The human brain has been conditioned to keep us safe. Things that feel, smell, and taste undesirable are usually bad for us so our brain tells us to stay away. When we’re uncomfortable, our brain begins to search for reasons (also referred to as excuses) for why we are in danger or that we shouldn’t be under this level of stress.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the great separator from the haves and the have-nots. We are all wired to avoid pain, yet some individuals persevere to become champions, executives, and millionaires…and others lead comfortable lives and avoid stress, pain, and discomfort.
So how do we as humans begin the journey of pushing past our brain’s natural way of keeping us where we are? The answer is two-fold: Commitment & Habits. You’ve got to be all-in on whatever it is that you’re aiming for and you have to change your daily routines incrementally over time to create new routines that serve your goals. In our world of fitness, most are looking to feel better physically, become stronger, be more useful in daily life, and look better overall.
Let’s put this into action terms. Let’s say you’ve been feeling out of shape for months or even years. You’ve witnessed yourself become okay with lower standards of what you eat and drink and maybe it’s starting to show up physically. Your pants are fitting tighter and you’re having to wear different clothes to hide some areas of your body you may be embarrassed or ashamed of. Committing to getting back into shape involves reaching out to a gym, coach, trainer, or a friend who may be able to point you in the right direction and changing your standards around eating and exercise.
Your energy level around your new mission will be high when you first start. You’re going to be nervous and excited and scared. This is your comfort zone calling…don’t answer. Where the real work begins is when that initial energy wears off. Weeks 2 through 12 your good ol’ friend “the brain” is going to try to knock you off your routine and sap your energy to keep you nice and comfy. Tell your brain to take a break. You committed. Now just show up.
Reduce friction by putting your gym bag in your vehicle. Schedule the gym appointment on your calendar. Pack your lunch with enough food for a meal and a couple of healthy snacks. If you have a lunch packed in your car or office it’s a lot harder for your brain to come up with an excuse to go to the drive through or doordash an unhealthy meal. When your gym bag is in your car, it’s harder for your brain to make the excuse to not drive to your gym.
Watch out for schedule creep. You are scheduled to go to the gym in your planner at your usual time and then a friend says “it’s a nice day out, we should go out for a drink” or some other non-emergency pops into your world. Schedule creep is going to happen, just make sure you don’t get knocked out of your routine two days in a row. Some days you’re going to need to plan your meals ahead of time, get your exercise in at home or go to the gym at a different time.
Experts have written that it takes anywhere from 29 days to 66 days to develop a [good] habit. It is crucial that you give yourself a chance to allow the habit to take place or your old habits will take over. Your mental comfort zone will steer you to the path of least resistance…the comfort zone…and strong, healthy people chase the uncomfort zone. Be stronger than your brain. Be Uncommon.