There are a number of reasons why many of us fail to take control of our health.
Everything from time, lack of quality information, and motivation play a roll in our success or failure.
But there’s another set of lesser-known reasons why you aren’t as healthy as you’d like: the thoughts in your head.
Below I’ve profiled the top seven bad mental habits I see over and over, and how you can fix them.
#1 The belief that success is left to a special few
Some people seem to have this concept that people who end up really successful, healthy, and happy, are just the lucky few.
When you ask them how Mozart, Tiger woods, or top sports athletes are born, they’ll tell you something like “Oh it’s just their genetics, they were born that way.”
Say you have the goal of wanting to go from 50 pounds overweight, to fitness model. There are numerous dramatic stories like this on the internet.
But what if your mind is constantly telling you “Oh those people are just unique. They are the 1% who have willpower and discipline like no other human being.”
Chances are you won’t even do anything, right? You won’t get started.
Now what if I told you that I met someone who achieved the goal you want to achieve. And what if that person told me “Nope, I wasn’t born special, I just learned what I had to do, and spent 1-2 hours every day for two years doing it.”
Suddenly your mind expands and you begin to wonder: “Hmm, if an ordinary person can do it, maybe I can too.”
In fact, there have been numerous books on the subject, such as Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World Class Performers From Everyone Else and The Talent Code.
The conclusions of both books?
In the vast majority of cases, talent is created and forged every day, not born. This is as true for Mozart as it is for Tiger woods.
My point is this: it’s important to know that the people who succeed at changing their health, building a business, or improving their personal life are not special – they just take committed action.
#2 Thinking that your life, and thus your success, health and relationships are all outside of your control
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from The Alchemist and goes something along the lines of this:
The greatest lie in the world is that, at some point, your life is run by factors out of your control.
You can always change.
It’s sort of like another saying: you can’t control what happens to you in life, but you can control your response.
This is extremely apparent today, where people are losing their jobs left and right. The vast majority of people end up complaining and saying, “There was nothing I could do.” Really? Nothing?
You couldn’t have been pro-actively meeting people, or bringing new ideas to the table, or taking on larger responsibilities to make yourself more indispensible?
The same is true of your health: some people act as if they are powerless to the food industry, or can’t fight their genetics.
“Oh, heart disease and cancer run in my family.” And apparently that’s all the justification we need to go eat junk food every day.
There are two ways to look at your health.
The first sounds a lot like this: “Oh, everything causes Cancer these days! Forget it, I’m just going to eat what I want.”
The second sounds like this: “My health is a priority and I’m going to do whatever it takes to figure out how to get healthy.”
You could read hours worth of success stories, of people who successfully reversed their genetic predispositions to obesity, heart disease, or cancer.
Just look at Jack Lalanne – one of the most famous health icons of the 21st century. Lalanne’s dad died young from a heart attack, but Lalanne lived to be 96 years old – and if you saw videos of him in his 90’s, he looked to be about 75.
The more you believe that you are incapable of change, the less likely you are actually going to take the action you need to improve your life.
#3 Thinking that sticking to a diet is all a matter of willpower
This whole laziness / willpower thing has unfortunately become the default belief in the health industry.
People that are unhealthy or overweight are viewed as lacking “willpower,” and those who are healthy are viewed as having lots of it.
I think that laziness is mostly a myth. It’s not that you can’t stick to a diet because you’re lazy, it’s because you have bad habits.
Habits happen automatically. That’s why we feel powerless against them.
One of the most important things I tell clients when I work with them is that it’s not a matter of willpower – it’s a matter of turning small changes into big habits.
For any of you who have tried fighting sweet cravings, you know that willpower is a weak soldier to fight the battle.
It’s pretty much impossible, and there’s a good body of research showing that sugar cravings function a lot like drug addictions and even affect the same receptors in the brain.
Would you ever tell a drug addict to just “fight” the cravings?
No, of course not! That’s why I challenge you to not view dieting as a willpower game – you will almost inevitably lose.
Instead, imagine if you picked one bad habit – and spent 30 days re-wiring yourself. Imagine what your health and life would look like after 12 of those (one year)?
#4 Trusting some new health expert on blind faith, rather than testing out the advice
It seems like every year there’s a new M.D. proposing some huge diet solution that will help save humanity.
Right now it’s the Wheat Belly diet. Diets aside, there are obviously some really good ones, and some really bad ones. But there are very few that endure and last.
For whatever reason, the health industry is filled with people who think they’ve “cracked the code” and at which point, the know-it-all hat comes on.
A friend of mine recently lost 50 pounds doing nutrisystem – so he began preaching the gospel of nutrisystem (despite the fact that a year later, he regained 60 pounds).
People seem to forget that there is one system that really works for everyone: experimentation.
Ignore the M.D. credential on most diet books. Ignore the rave reviews. Ignore all the junk and advertising.
If Dr. Zee has a new program that’s supposed to help people with arthritis, and you’ve got arthritis, try it and see what happens long term!
If Dr. Zoo has a “revolutionary, break-through” program for combating sugar cravings, just try it out before you begin preaching the gospel.
If Dr. Zed has a newly scientifically verified program for combating allergies… just try It out and see if it works for you!
If Dr. Zoy has a program guaranteed to make you healthier – get a blood test before and after and see the proof.
Once upon a time, I used to believe that there really was one universal human diet. But after having worked with so many people, I’ve realized that people respond very differently to the exact same foods, diets, or programs.
So, start experimenting! Don’t put your faith in the latest fad, or even someone with credentials. People still have beliefs and opinions – regardless of the M.D. next to their name. Trust results.
This is closely tied in to the next point: the belief that there’s one silver bullet that will fix your health problems.
#5 Believing that there’s that one simple tip or trick that will change it all
This bad habit capitalizes on human nature: the belief that just around the corner there’s another book, class, or person who will introduce you to a secret technique that will fix it all.
There never is, but we always hope there is. That’s why every two months there is some new magic bullet in whatever industry you’re in. “Revolutionary new method for…” please!
As long as I live I’ll never understand humanity’s obsession with silver bullets – even when most of us know they don’t exist.
We still have that little bit of hope in the back of our minds – “maybe there’s a faster way.”
“Maybe there’s a way I can still eat chocolate cake all day and lose weight.” (Weight loss silver bullet).
“Maybe there’s a way I can not work but earn income.” (Income silver bullet).
“Maybe there’s a way I can sleep only 5 hours a night but still be as productive as before” (Productivity silver bullet).
I’m probably telling you something you already know, but it bears reminding: there is almost never that silver bullet that will solve all your problems, in a straight shot, with no effort, just for $19.95.
If you spent 20 years not taking care of your health, you can’t reverse that in 2 weeks.
#6 Not taking responsibility for your own life
“My personal trainer didn’t give me good information.”
“My family eats unhealthy so it’s impossible for me to eat healthy.”
“My job hours are long, so I can’t find a way to exercise at all.”
Look at the blame in all of these extremely common statements. The blame is on someone/something else.
Guess what? You have very limited control of all of these things.
Just focus on what you can control – and that’s YOU.
The constant excuses is one of the major reasons why people fail to improve their health.
Their “proof” usually starts with “Yeah, but…”
But what? It’s YOUR health. Only you are responsible for it. No one else is going to take care of it for you.
Just the other day I was talking with a family member who wants to get healthier. She talked about being excited, but then the little blame game started showing up.
“I just don’t have that much time, and it’s tough because I work far away, and I’m a live-in nurse so I have to eat what’s at the house I work at.”
Little did she know that one of her friends works 80 hours a week, sleeps five hours a night, and has less than an hour of personal time each day – and still manages to eat healthy and find time to exercise.
It’s no one’s responsibility but your own – and when you lose your health, you can’t do much else.
#7 Thinking there’s a perfect time to start
The Internet has given rise to a scary malady: the “I just need a little bit more information” disease.
When we want to start eating healthy, we hop on Google and type in “what foods do I eat to lose weight?” We read for an hour or two, gather some data, and right about when we should get started, we say “Maaaaaybe I should read a little more, just in case.”
So we read for another few hours, maybe purchase a book on Amazon, and then eventually days and weeks elapse as we continue to read, collect information, and formulate our epic plan.
And then nothing happens.
Three months later we are still planning, reading, and consuming.
Don’t worry, it’s part of the problem with 21st century life – we have insane access to all the information that has ever existed on earth – at our fingertips. Scary, but also amazing.
This is all the long way of saying this: You could easily spend all day researching, collecting information, and reading “just one more book.”
But ultimately, you only see results by what you do, and not by what you read.
“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
I think you already know what you need to do – but while you’re on your path, make sure to avoid these 7 psychological habits that may try to divert you from succeeding.
Alexander runs Modern Health Monk, which helps people reverse health problems caused by 21st century life. Check out his free 8-part weight loss mini course, or other free courses and reports on longevity and fixing back pain.