You want the body in the mirror to be fit. You know your ideal pant size. And you can imagine how great you’d look in a bathing suit.
So why don’t you have that body?
If this is you, I’m guessing that you even know things you could be doing…but you just aren’t doing them.
We need to fix bigger problems than fitness knowledge; we need to look at some life issues that get in the way of your success.
Over the next few newsletters, I’m going to share four common obstacles–along with solutions to help you achieve your best body ever.
Today, we’re going to examine the first obstacle: Is Your Time Horizon too Short?
Pleasure and Pain
It’s in our nature to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Watch any small child touch a hot stove or taste something pleasurable and you’ll see this in action. Every animal acts to avoid pain and seek pleasure, and we humans are no exception.
Are you thinking, “Yes, of course! Seeking pleasure is keeping me from my goals”?
Now, wait…hold on! Before you believe that conclusion, I want you to consider something…
The “Obvious” Explanation vs. Reality
The evidence that seeking pleasure thwarts you is compelling. When you abandon what you know you “should” be doing in favor of doing something more pleasurable, this keeps you from your goals.
The “obvious” problem is that you’re just not doing a good enough job of denying your desire for pleasure.
But think about this…
By seeking pleasure, you end up with more pain and less pleasure than if you’d not pursued the pleasure. Isn’t that strange?
Once this has happened a few times, you know very well that what you’re doing is going to lead to more pain then pleasure.
So why are you doing it?
I’m going to suggest that the reason is less an issue of seeking pleasure, and more that you’ve decided to focus only on the very next moment.
Another way to say this is that your time horizon is too short.
Since the reality is that a short time horizon is the problem, not seeking pleasure, we finally know what to focus on in order to fix this problem: Time Horizon.
Understanding Your Time Horizon
If you focus on just the pain and pleasure you’re experiencing at this moment, eating a sugary snack looks to result in more pleasure than something like fixing a healthy meal or doing an intense workout.
However, if you extend your mental time horizon just 2 hours, something interesting happens…
While still considering the immediate pleasures and pains, you now also consider what you’ll be experiencing a couple of hours after you’ve eaten or completed a great workout.
With this slightly longer time horizon, eating the sugary snack starts to look more painful, on the whole; and the other options begin to look like they’ll net you a lot more pleasure.
Why A Longer Time Horizon Is So Critical
The above happens because of this very important fact: many actions we take have both specific immediate results AND other specific results that happen later.
The fact is that a sugary snack can not only give you a brief “high,” but may also cause you a sugar crash and unpleasant cravings for more in just a little while.
Another fact is that a healthy meal can have you feeling much more satisfied in two or three hours than you would have otherwise felt.
An intense workout can have you feeling invigorated, stress-reduced, and very satisfied with yourself long after the effort of the workout ends.
And a sustained pattern of healthy eating and exercise can produce compounded healthy and pleasurable outcomes far into the future.
All these outcomes follow as direct and real consequences of the actions you take. They are just as real as the immediate effects–the only difference is that they are experienced at some point in the future.
If you don’t think about them, they will still happen…so we need to start thinking about them.
Step-By-Step Guide to Making Your Time Horizon Work For You, Not Against You
1. Notice what your time horizon is currently.
2. Ask if your time horizon is realistic: is it long enough to consider the full set of real implications that you actions will create for you? If not, don’t worry; you have a lot of company. But it also means you have a great opportunity here.
3. Begin slowly working to make your time horizon more realistic for your life. Try extending your time horizon by just a little bit at a time. Just add a few minutes or hours. Over time, keep working to extend this further and further.
The goal is not to “trick” yourself into doing what’s good for you…the goal is to realistically assess what longer-term effects are certain to result from your actions–just as surely as the immediate effects that you are used to considering.
You never need to deny the reality of the momentary pleasures…rather, just consider and feel the full extent of the real effects that you will be creating.
Your pleasure and pain are not enemies to your diet and workout routine–your time horizon is. Just give yourself a time horizon that makes sense–one that includes the fact that you will be living longer than the very next moment, and your pleasure and pain can guide you right where you want to go.
It works: we have an ongoing process we use with clients that helps them clarify and maintain an extended time horizon, and we’ve seen this result in fantastic improvements in both motivation and results.
Imagine the Future
The “difficult choices” become a lot easier–effortless, even.
It actually feels painful to do things you used to feel helpless to avoid because you were “a slave to pleasure.” Ha!
Imagine if you can extend your time horizon beyond 2 hours, beyond 2 weeks–to include the next 3 months, 1 year, even 20 years from now.
Now get started.
To health and life,
DAMN CHAD!!! That’s all I can really say. This email hits it straight home and made me salivate for more! Can’t wait to see the next few emails in this series.
It’s so incredibly true, it’s when my unconscious [short] time horizon is in play that I indulge (ha! more like over indulge) in the bad stuff – sweets, big meals, huge burgers, etc… and when I consciously think about my time horizon, I eat much much better: smaller portions, smoothies, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal. I physically think to myself most of the time “how am I going to feel an hour after this?” I’m going to work on extending that to a few months one by one.
It’s so true, whenever I eat out at a restaurant and get really excited about eating a[n] [un]”proper” meal, I am feeling it not even 10 minutes later! That pleasure turns into pain which then leads into something greater (in my opinion) which is regret.
Good newsletter man.
This was killer. Not only did you really pin down the problem as I (and most people) experience it, but your “simple” solution works. I was really blown away by this. Great job.
Chad, this is great. I’ve read a lot of books on fitness and heard a lot of fitness people speak about gaining control over our impulses for immediate gratification but you ‘ve put a unique perspective on the subject by implementing the time horizon and, of course, it WILL work. Cheers to you! “jc”