How our mind games prevent us from unlocking our potential and keep us where we are.
Whatever goal people get in their heads, the majority will fail or achieve mediocre results at best. To be more precise, studies report that 95% of the people who decide to make a change for the better fail in their attempts. And since it is no fun to walk around with the feeling of failure, they fabricate all sorts of excuses, justifications and illusions to feel better again.
Welcome to the human race.
Since we developed from being a caveman, used to a harsh but simple life, into the analytical and intelligent member of today's fast-paced society, we have to find ways to deal with that ongoing internal conflict in our head.
Here's what happens. The caveman, still present in us, is only interested in instant gratification. Whatever information enters his brain through his senses, there is always the immediate urge to react and in a manner that avoids pain or discomfort and moves to pleasure or comfort. It sees or smells food and wants to eat, it feels fear and gets ready to fight, flee or freeze, it feels the sunshine and wants to bask, and then an email notification pops up, and it gets sucked into a series of mouse clicks that lead from one distraction to another.
At the same time we have our intelligent and logical brain, able to plan mid- and long-term goals, recognise opportunities and challenges. It knows that to achieve something we have to be persistent and consistent.
And there is the conflict, instant gratification versus delaying immediate pleasure for the sake of pursuing higher goals.
The saddest thing of all is that our caveman's brain is stronger by far when it comes to strength and endurance. In other words, our intelligent brain plays a losing game when it comes to achieving goals or making any change if that change doesn't match with brain patterns present in the caveman's brain.
What about our willpower?
Using your willpower to teach your caveman's brain a lesson doesn't work since it resides in the same area as your intelligent, logical and analytical brain. Using your willpower to push through to let your caveman's brain know who is running the show is like holding your breath under water.
At one point your willpower must accept its defeat and to deal with this defeat, we invent whatever justification or illusion works to feel good again. Instead of the intelligent brain instructing the caveman brain how to behave, the caveman's brain hijacks the intelligent brain to come up with thoughts and words, building illusions and justifications, to ease the emotional pain the caveman feels.
More often than not, we are not even aware of the silliness of the so-called mind games we play to restore emotional balance. To a certain degree, it is good when you keep them to yourself, but it could become embarrassing when you repeatedly say them to other people.
Illusions, Excuses and Justifications
In my previous profession as a personal fitness trainer, I heard many mind games. The number of these mind games in the form of excuses and illusions explaining why people weren't able to adhere to their health and fitness goals is endless.
We know them all. They range from having no time to exercise, and it wasn't the right time to start with the program, to I have heavy bones, I paid a lot of money for this belly, I can't lose weight, I have bad genes, it is that time of the month again, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, I deserved that treat, and so on and so forth.
Even though those people taught me to be patient and compassionate, I always felt sorry for them and tried, together with, them to find ways to deal with those conflicts that prevent them from achieving their goals.
Whenever we want to do something different than we have been doing before it means that we want to make a change, which is for many people the biggest challenge they can face. Consciously understanding with your intelligent brain the change you want to make and then expecting that change to happen is not going to work. This is what people do when making New Years' resolutions. We all know what's left of them after three weeks.
The way to change
It takes more to make a change in your life, especially when it comes to making lasting changes. Here is the bit daunting sounding recipe. Change is the outcome of a learning process that avoids setting of the body's natural stress responses and takes one's personal and environmental circumstances into account.
In other words, unless you develop the skills to patiently and persistently create new brain patterns in your caveman's brain in a manner that avoids the stress of any kind, such as frustration or hunger, not much can be expected from creating lasting changes.
Because not many people understand or are willing to accept to do what is needed to make lasting changes, is why 95% fail and run from one failure into the next with all ensuing consequences for their physical and mental health.
My work nowadays as speaker and fitness, nutrition and life coach is all about helping people to stop beating themselves up with strategies that by now have proven more than enough not to work. For those looking to change their life for the better, I suggest to first educate themselves on the processes in our brain that makes us behave the way we do or to find people who are knowledgeable on the subject they are dealing with.
Be patient and kind to yourself
If people are otherwise healthy, everybody can instil lasting changes and nobody is broken, regardless of what he or she may be thinking. People are so much more, and even though we'll never get it 100% the way we want to, we all have the ability to make our life beautiful.
Be kind to yourself, accept where you are in life and then make wise choices to acquire the skills that will help you to get where you want to be.
To Your Health and Success!