What do pensions, weight loss and long jump have in common?

We chat about lots of topics in our group training sessions. While still working hard, of course. Pensions, weight loss and long jump were just some of the topics recently. 

But what do they all have in common?

Have you guessed it yet?

They all require the practice of delayed gratification…

  • Save now, to have more spending ability in the future…
  • Say no to the biscuit now, to be slimmer next summer
  • Work hard on the track now, to get a PB in the competitions season

So, sacrifice now, to gain a reward in the future.

And it is this mismatch in timelines that is why we sometimes find it so hard to stick with our “goals”. Although we know we should be saving more, those leggings are just so special! Even though we know we need to lose weight, that biscuit is so irresistible.

There is a conflict between what we want now and what we want in the future.

And to make it worse, our animal brain developed to be able to value immediate needs and immediate gratification. Hungry: eat. Tired: sleep. It’s pretty simple in the animal kingdom.

But, although our brain hasn’t evolved much, our environment has. Apart from the constant access to food, we are the WANT IT NOW generation. We Amazon Prime everything. We don’t wait for the weekly episode from our latest boxset, we stream it all now. Waiting any more than a second for a website to load leads people to bounce. The examples are endless. 

Part of it is developmental: our animal brain developed to be able to value immediate needs and gratification.

However our environment has made it significantly harder: we are the NOW generation. We Amazon Prime everything. We won’t wait for the weekly episode from our latest boxset – we stream it all now. Waiting any more that a second for a website to load leads people to leave. The examples are endless.

But is there a way to resolve the conflict?

YesHere’s some ideas:

Bring Gratification Forward

Let me use myself as an example. I want to jump 5 metres in long jump. But that seems like an awful long way away… Competitions are quite rare and may or may not go to plan. 

So to keep myself on track, I log the details of every training session. Like my times over 40m, how much I’m squatting, and so on. This way I have immediate feedback on how I’m doing rather than waiting for a competition result.

I make it an actual ritual. After every training session I will write in my coloured pens and look for evidence of progress. Especially good sessions will get a full page and colourful doodles. I kid you not! 

So, the solution is to try to find things to track or monitor NOW.

Most of us get a sense of satisfaction just collecting ticks. If this is you: tick a chart for every day you go without snacking in the evening.

Or tick a chart every time you have a great breakfast. 

Set Yourself a Super Short Term Goal

And give yourself a reward. This needs to be a short-term time scale. Like 5 days or a week max. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. But for example, if you drink 2 litres of water 5 days in a row you get to spend an hour watching your favourite programme.

Note however, the reward needs to be congruent to you overall objective! So you can’t reward yourself with cake on the 6th day, having successfully avoided cake for 5 days. Clear?

Make it Visual

I’ve literally tattooed a long jumper it on my arm, so that I have a permanent reminder of what I’m working towards. It works better in summer, I’ll be honest! 

Now, I’m not saying that you need a tattoo. But anything visual will work. I leave my spikes shoes (purposely) lying around, I have little memos stuck to my notice boards, and my training doodles are other examples. 

Other ideas: take 6 to 10 marbles and two little cups. Place all the marbles in one glass. For each pound you lose, move a marble over to the empty cup… Take a moment to do this, while thinking about nothing else. And while you’re doing it, commit to never having to put it back into the first cup. You can also use this method for creating an exercise streak.

Make it fun.

Make it something that resonates with you!

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