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Instant gratification among health and fitness

Patience is a virtue, as our parents said. You know, the days where you’d protest “how long do I have to wait……….six hours?!”

Ironically with age, six hours of quality time is all but a flash in the pan. A dot on a timeline. An insignificance in the grand scheme of things.

Impatience is a universal trait of youth. One that often subsides with age and maturity. But how much does it really part with our personality as we grow? How much are you willing to wait for something in the present – at whatever stage of life you’re in?

Of course there’s inverse relationships in play regarding required time for given ventures. The bigger the mountain, the longer the climb. Obvious.

“Get it yesterday!”

This mentality is swamping modern life. But largely the realm of health and fitness. We wish we had our dream body during last year’s vacation. We wish we had more strength when we lost cash in that arm wrestling contest at the bar last Saturday. We wish we had more upper body strength when our little son spurred; “daddy, show me how strong you are!”……..but you couldn’t do a single pull-up.

Alas, those times you wished, are gone. They’re a mere picture on the timeline.

They do however, generate a sense of urgency. An urgency to try our utmost to replicate it better next time, to eradicate any future ‘wishing’.

It’s here that the seed of seeking instant gratification plants itself.

And we can diverge and expand beyond the garden of health and fitness. I know the bulk of potential readers here will be fellow writers and bloggers. Let’s quickly examine the ‘new blogger’ mentality: I have something to say, I’ll spread my message! There’s no requirements for blog writing, yeah, I can be as established as anyone! And quickly.

Have you ever felt/thought that among your inexperienced naivety? I’m pretty adamant most did at some point. We convince ourselves we’ll be overnight successes.

Once again, steering back to health and fitness: Ever heard anyone say they’ll lose all their stubborn fat just cutting out beer? Here’s a better one, ever known anyone who’s never touched a weight in their life, and proclaim: “I’m going to get a nice home dumbbell set, I’ll be RIPPED in NO time!”

See the analogies?

Grossly underestimating the degree of different tasks. I’m currently steadily making my way through the book ‘Decisive’ by Dan & Chip Heath. It’s a truly fascinating book that really explores the walks of psychology and it’s impact on decision making. One particular segment is fresh in my memory………..

“Base rates”

A set of statistics – averages. That apply to any scenario or goal. The example used in the book is an entrepreneur aspiring to start a restaurant. They have a niche (Thai food), and they’ve acquired the “perfect” business spot. Distanced from other competitors, they’ll be free to thrive.

So they think.

They’ve disregarded base rates without even acknowledging they exist to begin with! What if they did a bit of business demographic research, and found the majority of new restaurant businesses in the area don’t survive the first three years of business?

Maybe they did some digging and found other Thai food outlets in the town have average turnovers far below their projected numbers?

Are they exempt from these generalities?

“Everyone’s a special snowflake”

Once again, regrettably, we really aren’t special snowflakes when it comes to conquering major tasks. Sure, some might have ‘one up’ on someone else, but the laws of averages are still very relevant. It’s disrespecting base rates that makes us vulnerable to seeking instant gratification. That guy took 3 years to build 15 lbs of lean mass? I can gain more in a year! _________ said so.

They said so because if they told you the base rates; 15 lbs in 3 years is average, for the average guy – with average genetics. You wouldn’t follow their advice. You wouldn’t invest in their program. So fitness marketers have to emphasize shorter timescales. If only to compete with opposition. Numerous programs promise results in unrealistic time frames. Frames that are only really possible with drugs and enhancers. It’s this false marketing that stimulates cravings of instant gratification.

Now I don’t believe in ceiling someone’s exact potential. Is there anything worse than being told by someone you can’t? We’ve all suffered this in some quantity, be it justified or not. For some it’s fuel, others it’s debilitating. Which one it is for you, will depend on your toughness – your capacity to believe, stay consistent and fully respect the journey’s scale. The journey’s base rates, they’re a guideline, a realistic window. Not an exact science though, and many times they’re beaten and exceeded.

You may well exceed the base rates, or you may not. But acknowledging them will better prepare you for the journey in wait. 

It’s like seeing some smoke in the distance, equipping yourself with a cup of water, heading towards the smoke and finding out you’ve landed in the midst of a forest fire! Had you known the magnitude of the situation, you’d have called the fire brigade, mentally prepared and approached with immense caution.

Analogies galore.

The take home here isn’t to deter one from any goals. But to start seeking base rates more. Base rates apply tremendously in fitness. There are general standards and benchmarks.

For example – 1lb of lean mass gained per month is doing GREAT. 1-2lbs of fat loss a month is also GREAT. Adding 10-20 lbs to a movement like the bench press over the course of a 6-12 week program is tidy progress. Getting your max pull-ups from 5 to 10 over a month is doing mighty fine too.

Results could fall outside these ranges, but it usually won’t be by much. And if they are, it’s likely to be primarily the influence of genetic factors. Followed by individual effort and application. Also the starting level of an individual. And finally, any extreme results are likely due to performance enhancing drugs.

It’s a world full of comparisons; social media, supposed testimonials and exaggeration that makes us feel desperate. We feel we have to compete. 

It’s something we all fall victim to. Look around, see what he/she has and compare what we have to them. It’s human nature rearing it’s occasionally ugly head. (Read this: Don’t lose your own race whilst watching someone else’s)

Instead, we need to accept the challenge. Seek the base rates from scenarios similar to yours. Understand the range of likelihood. Prepare for the requirement of time and most importantly…………

See the task to fruition. Rain or shine, commit to the journey and take daddy’s advice……..

Patience my darling.

Do these and you’ll not do badly at all.

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

4 thoughts on “Instant gratification among health and fitness Leave a comment

  1. Great post! Slow and steady always wins the race. Its unfortunate, I wish more people were aware of their short term thinking. fitness is a lifestyle, your never “finished”.

    • EXACTLY! Thanks very much 🙂 Yes, everyone wants a quick fix and struggles with the notion of time being required. I think constant comparisons make it much worse.

      Your post about attitude is great too. We all know how powerful the mind can be. Where the mind can go, the body can follow! Haha.

      Thanks for your comment & input 🙂

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