Why so many of us can't stick with a program even when we're succeeding with it
Once in a while, a successful client will tell us we’re sorta annoying. That makes no sense right?
As Dorie eloquently wrote awhile back…”sometimes she hates me.” (A wise woman always told me that hate is the closest thing to love so I don’t get offended.)
Question for you: Have you ever given a friend relationship advice, and as soon as you finish telling him/her they get all defensive and mad? Sometimes, they even start yelling back at you.
It’s because most of us want to be told what we want to hear, not what we need to hear.
There’s two types of good. Good and good for nothing! (That’s how I feel about advice.)
Okay, back to the fun part…about why we’re annoying! 🙂
Let’s talk about a client. We’ll call him “Mikey”.
Mikey joined MBT wanting to finally get in shape once and for all, the right way. He told me he had started countless diets before, and always does good for the first few pounds or so, and then falls off track, like most of us do.
Well Mikey has been doing extremely well. He lost 20+ pounds already with MBT.
And then starting late last week he became too busy to submit his report every night.
So last night we spoke (although we were texting and emailing throughout the weekend), and I asked him what was going on, and why he hasn’t been submitting his report regularly.
He told me how busy he’s been and how work has been non-stop.
Mikey is smart enough to know what he’s doing. He’s a smart guy! But I explained to him why he was doing it, and it was a big breakthrough for him.
Maybe it can help you as well.
I love exploring the psychological reasons behind our actions. After all, it’s ALL psychological…
Let’s talk about cognitive dissonance…
This happens when we have two conflicting desires. Let’s use smoking as an example…
It is well known that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer yet every person I’ve ever met wants to live a long, healthy and active life. But the short term / irrational mind of a smoker enjoys it, and wants to smoke.
The uncomfortable tension caused by these two opposing desires is known as dissonance. As humans, we look to get rid of this uncomfortable feeling. This is known as dissonance reduction.
The only way to get rid of this uncomfortable feeling is by a) quitting smoking b) denying that people actually get sick from smoking or c) justifying and rationalizing.
For example, a smoker could rationalize their behavior by believing that few people get sick from smoking, it only happens to people who smoke more than they do, if smoking doesn’t kill them something else will, they’ll quit next year, they only live once (YOLO!) and they deserve to smoke or it’s too expensive to quit.
[Not for nothing – it’s amazing how cheap people are with themselves when it comes to their own health and fitness. Yet, they’ll spend tons of money on restaurants, stuff, activities, etc. Everything means nothing without our health and fitness. What good is success without our health and fitness? Interestingly, when we focus on our health and fitness it allows us to do everything else better. End rant.]
In essence, they either need to take action (quit smoking and get whatever help they need <—- this is very hard!) or they need to make themselves feel better by rationalizing their smoking, and do the easiest thing of all — do nothing at all. (<—-this is much easier and that’s why most people do it).
Knowing this, let’s talk about why Mikey thought (yes, he no longer does!) I was annoying.
I’ll tell you why:
It comes down to either fear of change, fear of failure or fear of success.
Everything he said boiled down to fear.
There’s an old saying I love:
“The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.”
In this case, because Mikey was succeeding, he realized he was going to change for the long term. And unfortunately, real change is uncomfortable.
He got scared.
Because deep down, Mikey wasn’t ready to really change. He didn’t think MBT would work. So he wasn’t really prepared to let go of emotional eating (even though he’s made big progress). He wasn’t really prepared to let go of using food although he already had.
In his mind, he needed to emotionally eat and he couldn’t imagine life without doing so.
His success made him fear the change. (Hint: This is why focusing on ALL the benefits of eating well is so powerful. Not the discomfort of not eating junk. It’s one of the reasons why we ask what you’re grateful for every night. This is also why taking this day by day is so important!)
So, Mikey was coming up with all sorts of excuses because he feared the change. His main reason: it wasn’t the right time to lose weight.
Interesting. (Seems like the exact reason why he signed up. He’d start all kinds of diets but never stick with them…)
So what do we do if we’re Mikey?
We have to reduce the dissonance because when there is a disconnect between what we really WANT to do (eating right, exercising, etc.,) and what we’re ACTUALLY doing, uncomfortable feelings and unhappiness ensue.
Because he didn’t want to feel that dissonance or discomfort or resistance (whatever you want to call it) he wanted to remove the accountability. By submitting every night – or not – it was making him feel bad.
(Ahem, this is precisely why MBT works so well. That’s what accountability does. It holds our feet to the fire. We can help you the most on your most challenging days. We learn the most when we lose, not when we win.)
Mikey was coming up with all sorts of reasons because he didn’t want to face the discomfort anymore. His main excuse? Too busy.
He had to get rid of that discomfort somehow…so he’d find anything and latch on to it so he can ease the tension. (Ahhh yes…submitting a feedback is a pain in the butt and it takes time. Yes! Whew. Now I can rationalize my reason for stopping – and not feel bad.)
(Some people will use money as an excuse. Meanwhile, it’s a lot cheaper (and healthier) to stick with a program once and for all then to start and stop countless programs.)
Of course, I know Mikey didn’t REALLY think MBT was annoying. Annoying is simply a code for the discomfort and resistance he was facing.
The real problem was that he was scared to change. Like many people, it appeared he’d rather just talk about changing.
BUT he does want to change. He’s changed so much already. He was just scared of it. (We worked on this.)
MOST people start diet programs and quit them but don’t ever realize why. They just go from one diet to the next…
The only path to real long lasting changer is understanding our own behavior and psychology.
If all it took was tactics to be healthy and fit, 2/3 of America wouldn’t be overweight. There are real mental roadblocks we all have, and this is one of them.
Fighting human nature is silly.
Instead, when we understand what’s going on around us, it makes it a lot easier to call it what it is and move forward.
P.S. I’m happy to report this was a big breakthrough for Mikey and he’s back at it. 🙂
P.P.S. I’ve uncovered 3 main reasons why people can’t stick with a diet. One of them is part of what I just wrote about above: The mindset and psychology of weight loss. If the only thing you’re changing is the food you’re eating, you’ll never be able to stick to a plan. You’ll also never sustain the results you get.
There are two other reasons I’ve uncovered through working with 1000’s of clients over the last 7+ years since starting MBT in February of 2007. If you’re interested in learning what they are simply email me at adam at mybodytutor dot com with the subject line “What are the 3 reasons why I can’t stick with my diet?” and I’ll happily share them with you.