Updated: Nov 10
Hi and welcome to this week's 50 & Beyond Health & Wellbeing blog. Each week I will provide you with knowledge, tips, advice and recommendations to inspire you to sustain good metabolic health specific to being over 50. Chris Deavin, myHealthCoach
Are we truly in charge of our decisions and choices? Or is there something controlling us?
I am guilty of saying this, and I am sure you are, too. "I didn't have a choice'.
"I didn't have a choice not to train today".
"I had to eat a ready meal last night because I had no other choice".
"It wasn't my choice that I got to bed late".
We can always blame our failure and inability to achieve what we want on not having the choice. But is this our fault?
For a long time, it was believed by researchers that humans made logical, well-considered decisions. However, over the last decade or so, researchers uncovered a wide range of mental errors that derail our thinking.
Yes, sometimes we make logical choices and decisions, but there are many times we make emotional, irrational and sometimes outright confusing choices.
So, what are these mental errors that can very easily derail our attempts to lose weight, tone up and get fitter and stronger?
Here are four of the most common ones.
Survivorship bias refers to our tendency to focus on success stories in a particular field and then try to learn from what they are doing right while completely ignoring the people who have tried the same way but failed.
For example, there are 1000's of different how-to get fit and healthy books on the market. Promoting their way of getting in better shape, living a healthier life and succeeding as the only way.
They will have testimonials from people who have succeeded in following their plan. But also, at the same time, ignoring all the people who failed to succeed while following the same plan (and there are more of them than the ones who succeeded).
Be aware of this bias. Most health plans are created without you in mind. The only one that works for you is unique to you. You have to go and find it yourself. Don't rely on others to find it for you.
To truly change our health for the better, we first must lose certain things that we like.
That social drink with friends. Enjoying sitting and watching our favourite Netflix series instead of getting to bed on time.
What will we gain from losing what we like?
Our tendency to avoid losing what we like, even for something better, can cause us to make silly decisions and hang on to certain behaviours simply to keep doing the things we have always done.
We are wired to feel protective of the things that have served us well and brought us pleasure.
Our inability to avoid loss can prevent us from moving forward to something that will bring even more pleasure.
Learn to embrace the discomfort that comes from loss aversion. Only then will you get to see the better future you can have.
The Availability Heuristic
The Availability Heuristic refers to a mistake our brains make by assuming that the examples which come to mind easily are also the most important or prevalent things.
If you have ever tried to get in shape and in better health before but failed, you will have solid and compelling examples of what didn't work. Even though we know there is a way that will work. You just haven't found it yet.
We have a tendency to overvalue and overestimate the impact of things that we can remember not working and have a tendency to undervalue and underestimate what will work.
We will then focus on things that reinforce our past experiences at the expense of focusing on new ways of doing something which will bring a different result.
If one way isn't working, keep looking for a different way. When that way doesn't work either, then keep looking. Don't keep focusing and remembering what didn't work.
The grandad of them all. Most people have heard of this mental error. It refers to our tendency to search for and favour information that confirms our beliefs while simultaneously ignoring or devaluing information that goes against our beliefs.
For example, the reason other people can get in better shape is because they have more free time and don't have as many other commitments as you do. That is why you are overweight and out of shape. Even though we all have the same amount of time and have other commitments in our lives.
Our core beliefs make up who we are. By proving one or more of our core beliefs are wrong can mean that who we are is wrong.
Our beliefs dictate our thoughts. Our thoughts create our emotions. Our emotions trigger our actions. And actions determine what results we achieve.
If you believe that no matter what you do, you won't get in better shape. Then your thought process will be one that looks to prove that your belief is true. Your emotions will be more negative in nature, making you act on proving your belief to be correct and reinforcing your belief. And the cycle continues.
Challenge your beliefs. If a belief is holding you back and limiting your growth, then change it.
One of the hardest things you will do is change a belief. You are effectively proving yourself wrong. But to prove yourself wrong is what is needed if what you believe is not helping. That is how new helpful beliefs are created.
So, many things go into how we make decisions and choices. But ultimately, it is down to us. If we are more aware of the tricks our brains play on us, the better skilled we are to overcome them and take control of how we live our lives.
Whatever result you achieve is down to the actions you perform. Your actions come from the decisions and choices you have made. Choose wisely.
Are you struggling to stay consistent and reach your health goals? Here are a couple of ways I can help;
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To learn more about improving your health and what I provide as a health coach, feel free to email me any questions via firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy to help in any way I can.