Sure, happy to expand. In a nutshell, I think it’s about manipulating what your standards are. It’s really hard to excel at something unless you yourself believe that it not only is incredibly important, but an absolute must. Does it really matter if you wake up early? Does it really matter if you get a promotion? Does it really matter if you do that extra pomodoro? Does it really matter if you’re 10% bodyfat? I’d argue the results you get and your behavior are pretty much the result of how you answer questions like this.
The areas I invariably have the hardest time with are the ones where I can’t convince myself that it truly is a better use of my efforts than something else. I used to work in finance and everyone around me was working 80 hour weeks chasing a huge paycheck. I just couldn’t bring myself to think that was a good trade off so eventually I left.
On the other hand, I have been able to convince myself that some objectively silly things are important. I don’t think you need to be ripped to be happy, but I’ve got it in my head that I should basically be around 10% bodyfat no matter what. I’ve also purposefully artificially conflated my achievement here with other areas. I use it for a general ego boost by saying “hey, you should feel good because something that is tough for other people comes easily for you.” The desire to maintan that creates lots of pressure to stay on the path. Conversely, “if you can’t even motivate yourself to go for a quick workout your entire life is going to fall apart because nothing other than fitness has as direct a link between input and results” hits on the pain side.
Granted, I would never be so hard on myself if I didn’t already believe this was all under my control. Otherwise that’s just a recipe for destroying someone’s mental health. Before I sound like some iron willed badass (if I had a genie this would be my wish), I should also mention that I do very little as the core of my fitness strategy. I intermittent fast (minimal effort once you’re used to it), I lift weights 3-6x week for 10 minutes, and do HIIT cardio 2-4x/week for 10 minutes. While I am addicted to sweets and have eaten entire gallons of ice cream in one sitting, I’ve got a weird quirk where I refuse to spend money on something that poisons me so there’s rarely unhealthy food around. I am purposefully optimizing for the long run and making adherence as easy as possible.
So how do you change your beliefs in an area? In the past on separate topics I’ve done ridiculous things like actually subject myself to multi hour brainwashing sessions over the course of a week(it worked), but if you’re not a total weirdo there is one way that generally is successful and easier than the others.
My advice to myself and others who are contemplating a belief shift is that they need to befriend a peer group that is already excelling. There’s an incredible shift that happens when you get close to someone. You invariably end up giving them some power over your values. As a result, the disparity in your attainment is going to cause tension such that either A) you convince them to lower their standards B) you raise yours or C) you can’t take it anymore and you leave.
For whatever reason, I’ve just done a really good job of hammering these beliefs into my head. I had a few significant events early on where I got lots of reinforcement for initial success. I’ve also got plenty of people in my life who care about the same thing so it would be tough for me to drift since I’d be called out quickly. Eventually this particular area just worked its way into part of my identity.
At this point, you’d have to pry my fitness out of my cold dead hands. It’s why while I graph on beeminder, I don’t bother setting any type of pledge on it because it’s just not necessary. Money is a great way to convince me something is important. It’s a mental hack that something is a “must.” But in this case my beliefs have that covered in spades.