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BodyWHealth is the path to health, happiness and prosperity. It is a simple journey. Simple, but not easy. Three Golden Rules guide you to physical health. Two Golden Rules enable emotional health. Two Golden Mindsets empower your journey, ensuring success.
Life change happens in two phases. Early change is powered by an inspiring vision of the new you, sometimes driven by a deep frustration with the old you. You take on new actions and behaviors to break out of old habits. Your success depends on a steely determination to carry through on your new resolution. If you sustain these changes long enough, then biology becomes your friend. Not only do you start feeling better, which inspires persistence, but also the science of habit kicks in. Chemical and neurological changes reinforce your resolve, and good intentions become WHealthy habits.
BodyWHealth’s fourth Golden Rule helps you to successfully navigate the early days: “Make a commitment that leaves no room for excuses”. Stated more directly, No Excuses!
I could leave it there. It’s simple. Stark. Easy to understand at the personal level, and easy to explain from a psychological perspective.
George Washington Carver was a scientist and inventor born into slavery in the mid 1800s in Missouri, USA. He spent his life working for freedom (both literal and intellectual freedom). He warns us that “99% of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses”. He fought immense odds, yet recognized that success was in his (your) own hands. No excuses.
My own personal journey tested this Golden Mindset. I had been struggling with a life of good intention and poor results. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew how to do it. But I was still 50 pounds overweight and couldn’t climb the stairs out of the New York subway without collapsing with exhaustion. When it came to taking action, there was always an excuse. Too cold. Too tired. Jet-lagged. Too many business dinners. All valid explanations, but as excuses, they were killing me, literally! The day I decided “no more excuses”, I started my first steps towards BodyWHealth. I’m younger at 50 than I was at 40, and I plan to continue this trend for the rest of my life.
As a boy, I envied my friends who had those little military figurines with short, cropped hair and exquisite manly physiques. Later, they were my own sons’ favorite toys; GI Joe in the USA, Action Man in our native South Africa, and I’m sure they go by different names all around the globe. I used to admire and envy their chiseled shapes, their bulging muscles and their macho 6-packs. For many years, in the back of my mind was the aspiration to one day look like this fictional hero. And don’t get me wrong. These people exist in real life. We all know at least one, and I still admire them today.
As I travelled my life path though, I began to realize what it took to get there – it required an absolutely relentless, ruthless commitment to the physical self. I think I “grew up” the day I realized that this wasn’t me, and it wasn’t ever going to be the vast majority of the population either, because we have other opposing aspects to our characters (like lenience, sensitivity and compromise) that are fundamentally good. So we are never going to be chiseled works of steel that can be centerpieces of military history museums. That’s OK.
As I urge you today to say “no excuses” for yourself, I’m not proposing this profound, relentless, machine-like self-discipline. But I am telling you that you absolutely need to adopt a “no excuses” policy towards Golden Rules #1 and #2, at least in the early days of your efforts. Otherwise, no BodyWHealth. It’s that simple!
To induce enduring change, you need to ride the No Excuses Mindset long enough for your biology to adapt. In time, recurrent behaviors become habit. I advocate the Rule of Sevens to entrench new habits.
The first seven days of your new life are critical to break the inertia of the old. Good intentions wane quickly. If you started your 10,000 steps with a walk around the block (that’s a great start, by the way), you may find yourself saying “well, it’s so far to go, and it’s cold in the mornings now, so I’m going to skip tomorrow” … and the day after … and then you’re done. You could argue that the greatest gains are made by early repetition, so devote yourself with singular resolve to the first 7 days!
Then set your sights on the next milestone at 7 weeks. If you read on, I’ll explain the science behind this phase. The number is not cast in stone. Studies show variable time periods in which habits become entrenched, and missing a day or two does not send you back to the beginning. But it is a beautiful number, and during these 7 weeks, some crucial chemical and behavioral adaptations are taking place. Once you have practiced your good behaviors for 7 weeks, you’re well on your way towards fundamental life change.
After a healthy celebration on reaching the 7 week marker, look toward the 7 month milestone. If you can maintain the discipline and enthusiasm to meet this next goal, then you will understand how to transform your life. You will have laid the tracks for enduring lifestyle modification, and have the physical foundations for BodyWHealth.
To appreciate the Rule of 7s, we need to understand the science that underlies habit. Not surprisingly, this is all controlled in our nerve center, the brain. Not at the cortical level – that’s the grey matter that helps us to think and reason – but much deeper, in areas known as the brain stem and dorsal ganglia. Here we find primitive circuits that regulate cravings. Two chemical systems are involved. The dopamine system evokes desire and motivation. It drives us to seeking and searching behavior. The other system is the opioid system. It evokes sensations of pleasure. To attain BodyWHealth, we want to activate dopamine desire circuits and reward them via the opioid system in a way that drives us to recurrent, automated WHealthy behavior (or habits).
You may have heard about the chemical endorphin. This is a natural opioid that is produced after exercise and makes us feel really good! But we don’t start craving it after our first bout of exercise. It takes a little while. The discipline of forcing ourselves to exercise for 7 days, then for 7 weeks allows our body to make the chemical changes necessary to activate this chemical reward system. We believe there are similar changes happening for other habits too (both good and bad, by the way). During this early period, chemical “sensitization” and “rewiring” happens. The result: as we progress, our dependence on “willpower” (no excuses) declines, and our body’s natural craving-reward cycle takes over. We have now engaged our physiological autopilot towards the BodyWHealth destination!
Several practical tips will help you make a commitment that leaves no room for excuses for long enough to develop WHealthy habits:
- Declare your intentions. Start by writing it down, in simple terms. Say “today I commit myself to #1 building towards 10,000 steps and to #2 counting calories every day for 7 weeks; no excuses”. Say it out loud. Share your commitment with your close friends. Proclaim your intention to the world.
- Build a hierarchy of reward: I have used this many times myself, and with my patients with great success. First you need to understand what drives you and makes you happy. This is usually easy. Perhaps you like new clothes, going to the theatre, exotic vacations, or quiet evenings with loved ones. Choose a small but meaningful reward for your day 7 success, a big reward for achieving your 7-week goal, and a huge, I mean HUGE reward for your 7-month victory. The 7-month reward must be the flame that gets you up on cold mornings and keeps you awake with excitement and anticipation. Be explicit. Put pictures on your wall. Plan on hitting the targets. You will!
- Buddy up: For some strange reason we all believe our own excuses more than others do. So when I pull back the curtain and say, “it’s cold this morning, I think I’ll sleep in for another 30 minutes”, it seems very reasonable. To my exercise partner who is already standing outside waiting for me next to my mailbox, it sounds really lame!
- Understand and break the cycle of shame: We all feel bad when we offer up an excuse. Most of the time, we know the explanation is weak! There is huge risk in this, because it becomes self-reinforcing. We begin by feelingbad, and we end up believing we are It helps when you catch yourself feeling guilt to replace it very quickly with gratitude. As you hear yourself saying “I feel bad because I didn’t walk today”, stop! Then force the following sentence into your mind: “I am grateful that I have good strong legs, and am excited to walk again tomorrow!” Gratitude is a powerful force!!
- Find inspirational quotes and pictures: Gifted writers and speakers are able to package tons of energy into a few carefully crafted words or sentences. Photographs and pictures can reach deep into your soul to touch and inspire your own creative forces. Put them up on the wall, on sticky notes on your desk or refrigerator, on your calendar, or in your sneakers.
- Play games: Games are fun, provide incentive and reinforce habit. Step counter apps allow you to compete with other WHealth Seekers, setting and meeting challenges. Find a way to have fun. If you don’t get enjoyment out of your new habits, they will soon be old habits.
“No Excuses” is a powerful Golden Mindset that reinforces your early efforts for long enough for your powerful biology to take over. In time, you will crave the WHealth you have tasted, and once you have tasted it, you’ll never want to lose it! I promise.