitness, and I bought a bunch of books on it. The first was “The Big Book Of NLP” which has 350 patterns - Ways of doing things - in it. I’m starting from the front and completing the exercises against my wieght loss goals.
Exercise #1 : Goalsetting
Create a postive, specific goal. State your outcome in terms of ability, not lack of ability. Describe your well-formed outcome in the context of the environment it will be in. Describe your outcome by using your five senses.
By July 1, 2013, My BMI will be 30. Right now, It’s at 40.6. I’ll be 65 pounds lighter in 52 weeks. I’ll be scary, too. Muscular goals are primarily for the metabolic hit to shred the fat off me (my LBM is around 180lbs) and secondarily for hypertrophy. I’ll be able to fight five rounds without gassing out. I’ll be flexible enough to comfortably kick people in the head again. And, most importantly, I’ll be strong enough to lift a 110 lb girl up by her ass with one hand while the other one’s posted on the wall behind her as I’m passionately making out with her (note to future girlfriends and hookups, don’t weigh more than 110 by July 2013).
Perform an ecology check:
What might be interfering with your goal? There are only a few big game changers.
1) Motivation. I need someone to be accountable to. I found that in the fitblr community and my workout partners. I need to every day be lifting heavier, doing more kettlebell swings, jumping higher, running farther, burning more efficiently, and thinking more positively. I need to believe that I am absolutely unstoppable.
2) Discipline to pull the trigger even when the motivation fails. Motivation is finite. It gets used up on a bad day, (see DJ Fuji’s talk on motivation) but it doesn’t matter. Even when I don’t feel like excelling, there’s no reason not to go TAKE RIGHT ACTION.
3) Injury. This is by far the biggest problem I faced as a competitive fighter 5 years ago. Medical insurance and physical therapy appointments and bills killed me. Restarting a training regimen was difficult after I lost everything I had gained. I didn’t do enough to stabilize and prevent problems before they happend.
4) Negative homeostatic influences: Right now, all of my see-them-everyday friends are working out toward particular fitness goals, but in the past, other people I hung out with didn’t understand why I went to bed early, got up early, ate all healthy because they didn’t want to have to face themselves for their own poor choices.
Are there any values, other goals, people, or laws that may be challenging?
The only think I can think of is pickup. Going out and meeting girls is wrecking my sleep schedule, which it has for 3 years and has been fairly status quo. Unfortunately, I did a shit ton of Kettlebell swings yesterday, and my body simply NEEDS more sleep. I’ll have to adjust my pickup goals to accommodate some more sleep so my body can recover from the high intensity bullshit I’m putting it through.
How might you accommodate or mitigate now in order to make your dream a reality?
Schedule sleep, understand that haters gonna hate, and keep a detailed log of what I do, so that I can tweak and adjust things along the way.
Consider any internal obstacles you may have. Is a part of you interfering with your goal?
Oh yes. When I’m not feeling loved, appreciated, etc… I tend to eat. I’ve done it my entire life. I get all depressed and feel like chomping something out of rebellion or pain or hatred or revenge or self-punishment or something. I’ve got to step into something else in those moments. Right now, on day 10, it’s pretty much just sex that substitutes for food. I’ve got to find something a little bit more on-demand when the times get tough.
Create your milestones
So by the first of the year, I’ll be down to under 230. Realistically, I’ll hit that by October as long as I don’t get injured, because that’s how it worked back in the day with a similar diet/training regimen. But this time, I’m lifting heavier, and trying to grow it all back stronger and bigger.