My blog this week is inspired by a great article I recently came across that I have to share. Have you attempted a fitness routine in the past and failed to reach your goals? Despite your efforts you fell out of the routine, got derailed or side tracked? Most people have. Improve your fitness results and “staying power” by understanding how self-sabotage can be the underlying reason you didn’t achieve your results.
The information below is adapted by an article from a colleague Nathalie Plamondon-Thomas, Canfitpro presenter, author & NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) coach.
Most people don’t stop exercising on a regular basis because they get bored or lose motivation, it’s usually because of self-sabotage. Here’s a great analogy. The pathways along which information travels through the neurons (nerve cells) of the brain can be compared with the paths through a cornfield. Let’s say you live in a house surrounded by a thick cornfield that’s so tight, there’s no pathways to take. When you come out of your house there is nowhere to go, except if you dare to walk on the corn stalks. You start stepping on it, and as you walk through the field, the corn bounces back up behind you. The second time you step on the same path the corn bounces back up, but it breaks a little and doesn’t come all the way back up. The third time, the corn is weakened even more and so on until, one day, you have a perfectly flat path in front of your house that leads to where you are going.
The same goes for our thoughts and memories – the more we review them in our mind, the more deeply they are etched in our neural pathways. That is how habits are created and formed. The neural pathways in our brain are responsible for our self-sabotage.
Unfortunately, when thinking about fitness and nutrition, the only paths that most people know are reminding them of past failures. When you begin to train or start coming to classes, you most likely have tried previous methods that did not necessarily work. Your pathways are leading to deceptions. If every day you get up and look at yourself in the mirror and think or say: “I am overweight. I am out of shape. I have a big belly.” and all that nasty self-talk that humans are capable of, you are programming yourself to stay that way. Your pathways are leading to deceptions. Our past attempts do not have to dictate our future results.
Our brain is always listening and always creating pathways, using our most frequent thoughts to pave our internal highways leading to the results we program ourselves to reach. Your internal personal assistant is delivering exactly what it they want. When someone is programming himself or herself every day to be overweight and out of shape, it is no wonder why, when they start an exercise program that is actually working, their personal assistant goes into panic mode. Your inner-self gets confused because of the crossed wiring. It starts thinking “Oh no! What is going on? It hears what you’re saying that you want to be overweight and tired all the time even if you are starting to lose weight and get stronger.” It doesn’t know what to do. Your mind is saying “I needs to do my job right. They programmed me to make them overweight. Oh, here is a chocolate bar. I’m going to eat that and then tonight I will sit on the couch instead of going to the gym!” And here goes the old self-sabotage again. Our results in life are a direct result of what we’re saying to our self. If we continue to see ourselves out of shape and unworthy of the best results, then that’s exactly what will be delivered.
How do we create different pathways and avoid self-sabotage? Your job is to step onto a new path, which may feel hard at the beginning, as you have to break the corn to create it, but once it’s created and you have been there several times, the path will be clear and wide. With time, the old path will grow new corn and will not even be a path any more. You will soon forget about the old route. Have a clear goal of what you want, instead of what you don’t want. Our brains don’t process negations. If I tell you to close your eyes and to NOT visualize Mickey Mouse wearing a yellow tutu, standing on top of an elephant, did you see it? Your brain did process the image anyways even if you read ‘DO NOT’ visualize.
When asked what you want, most of you will say what you don’t want. “I don’t want to be overweight anymore. I don’t want to be tired all the time. I don’t want to be out of breath when I run with my kids.” The brain hears and programs the pathways towards overweight, tired, and out of breath. If you were a contractor, it would be like them asking you to paint their kitchen NOT blue!
Ask yourself, “What do you want instead?” and write up a positive outcome. The same way your internal dialogue is responsible for your own self-sabotage, the words you use are also very important. If, while training, you continually say ‘encouraging’ words like, “push through the pain”, “no pain, no gain”, “don’t stop”, etc., you are programing your brain to associate with pain and giving up. Use positive words instead like, “I can keep going”, “I can feel my muscles getting stronger”, etc.
It takes practice, however, like anything new, ridding self-sabotage can be done. Make a commitment to “cancel” those previous words and experiences from you mind and build healthier brain chemistry starting right now and watch your fitness goals take flight!