10 – Minute Mindset Lessons, Volume V: Progress, Decisions, Oversimplifications, and more

We feel our best when we are making progress toward something.

Do you remember the last time you experienced getting better at a skill? How much it lit you up with excitement to be able to complete a task that you weren’t previously able to perform?

Say what you want about the Fast and Furious franchise, but they have making exciting movies down to a science. Have you noticed how the characters started as simple drag-racers and now, nine movies later, they are flying into space and saving the world?

The audience has seen these characters progress throughout nine chapters of their lives. New skills, new challenges, new accomplishments. If they didn’t progress, there would be no story.

If you aren’t progressing then you may find your life turns into a groundhog’s day nightmare.

Wake – work – Netflix – sleep – repeat.

How can you bring forward progress to your life? Do you want to be stronger? Do you want to advance in your career? Do you want to learn a language? Do you want to see the world? Do you want to be a better spouse/mother/father/friend?

You don’t have to fly into space to have a satisfying life, but you can’t stay here.

“Everything is an oversimplification. Reality is messy and complex. The question is whether it is a useful simplification. Know the limitations of an idea and you can apply it to great effect—despite the messiness of reality.”

– James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits

I took some time to think about how this is relevant to fitness. The mechanisms for weight loss are complex at a molecular level. We try to distill this complicated process into useful and actionable advice.

But when does this simplification go awry?

“Carbs are bad.”

This idea is simple, and for many it leads to actionable steps (cutting out carbs) with some degree of success.

But as Clear said, we need to know the limitations of an idea. The carb dilemma is one of causation vs correlation. People who cut carbs also eliminate the trigger foods that cause them to overeat in calories.

Studies into other cultures, with typical diets as high as 80% carbohydrates, found no greater levels of obesity among the population. In fact, most of these communities had even lower levels of obesity, or in some cases, none at all. 

The “carbs are bad” simplification of weight loss can lead to greater restrictions and deprivation. Greater dietary restrictions reduces chances of long-term success. This simplification isn’t very useful.

Managing calories, on the other hand, leads to weight loss, greater flexibility, and better odds of long-term success.

Your decisions right now matter.

It may be coming close to the end of another very tough year, but your decisions these next few weeks will continue to matter and have an impact on you in 2022.

Are you giving up on your health until after the New Year?

Or are you going to make the choice to use the remaining weeks to start developing better habits for yourself?

The slate doesn’t get wiped clean because a new year begins.

What’s a good way to adopt better habits? Plan better habits.

The reality is, if you want to make changes to your lifestyle then you need a plan. You need lots of plans. Plans for meals, plans for social events, plans for exercise, plans for when you’re stressed…

Going about your day without a plan will not result in the changes you want to see. Whether you realize it or not, you are hardwired to perform certain behaviors. These behaviors have compounded to get you where you are now.

If you’re unhappy with the outcome of these hardwired behaviors then it’s your responsibility to craft new behaviors. You can’t build without a blueprint.

Create plans for how you will begin making these better choices. Then, refine these plans so you can perform these actions with great consistency.

Your plans are the blueprint for your new habits.

Being able to reflect on your actions is one of the most important skills you can develop.

Having the capacity to question and investigate why you behave the way you do is so critical to your long term success and happiness.

But most people will go through life being directed by motives they are unaware even exist.

Call it fate, call it a puppeteering, call it what you want; These motives will continue to drive your behavior toward a direction that brings you greater levels of dissatisfaction… Unless you decide to accept responsibility, identify how they’re leading you astray, and make the conscious choice, everyday, to do something differently.

That is how you change the course of your life.

Anyone can be better.

Too many people strive for perfect when all they need to do is be better.

Perfect isn’t sustainable. One unexpected work message, one task that takes longer than anticipated, one stubbed toe on the way to the bathroom can ruin perfect.

Better is you choosing to make the best of the situation despite those things that ruin perfect. It’s the commitment to saying, “My day did not go as I wanted, but I will not throw what’s left in the trash because what’s left still matters.”

Strive for better, not perfect.

How much weight you lift doesn’t matter.

Increased strength and better health are important, they make life easier and more enjoyable. They contribute to longevity and quality of life. Those are worthwhile goals.

Even more so, the confidence and self-esteem that comes from seeing yourself work and accomplish a goal, in having to do the work without any shortcuts, and in learning to trust yourself—those are the real impactful benefits.

Being healthy and strong gives you the means to live your life, but confidence is how you’ll make the most of it.

Mental stress is a matter of perspective.

“Negative experiences lead most people to restrict what they see and experience, avoiding further adversity at all costs. Instead, embrace these obstacles as learning experiences, as a means for getting stronger.”

Robert Greene

What does it mean? Most people shut down when things get tough. Instead, change the narrative to explore what these tough times can teach you about yourself, your perseverance, and how they make you stronger for the next time.

Since the 1960s, every drug trial approved by the FDA has compared their treatment to a placebo, a neutral substance that carries no medicinal benefits.

The Placebo Effect occurs when one experiences positive benefits from a treatment because of the patient’s belief in the treatment.

For example, a patient experiencing chronic pain might feel their pain level improve after taking nothing more than a sugar pill. (Because they believe the sugar pill contains some medicine that will reduce their pain.)

The brain will produce less pain signals because we’ve convinced ourselves that we shouldn’t be experiencing pain. The nitty gritty of placebo effects is more nuanced than this, but we need not concern ourselves with that for now.

Instead, focus on this: If the strength of our mind is one of the standards by which we measure the effectiveness of every drug on the market, what does that say about the power of mindset?

If you add up all the time wasted searching for shortcuts and trying to cheat the process, the hard work could have already been done by now.

– James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits

The best advice you can get is to start now and do the work. The work is where the real value is anyway.

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