Madness is to repeat the same thing over and over again and yet expect a different result. But what exactly is it that drives us to this madness?” “
Fear of change
Change is intimidating to us as it entails a disruption of our inner and outer homeostasis – it is a process which takes effort to achieve, initially leading us to a state of chaos (not necessarily a negative term) and, ultimately, to a new homeostasis, in which we will hopefully feel more functional than in our previous one.
Homeostasis in its biological sense is the ability of our system to maintain through various self-control mechanisms our inner body’s balance. Homeostasis from a psychological perspective is about maintaining our mental well-being (a variable that is differently defined by each of us individually) as well as satisfying other basic emotional needs, for instance our need to be liked and feel part of a group and our need to feel loved and secure.
We, therefore, have the following equation:
Homeostasis —–> change —–> Chaos —–>Homeostasis
While change does occur as a cognitive process, it is consolidated by learning new patterns of behavior and interaction with our surroundings. We cannot just wake up one morning and miraculously change everything. It takes skills and effort to do so. And in order to initiate this process and permit change to create new conditions in our lives, it takes perseverance, consistency and to question ourselves “WHY”.
The state of chaos I mentioned above is a frightening situation but in reality it is nothing more than the new and unknown. And here’s the “catch” about what is holding us back. Thoughts and concerns about our social status, fear of failure or what others might say, feeling good within our comfort zone or thoughts that others are just in the same position as we are, to name but a few. Do not let another person’s opinion become your reality (just as Clint Eastwood cleverly pointed out – “opinions are like ***holes – everyone’s got one!”).
It is important to remember that there is no failure for someone who tried but did not succeed. Non-attainment of a goal is a lesson and a valuable experience. If one perseveres, productively using the knowledge he gained from his unsuccessful attempts, it is definite that he will gradually reach his goal.
Few, if any, things impress me more than babies taking their first steps. They fall and a second later they are up on their feet and try again and again until they make it. Why do YOU think you cannot make it then? To go on a diet, to lose or gain weight, to follow a workout program, to do a headstand, to muscle up, to run a marathon – I can carry on with this list forever.
Unless you are crawling at the time of reading this, you persevered and made it on your own two feet at some point in time, so you might as well be as persistent once more!
Some will claim it is not easy (“no s*it”?) because there are many factors beyond our control – yes, we saw that in the chaos equation above. Lots will happen along the way, I can assure you of that. An injury, loss of a loved one, a dismissal, a breakup, a broken nail, a flat tire, the Greek crisis (always there…), lack of time, lack of company, fatigue, weather conditions and so many others.
It is a fact that we will face obstacles. The crucial thing is to accept it! To accept that more often than not, our problems are not caused by actual circumstances beyond our control but from the way we perceive them, we interpret them and act against them. In order to deal with this misery and procrastination, we tend to blame everyone else but ourselves.
Does this sound like a piece of cake? Certainly not! But whatever is there in life that can be achieved without effort and sweat? What is easily accomplishable? As a special person in my life once told me “there’s nothing in life that comes easy…you need to force yourself even when you go to the bathroom”! This may sound funny but the message is clear and beyond the shadow of a doubt.
There are so many stimuli and distractions in our everyday lives that lead us away from change and our goals, our plans, our hard work with ourselves. We have all these time-thirsty vampires – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pornhub (at least that’s good for the prostate). Just think how many hours we spend on all the above and you’ll be shocked. At the same time, we have our group of friends, our relationship, our social interactions and our family which could all be potential distractions as well.
All the above are not responsible for our procrastination but they are a great “alibi” since we cannot blame ourselves. So, once again, it all starts and ends with us (wow!).
We, therefore, need to exercise more effort and discipline in handling it all. When, for instance, I need to devote time to get closer to my goal, whether it is about my coursework, my workout routine or other daily tasks, I must follow a few steps.
First, I need to isolate those “sirens” diverting my attention as much as possible. For example, set my “dumbphone” to silent mode and deactivate notifications. Stay concentrated and focused on my workout routine (I can post that selfie on Instagram once I’m done). “Sirens” offer nothing but short-term pleasure while wasting away the most precious thing in life which cannot be stored and if gone, cannot be recovered: our TIME!
Goal setting and workout
Our body is probably one of the most amazing existing systems. So many different processes take place within it on a daily basis so it can maintain its homeostasis. It does not fancy change as much as we don’t. Whenever there is an incoming stimulus though, our body responds, evolves and then finds its balance after the new information it has received.
Let’s talk about our workout routines then. The main objective of an effective performance routine is to facilitate learning, performance, and achievement. Effective performance routines are usually mastered with a high degree of consistency; they become an integral part of the micro event – the self- paced act – either deliberately or subcon- sciously, depending on the skill level of the athlete (Lidor & Singer, 2003).
According to Achievement Goal Theory (Nichols, 1984), achievement goals represent different conceptions and different reasons for approaching and engaging in achievement activities. The goals people may hold in achievement settings, such as exercise or sport, are important motivational factors (Duda, 2001).
My conversations with exercisers and friends reveal the difficulties they are facing with change and goal setting. “Listen Rocco, I am not getting anywhere here, I try to work as hard as I can, I give it my all but I don’t see any change”. They usually point that this is happening because of their body-type and slow metabolism. They also tell me about what they read on the internet about this super magical diet or this workout plan that can make you fit just by looking at it or these nutrition supplements they heard of that can work miracles on your body.
We, therefore, need to determine the reliability and credibility of all information that we receive. There are many con artists lurking out there. On a daily basis, we are bombarded with countless ill-founded information without any scientific value which is just usually out there to convince us to buy something. There are no magical recipes. There are no magical workout plans. There are no exercises that will make you look like Arnold in 3 weeks. These are nothing but fairy tales without a dragon.
It takes effort, research and collaboration with people relying on science to get results. It is important to set goals in our training routine and these goals need to be defined by a comprehensive workout plan. The next amazing secret (don’t tell anyone!) is to go exercise on the basis of that workout plan, then check our performance against the time frame we’ve set and make amendments if necessary.
And keep in mind that In the case of nutrition and physical activity, goal attainment is synonymous with behaviour change goal feedback and tracking focuses on accomplishments, resulting in enhanced self-efficacy for the goal.
What a topic! Firstly, the reason we have these extra pounds or the reason why we cannot lose them is not our metabolism, those evil genes, our bad fortune or a bad horoscope.
Let’s start with the basics. In order to reduce our weight, we have to receive fewer calories than the total amount of calories we need on a daily basis. Depending on our target and in order to achieve it, it is important to reach the right balance of macronutrients (protein – carbohydrates – fat) in our diet plan.
If you want to start a structured meal plan to help bring the desired results, you are strongly advised to consult a Nutritionist/Dietitian to guide you in the process and resolve any queries you may have.
Many of us wonder whether beginning a diet plan will make us starve. The answer is that if you follow the right diet plan, you won’t starve. We need to distinguish whether the feeling of hunger we are experiencing comes from the neck up or the neck down. Many times we eat out of habit or to satisfy emotional needs and not because we need food. One of our major concerns involves social gatherings we attend and the accompanying feelings of distress and uneasiness we may experience when we follow a diet plan. But my dear friend…unless you have a certain direction in life, you’ll just go where the wind blows.
It may be challenging to have one beer instead of five, or to resist eating a pizza, a burger or the whole universe for that matter and yet stick to our diet plan. It goes without saying that our goal is not to feel suppressed and follow an inflexible diet plan, so changes are indeed permissible.
Motivation can be defined as a dynamic and complex social cognitive process in which the individual becomes motivated, or demotivated, through assessments of his/her competencies within the achievement context and of the meaning of the context to the person (Roberts, 2001)
It is our emotions that lead us away from the right path. Unless we exercise some degree of control over them, we’ll end up victims of our own reality as emotions are an ever-changing variable. It is, therefore, essential to build up our defenses in order to carry on and persevere until we reach our goal. Our defense IS our motivation.
Etymologically, a motive can be anything that directs, leads, prompts, urges or encourages an individual to follow a course of action. Motives could be defined as those internal or external factors which raise the human system’s activity levels and prompt it to act towards accomplishing a set goal. From the above definition, it would appear that a motive can create or alter a specific behavior, prompting an individual to act (or abstain from acting) in order to attain his/her targets. Motives stimulate, boost and direct our energy towards achieving what we have decided to do.
Self-determination theory states that individual’s perceptions of behaviors are associated with different types of motives, influenced by social environmental factors. These motives include intrinsic and extrinsic types of motivation and amotivation. Intrinsically motivated individuals have the highest self-determination which means that they are engaged in an activity for the pleasure the process provides (Deci & Ryan, 2008). According to the theory, fulfillment of psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness is a prerequisite for an athlete in order to sustain self-determined motivation (Deci & Ryan, 2008). Research indicates that perceptions of not meeting these three needs could lead to non self determined forms of motivation and amotivation which may lead to dropping out of sport (Sarrazin, Vallerand, et al., 2002).
Accordingly, motives can be internal behavioral causes, such as instincts, impulses, needs, resolutions and desires as well as external behavioral causes, such as rewards, commendations, approval or disapproval.
On a final note, I would like to quote a short passage from the great scholar’s D. Liantinis book “Ellinika” :
“Being a Human denotes four ways of behaving. You accept nature’s truth. Not man-made truth. You live your life in line with moral knowledge. Not on the basis of superstitions and prejudice. You praise beauty. Because beauty is as strong as your mind and as prone to decay as your flesh. And above all: You love mankind. How else could it be? Man is the most tragic figure in the universe”.
I urge everyone to turn these basic principles into actions when setting sail for their “Ithaca”. Remember to enjoy the journey and combat the “Sirens”!