21 For 21: 21 Thoughts for 2021
This is the 4th installment of my annual “thoughts” pieces. Towards the end of every year I collect the most profound thoughts I’ve had/read about in the given year. From books I’ve read, other health professionals, podcasts, articles or just thoughts I’ve generated/meme’d. 2020 Was a heck of a year. Here are 21 thoughts as we move into 2021.
1. This past year we’ve heard a lot about this concept of “The New Normal”. When marinating on your personal interpretation of what this means, consider that your own “new normal” can be even better than your “normal normal”
2. Investing in others growth: When we make eye contact.. Literally or conceptually.. We become connected.. That connection can be so intense that we can find ourselves occupying our time with “busy-ness”.. The modern addiction to numb the discomfort of getting on the razor’s edge of emotional intensity.
3. You can’t solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it. We can’t think our way out of a problem.
4. Motivation for change is not installed, it’s evoked. A coach, friend or family member might be able to program some advice and strategies, but motivation for change must come from within.
5. Social media and screen time in general can railroad progress. It’s helpful to look at social media use in “3 “C’s”
Using social media/technology for creativity and connecting purposes can be a positive way to leverage technology. Pure consumption, however (mindless scrolling) can take take away from productivity and experiencing real joy. Is technology serving you or are you serving technology?
6. “A habit happens when a context cue is sufficiently associated with a rewarded response to become automatic, to fade into that hardworking, quiet second self. That’s it. Cue and response. Notice that there’s no room in that mechanism for, well, you. You’re not a part of it, not as you probably think of yourself. You—your goals, your will, your wishes—don’t have any part to play in habits. Goals can orient you to build a habit, but your desires don’t make habits work. Actually, your habit self would benefit if “you” just got out of the way.” – Wendy Wood, Good Habits, Bad Habits
7. Most people when pushed just automatically push back. They have an inbuilt anti-persuasion protection radar which kicks in whenever someone is trying to persuade them to do something. Gently coax, gently nudge, look at options rather than restrictions, things you CAN do vs things you CAN’T eat. Instead of thinking about the discomfort and disruptions to your life, think about how much better you could feel with a few simple habits.
8. The escape from problem blindness begins with the shock of awareness that you’ve come to treat the abnormal as normal…The seed of improvement is dissatisfaction. – Dan Heath: Upstream. This can be applied to any discipline. In health and fitness,
9. Archery isn’t all or nothing, where you get points only for hitting the bull’s-eye and everything else is a miss. An archer gets points for hitting the target at all. Decision-making is similar. The value of guessing isn’t in whether the guess is “right” or “wrong.” You’ll likely miss the bull’s-eye but, like the archer, you will still score points for landing in the vicinity. The important thing is to take aim. – Annie Duke: How To Decide
10. Many people live by the creed: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. To ease and ideally eliminate this roadblock, highlight how inaction is not as costless as it seems at first glance. Get people to see that not acting is in fact costing them and you can release the handbrake. Your health may be like climate change – or the proverbial frog-in-boiling water scenario.
11. In order to design successful habits and change your behaviors, you should do three things. Stop judging yourself. Take your aspirations and break them down into tiny behaviors. Embrace mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward. -BJ Fogg: Tiny Habits
12. All the things we SHOULD be doing to get healthy and achieve balance are ironically UNBALANCING to our psyches. Having that difficult conversation, putting ourselves through an uncomfortable exercise session, eating food that doesn’t give us emotional satisfaction. We fear the difficult… We fear the boring and often unsexy work that significant change requires.
- We want some 2 weeks home program to learn that Chopin piece when we really need to do those scales a few thousand more times.
- We scour around for hot stock tips in search of the next Uber instead of looking at conservative and more predictable ways to invest.
- We want to do the Jean Claude Van Damm 360 spin kick when what we need to learn are jabs and front kicks (again many thousands of them).
- And yes we would rather partake in cleanse or fad diet than work on our relationship with food, our grocery shopping habits, eating more vegetables, getting to the gym and getting more steps.
13. The only choice we have is to begin. And the only place to begin is where we are. Simply begin. But begin. – Seth Godin: The Practice
14. Take off the training wheels. Focus on true mental toughness. Focus on commitments and controllables, you can’t control the results anyway. Love people. Serve people. Provide value. Burn your goals. Fall in love with the process of becoming great. – Joshua Medcalf: Chop Wood, Carry Water.
15. Practice Health Vulnerability: Getting uncomfortable isn’t just about the physical. One of the hardest things for me, personally is being vulnerable about where we are. It’s ok to not be ok. Maybe things aren’t “fine”? Work very diligently on eroding the walls you are putting up around taking an honest look at your situation. There is safety in never being vulnerable.. It’s natural to not want to confront this, it’s normal to feel some shame around it. You may be surprised by how many others are going through similar emotions.
16. Change your “screw it” default: Meaning, what if from now on, your response to “screw it” is to work it out with iron or with a nourishing meal? What if whatever you are stressed/upset about, you could say “screw it, I’m going to eat something healthy or workout because dammit I CAN control that”. Stick it to the moment.. Stick it to whatever/whomever is causing this negative emotion by bettering yourself. That is the biggest middle finger I can think of.
17. On discipline vs self-discipline: Discipline is what others do to us to keep our behavior in check. Self-discipline is how we form ourselves into the people we want to be. Self-discipline is a skill, but it’s only possible to sustain it through freedom of choice. Discipline is driven by external punishment and reward. Self-discipline, however, is driven by freedom and practice. – Stephen Guise: Elastic Habits.
18. 4 Healthy mindsets to develop specifically to Covid-19: • Agency: You are STILL in full control of what you CAN do. • Adaptation: Find ways to work with your current situation • Opportunity: Where are your windows for improvement? • Progress: You CAN still make progress towards your goals 19. On emotional eating: So much of the solution of emotional eating is in recognizing that an emotional void is just made up of thoughts and body sensations. When we are attuned to this we can step back, make sure we don’t feed the loop and let the rest take care of itself. Curiosity and mindful awareness are crucial to disrupting the cycle. Curiosity feels inherently good and provides a buffer for the stressful emotions. Relax into your emotions… accept them without trying to fight them. Become interested and curious about your body’s sensations.
20. Sustained progress for fat loss is finding that eating sweet spot of flexible restraint. Too much restraint can often backfire (cleansing/severe carb restriction/detox diets). The other side of this spectrum is the zone of “putting your big boy/big girl pants on”. Ditching the victim mentality, the “I just really love food/YOLO/FOMO” mentality.
21. Keep striving.. Keep fighting, keep scratching, keep clawing your way towards a healthier version of already awesome you. This is one fight that is ALWAYS worthwhile. My hope is that you enter this year with a sense of optimism and action. I am here for you – as a couch and a friend. Mike