Aside from acquiring wealth the other area we always want to find a shortcut for is our health. Nearly all of us are looking for a faster way to get the body we want, or the energy we crave.
But does such a thing exist? In my opinion yes it does, but not in the way you’d expect.
If a shortcut is an ‘alternative route’ then we must first look at what the main path is and where that takes us.
The Rise Of The Fad
We have entered a time where information is more freely accessible than at any other time in history. Unfortunately, along with the good also comes the not so good.
Added to the overload of information is the fact we get bored of things more quickly than ever before: Research suggests that over 15 years our average attention span has dropped to 8.25 seconds – less than a goldfish!
Which makes it easy to see why stats like these have become the norm:
- Checking email over 30 times in one hour.
- Looking at your phone over 1500 times in a week, taking up an average of 3hrs 16 mins a day
- Leaving a web page in under a minute having checked under 20% of the content
And the marketing machine knows this, which is why every week brings a new diet or fitness craze; from high fat to low carb to high protein to sauna suits and everything else in between.
But most of us realise that fads simply do not work, and the stats on the current state of health in the developed world backs this up. Take a stroll down any high street today and this will paint a clear picture of our current reality.
But if we know in our hearts that it doesn’t work then why do we still chase that ‘too good to be true’ promise of success?
Let’s be honest there comes a time for all of us when we want to lose weight quickly, to look good in that dress, or to be thin for that big day. And when it does it is tempting to search for that “magic bullet” that will help us shed the extra kilograms quickly and effortlessly.
Bikini season or an upcoming wedding often seem like more concrete and compelling reasons to slim down than long term health. And fad diets are always there, offering seemingly easy solutions.
What’s more, weight loss causes anxiety and frustration for so many people, and those selling an answer may seem more appealing than “official” advice from the government or professional organizations which can seem clinical and cold.
Ironically, fads which are advertised as shortcuts, have actually become the mainstay of how most people attempt to get in shape and improve their health. And far from accelerating results they usually leave us exactly where we started.
Yes, in the short term (usually measured in weeks) you see some hopeful signs but ultimately there are no long term positive changes.
The Magic Of The Fundamentals
A major reason so many people are struggling is because they are ignoring the basic principles on which good health is based.
As a society we have lost sight of the fundamental actions that sit at the core of great health: Quality sleep, nutritious and un-processed food, a focus on gut health, regular movement and a mindset that promotes happiness and decreases stress.
Clearly there is more nuance to it than this but when you break it down this is what you are left with. The answer is not in some new exercise fad, or celebrity diet, but in a set of simple actions that need to be practiced on a consistent basis.
And when you choose this path you realise this is the only true shortcut.
Essentially you have two choices:
- Bounce from fad to fad, hoping that next one will be the one that solves all of your problems, while in reality making little to no overall progress.
- Consistently follow the proven fundamentals, make progress and hit your goals.
Easy to say but hard to achieve for many people for two reasons. First, telling someone to buy blackout blinds and a sunlight alarm and implement a good night/morning routine isn’t exciting. It’s not sexy and that makes it hard to sell. It’s much easier to have a celebrity sat in a bikini drinking ‘skinny coffee’.
In fact in the world of health sleep is the best example of fundamentals versus fads: People will happily spend hours researching supplements or worrying about micro adjustments to training plans whilst ignoring this massive performance enhancer already available to them.
But if you want to be fit, strong, fast, and full of energy, get enough good quality sleep! Do that and the rest will fall into place much more easily. Sleep is one of the most powerful tools we have access to when it comes to improving our health.
Secondly, we all know that eating predominantly whole foods with lots of vegetables and quality protein sources are the best way to look and feel good, but again it can be hard to implement this.
We live in a world where companies are spending millions on products that are designed to be incredibly delicious. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, you just need to understand a few truths about human psychology.
In essence our daily lives are the sum of our habits. When it comes to being consistent success lies with building the right behaviours, and not a reliance on willpower or motivation. And success begets success. It may be tough in the beginning but as you build small habits it will begin a snowball effect.
The fitness industry is a billion dollar machine and it loves to sell us the ‘silver bullet’ that will make us fit, happy and healthy. However, the truth is that great health is built upon a solid foundation made up of relatively simple actions carried out on a consistent basis.
Where To Go From Here
1. Focus on the fundamentals and forget the fads.
As tempting as it may be to buy that detox diet or master blast workout, the sooner you move away from the ‘shiny objects’ and start implementing the basics the quicker you will start achieving your true potential.
- Get enough good quality sleep.
- Eat more whole foods & less of the rest.
- Move in a variety of ways that build and protect the body not break it.
- Work on your mindset to increase positivity and reduce stress.
- Embrace the people & experiences that bring happiness.
2. Embrace habits to effectively change your behaviours.
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement, and your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choices will compound ten or twenty years down the line.
There are many resources out there on how to change your habits but one of the best is the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, or you can take a look at his blog.
3. Remember that it’s your moving average that counts.
Even though concentrating on the fundamentals will create success quicker than any other method, it will still not be a linear progression. Consistency does not have to be a straight line.
You will have good days and you will have bad days, that’s just life. But the worst thing you can do is get into an ‘all or nothing’ mindset where you take no action unless things are perfect. Instead, remember that it is your moving average that counts. Keep showing up and look for the small wins each day. Do that and I promise you will get to where you want to be.
When it comes to health I cover all the fundamental bases that form the foundation of good health. However, when I tell people what I do in terms of strategies for health and fitness there is usually a look of “but what else, there must be something else?”.
This is because if you break it down it doesn’t look like much:
- Sleep in a dark, cool room free from distractions.
- Eat a predominantly whole food diet, mostly made up of a wide variety of plants with some good quality animal products.
- Run, row or swim, use simple weights or bodyweight routines for resistance training.
- Surround myself with good people, make time for things that make me happy and try to enjoy the journey rather than chase the destination.
Essentially I try and follow what we are basically biologically programmed to do. No mention of taking this or that amino acid. No strict dieting and no complex workout routine.
The same was true in my previous life: Many people look at the world of Special Forces and see the ‘cool’ things, jumping out of planes, long hair, beards and non-issue kit. But in reality those serving at the top of their profession are there because they are exceptionally good at the basics. Skills like navigation, shooting, self-administration, fitness, and teamwork.
Success and attention to fundamentals usually go hand in hand in life, and a good foundation is critical to accomplishing your goals. They aren’t always the most ‘sexy’ option but they always get results.
Concentrate on the fundamentals in whatever aspect of your life you want to make progress and it will be the surest shortcut to success you will ever hope to find.
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