Sunday, October 12, 2008

First with the head, then with the heart!

‘First with the head, then with the heart’. This is the mantra offered by the heavyweight champion of south Africa to PK, the young boy in Bryce Courtney’ bestselling book The Power of One, who then went on to greatness. But how does this apply to me? You ask.
Maybe you want to lose weight, exercise more, eat less, enjoy life more, drink less or change your lifestyle in some way. An action is only the physical result of a corresponding thought. If people were simply machines designed to perform predefined tasks then maybe we could simply change the action and that would be the end of that.
But we are not and in fact these days even machines and new cars have computer chip brains. Little computers built into them to control their function. So to change the action we have to also go to the source of the action and change the thoughts that cause the action!

It’s not a new idea. In the 17th century the renowned philosopher Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650) coined the famous phrase: 'I think therefore I am'. And over 1500 years earlier the roman poet Juvenal uttered the words:

‘Healthy mind, healthy body’
Yes people have been talking about the relationship between thoughts and actions for quite some time. But how does this relate to weight loss, or lifestyle change? Well if you want to start a new exercise regime or change eating habits (actions) then it makes sense to assume that you will also have to change the way you think about things!
WHY reasons dig you deeper into habitual holes
Habits only become a problem when we want to change them. Have you ever noticed that with an old habit, you will have 100 different reasons or justifications for sticking with it? Now, I’m a simple man and so I need to simplify things as much as possible. Sometimes I like to think that we have two modes of operation and the first is reason mode (or WHY in why am I doing this or thinking that…). ‘Why mode’ allows us to dig ourselves deeper into our habit. For example I like basketball and I could give you 100 reasons why basketball is a fun game to play! This is a really useful mindset if we have a habit we want to continue with like eating carrots or driving on the correct side of the road or being hospitable to our house guests, the problem with this mindset occurs only when we want to change a habit. If we have spent years justifying our actions and building up a list of reasons (or excuses) for doing it…they will all effectively act as barriers to change. So how do we get around the barriers?

HOW options can dig you out of the habitual hole
Well if you have a barrier in front of you and you keep staring at it...all you will see is the barrier….not how to get around it. To get around it, you might like to step back so you get a different perspective, or move the side so you can see past it. Ask yourself, what habit do you want to change? When you notice yourself thinking about this habit, are you thinking about reasons, barriers and excuses? If you want to get a different result you have to start thinking differently about the situation. You need new options!!

Maybe you have spent years justifying why things have not been working, or ignoring things or talking about why the barriers are in your way….Well its good to know that whenever the time is right and whenever you choose to you can stop concentrating on the barriers and to start thinking about new options, thinking about how you will plan your lifestyle change and good your life will be in a years time when you are doing more of the things you want. Its about discovering new OPTIONS!
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948) was no weight loss guru but his approach to change resulted in the one of the biggest changes in the modern world. One of his best ideas is so simple it’s almost magical.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

If you want to be healthy, or slim, or to be exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet, it makes sense to start thinking like that successful version of yourself.
Maybe you could try this idea…Imagine yourself in two years time, living the life you desire. Maybe you are playing a sport, jogging or walking in nature, or involved in some activity you enjoy doing. If a problem arose would you immediately worry about it and get emotional? Or would you think about a solution. If you were going to motivate yourself to do a new activity would you stare in the mirror and put yourself down or would you tell yourself something encouraging? Your thoughts can dig you deeper into a hole or dig you out. So it’s good to know that ultimately it is you that is in control of the spade.

This is really important stuff! I know some people will scoff and question the relevance of Gandhi and dead Roman philosophers to weight loss, and that’s ok. But I have seen too many people join up at gyms and start on diet plans only to quit 4 weeks later on the 1st of February. So often we spend our time thinking about a result we want like losing weight and forget to think about the action required to get there and the thoughts and the best mindset to start & complete the action. I also personally know how good it is when you can live the healthy lifestyle you are aiming for. I love living the lifestyle of my’s great! In fact it’s so good that I want other people to experience it too.

Our goals are all different. For some it’s all about achieving high performance and being in good shape so you can work hard and play hard, for others it’s more about getting a better work-life harmony. What-ever your goals and whatever you want to be eating, drinking and doing differently in a year’s time. Thinking about the way you are thinking, and learning how to control your mindset are powerful tools to have at your disposal. It’s good to think about problems briefly, because this balances up all the positive thoughts. But unless you want to, there’s no need to spend too much time worrying about or analyzing where you are at the moment If you want to make some sort of change. Thinking like that all the time will just dig you deeper into your existing habits. Worry & guilt create more worry & guilt.

Maybe, just to humor yourself for the rest of the day you could start thinking as if you were already comfortably on the road to achieving your desired goals. Go on, give it a try…I dare you! It’s just like riding a bike…you should be careful at the beginning and might come off the first couple of time if you try to go too fast…but take is slowly and after a few goes your balance and control improve…then before long you have another fun way to get to where you want to go faster!

So now we know we want to think more effectively, and why it will help…how do we start? There are many ways to tap into your inner resourcefulness. Personally I find mindset coaching works really well for clients and myself. But now you understand the idea, there are many alternatives you can explore...who knows… maybe you’ve already started.

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