Episode 324 – How To Deal With The ‘What The Hell Phenomenon’Posted on April 10, 2018
When we do an assessment or an initial intake with a new client we go through their goals, expectations and generally what they’re looking to get out of our relationship and an exercise program or fitness routine. Through this assessment we usually cover how much the person may or may not have exercised in the past, how active they currently are and what barriers they may have to starting an exercise program. What we’ve found is that two of the biggest barriers are a lack of time and motivation. I would even make the argument that a lack of time is probably a lack of motivation as well, at least in most cases, but not always.
For two weeks in March, or the last two weeks since I’m recording this a couple weeks before it comes out, I went through one of these insane periods of time where I legitimately had no time. The tenants in my rental property broke their lease early and gave me an unexpected 30 days notice, which means I had to rent the unit ASAP, on top of this there was damage done to the property that needed to be repaired, which of course seemed like a few simple jobs, but turned out to be not so simple and took several days to fix. Before any of this had happened I had given our client relations manager two weeks of vacation, so I was taking care of all incoming requests with new clients and following up with existing clients, on top of this I told my wife she could go to the spa for two days over March break so she could relax and I would take care of our son, which was fine until our day care provider told us she was also taking a holiday which left me in charge, plus I had to do all the regular activities of running the company and my regular client load. It was too much for me to handle.
There were days when I made my powerlist where I would consider myself lucky if I got one thing crossed off of it. It was all I could do to manage to just maintain the minimum amount of fitness and my general life activities. Now this was a unique situation for me that doesn’t happen very often, but I know everyone has periods of time in their lives where these, activities is not the right word, maybe responsibilities will come up and you have to deal with them, but if every once in a while you zoom out and look at a day, just as a day it’s probably crammed full and you feel like you’re maxed out, but if you were to zoom out and reflect on or look at your entire week, there’s a good chance you would be able to find some days where you were a little bit less busy, you could identify some activities that weren’t as critical as you thought and figure out some times when you could be more productive or do a different activity. Simple things like working with your email off and batching it a couple times a day can help you be more productive, having walking or standing meetings can shorten your meeting time and help you get right to the point of the meeting, car or drive sharing with neighbours and friends to your kids activities can help free up some time, and you’ll probably see times where you know you wasted your time and could have been doing something else. Then if you zoom out again and look at a month, multiple months or even years, you can probably identify times or patterns where you know you’re legitimately busy and fully maxed out, for teachers this would be report card time, accountants tax season and almost everyone around holidays where there are sometimes dozens of social events to go to in a few short weeks.
This felt like a really long winded way for me to get to the point I’m trying to make. Is that if you zoom out far enough then you will be able to identify the points in time when you are the most busy, points in time where you’re less busy and places where you feel like you’re wasting time and could be more productive, and if you’re trying to build a new habit or routine, like exercising for an hour a day or trying a new way of eating that involves different foods or recipes then trying to make those changes in the periods of time when you’re the most busy almost always sets you up for failure. If you’re someone that recognizes you want to change then picking these times or periods of your life when you’re less busy to try and implement new habits can and will be critical to your success, being just a little bit less busy can make all the difference in the world in terms of whether or not you’ll be or can be successful.
If you’ve struggled in the past with making a change it can be helpful to step back and look at the periods of time when you’re less busy and then scheduling in new changes during those times. Now let’s say you’re someone that has identified these changes and found a time when you’re less busy and decided to change something, like exercising every day and you’ve managed to find a way to be successful and consistent and you’re doing 30 minutes a day, which is commendable as far as I’m concerned, but you’re going into a period of your life where you’re about to get really busy and you’re concerned that you’re not going to be perfect. This is where a lot of people fall off, and the ‘what the hell phenomenon’ comes in, where you think that because you can’t be perfect what’s the point of doing anything. A simple example of these is ‘I just ate the ear off that chocolate bunny, what the hell, I might as well eat the whole thing’ I know lot’s of you have been there and I’ve definitely been there and it may be fine once in a while, but the problem is that it’s a slippery slope, that can run several days in a row, ‘I ate that chocolate bunny yesterday, what the hell I might as well eat the basket of chocolate eggs today’ and days turn into weeks, that turn into months…..you know where I’m going.
Let’s go back to my example from the beginning of the show. Normally I run 3 times a week, play squash once a week and strength train 3 times a week, usually it totals somewhere between 6 and 8 hours a week once it’s all said and done. For my mental health I had been meditating for 10 to 20 minutes a day, very consistently since the beginning of January, but after my first two visits to the condo I knew I was going to need to be there a lot more than I initially thought and I knew for two weeks my typical amount of exercise and commitment to my overall well being was going to be impossible, I had to cut it down to about a quarter of what I would normally do for exercise and I think I only meditated twice over those two weeks it was the first to axe, since I figured it would be easier for me to pick up again where I left off.
I knew those two weeks were going to be tough for me so I adjusted as required and accepted I was going to have less time. I knew I wouldn’t be perfect so my new goal became, something is better than nothing so at least I will do that.
How often have you said some variation of ‘What the hell?’
Can you contrast that with a time when you didn’t say ‘What the hell?’
What was different about those times?
Did you have a plan or no plan?
Did you rely on willpower or have a moment of weakness?
How did you modify your expectations or did you modify your expectations?
I know for me things are more regular this week and I’m back into my routine, I’m exercising my regular amount and I was able to maintain what I’ve built over the years and although my body is a bit more sore it’s not ‘square one’ which it would have been really close to if I had just said ‘what the hell’ and taken the whole two weeks off from exercise, and brings me to my second point. There are going to be periods of time where you’re crazy busy, sometimes it will be planned and sometimes it won’t be, but just because you can’t exercise as much as you were or planned to when you were less busy doesn’t mean you need to throw everything out the window. I created a plan that would work and was acceptable to me and then I reset my expectations of what my week needed to look like.
If you can figure out or decide what the smallest amount of exercise you can do or what is the biggest bang for your buck activity to maintain changes you’ve started to make, what could that be, in my example it was exercise ¼ of what I normally would, these were quick 20 minute workouts in my basement and running outside for the most part, but if it’s food for you, maybe a good strategy is to keep 5 or 6 giant homemade meals in the bottom of your freezer then when these heavy periods come up just pull one of them out to eat, or maybe it’s making a giant stir fry or pot of soup at the beginning of the week so you don’t have to worry about what you’re having for dinner you just have that. It may not be perfect, but at least you’re partially there and hopefully it’s enough to maintain the good changes you’ve made.
Now if you’re always busy and on redline 100% of the time then maybe we need a different strategy and that’s what we’ll talk about on the next show.