3 Reasons Your Brain is Working Against You

by Kyle M. Langworthy, Master Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Beast

Not getting the fitness results you’ve always dreamed of?

It might be because your brain is messing with you big time.

Feeling mind fucked recently? No? Maybe by the end of this article you’ll change your mind (whoaaaa…that’s like a mindfuck inside of a mindfuck).

One of the most influential reasons why you’re probably not getting the results you want is because you’ve become a prisoner to your own brain’s primary ways of processing and filtering information. Let’s talk a little science, shall we?

Your psychology is comprised of two systems of thought, processing and decision-making. I’ll refer to these as the System 1 Brain (fast and emotional like the rabbit) and the System 2 Brain (slow and calculative like the tortoise). Together, both systems work in tandem to create your entire reality, both on subconscious and conscious levels of thinking.

SYSTEM 1- The “Emotional” Brain: Your more primitive way of processing information. System 1 is very efficient and uses past experiences and pattern recognition to guide us “intuitively” through life’s occurrences. This way of thinking is beneficial because it costs much less willpower to manage and does so by operating subconsiously. This system, being that it’s the quicker of the two to act, is often times blinding to reality. The System 1 brain has a tendency to short circuit or override the more deliberate and rational System 2 Brain.  System 1 is also directly tied in with the fight or flight component of the nervous system and influences many of the hormonal responses that are tied to the perception of threat and danger.

SYSTEM 2- The “Logical” Brain: Your more logical/analytical way of processing information. This processing system is extremely sloooooow as it is relatively new compared with System 1. This system is intentional and operates by conscious means. System 2 also helps decipher new events and things out of the ordinary. This system is relatively “expensive” to operate and exhausts willpower quickly.

3 REASONS YOUR EMOTIONAL BRAIN IS SABOTAGING YOUR FITNESS EFFORTS:

The emotional brain is one bad-ass mother. Being that humans make about 80% of their decisions using the emotional brain (subconsciously), it can sometimes help us to make decisions that are not so fitness friendly. Here are three of the most influential reasons why your emotional brain might be sabotaging your fitness efforts.

1)  Your want for immediate satisfaction and novelty is interfering with your long-term fitness goals.

“What makes the experiencing self happy is not quite the same as what satisfies the remembering self.”

– Daniel Kahneman, Author of Thinking Fast and Slow.

Your lack of knowledge blunts your awareness
Unless you plan to take on your fitness goals by yourself (which is possible), you NEED to hire a coach (someone really f’n cool like myself) that’s got a fuck ton of knowledge that you can suck on. Often times when we educate ourselves on HOW to get to our goals, we’re able to think clearer and more logically.

Never, ever, ever stop learning. The moment you stop learning is the moment your emotional brain starts to rationalize with biases built around laziness (which we will talk about later). Inform yourself of the facts so that you can hold a logical conversation with yourself. Don’t let your emotional brain blind you to your own ignorance. As an example, once you understand that your fitness goals are going to take you YEEEEEEEEEEEEEARS, you’ll be better prepared to handle the emotional challenges that may present themselves throughout your journey.

{Yup- that uber sexy muscular machine on the stool is yours truly playing Billy Flynn in Chicago about 6 years ago. I was a skinny boy for yeaaaars and tried every “feel good” bodybuilder workout in the book. It wasn’t until I started planning for the long haul and educating myself that I actually started making results. Furthermore, once I was able to disassociate my logical brain from my emotional brain, I was able to get even closer towards my goals. Hence, “The Beast” was born}

You CRAVE novelty

More often than not, we are drawn to the things that immediately satisfy us – to the novelty of trying something new instead of sticking to what is effective. One of the reasons certain exercise techniques become boring to us is because we are biologically wired to seek out new things as a way of learning and exploring. In other words, once our emotional brains have ‘piggy banked’ specific memories of exercises and experiences, you organically start to crave things that are different. Attention is then shifted to what is new and away from what was more logically inclined to get you better long-term results. Novelty does NOT always equal effective in fitness. When it comes to getting results, the basics rule the school. Stick to them. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)

Ahhhhhh yes! That’s the beautiful sound of your brain I hear begging for more squats and deadlifts.  The basics win at life. But this guy…

The Feel Good Effect
We are programmed to bias the things in life that make us immediately happy (one of the reasons why food, affection, sex, drugs, and cute floppy-ear smushed-faced baby puppies are so awesome). Often times however, our decisions to involve ourselves with these fitness or diet related things can conflict with what will ultimately make us satisfied in the long-term.

Remember the goal. Give yourself something to aspire to and always ask yourself the question: “How is this going to affect my long term awesomeness?”

2)  You make assumptions and fail to think objectively. You are lazy and gullible. (Geez, that’s harsh!)

Question Assumptions
Humans are simply a collective by-product of their former memories and experiences. We are then biased to see things a certain way due to our past and our current understanding of the past. Therefore it’s understandable that you might be comparing your previous fitness experiences with your current experiences (these are called ‘assumptions’ in the life coaching sphere).

This is the absolute best time to ask yourself objective questions.  What does reality tell you? Is your emotional brain talking louder than your logical brain? How are you measuring your progress? Are you actually getting better behind the guise of feelings towards previous experiences? Did your pee-pee get bigger? How long have you been training? What are your markers of success?

You may never actually find any answers to your questions. The goal is to not to find answers but to discover more questions, which will ultimately lead to a more informed, better you.

“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.”

– Daniel Kahneman, Author of Thinking Fast and Slow.

Start thinking for yourself and always as questions! Though the exercise on the pink bosu ball looks fun for monkeys that fart bubble gum, does it make sense that it’s going to garner the results you want long-term as a functional human? Use your brain. The logical one. And remember first and foremost that results will always speak louder than any common social conventions or bullshittery! Keep getting better!

3)  Your System 2 Brain is totally stressed out!

When stressed or out of willpower, we’re simply not able to use logic and reasoning to our advantage. When the emotional brain takes over fully, this can be a recipe for disaster as it now is making ALL of the decisions (aka you have become a rabid animal…and not the sexy kind). What kind of stress are we talking about?

Sleep

Sleep is literally EVERYTHING. If you’re not getting more than 7 (arguably even 8) hours of sleep, this should be the first thing you do. Sleep more. And then sleep even moooooore!

Take time to relax

Go do something for YOU. Take a vacation, go to a new restaurant, get a massage, do some meditating. Remember, the emotional brain is connected to the fight or flight response, so doing things that are calming and restorative can help recharge your System 2 Brain’s abilities to make decisions.

Have more sex

Understandably, Sex is not calming, but it sure feels good. Seriously, sex is one of the primary needs of all humans and a fantastic way to appease your emotional brain post orgasm. It’s like candy for the soul. Ya simply need to have more sex! (TWEET THAT SHIT!) This is your logical call to go do it. Now go forth like the animal you are!

Eat some sugar

Your brain craves and needs sugar sometimes. This isn’t my way of saying that you should go out and eat an entire plate of donuts. However, having a piece of fruit or chocolate can be the key to revamping your System 2 Brain for the more conscious decision making you’ll be facing during emotionally difficult times.

Your Challenge

Taking all of this into consideration, emotions are hugely influential towards who we are. What I’m not suggesting is for you to become a robot and filter each and every scenario through your reasoning glasses. In fact, this wouldn’t be possible, as you’d tire to the point that you’d eventually start using your emotional brain anyway. Emotions are absolutely necessary for rational thinking. My recommendation for you is to begin to live your life with an increased awareness of the emotional brain’s tendencies and biases. Strive for long-term satisfaction most of the time, but occasionally take time for more immediate happiness as well.

I hate the cliché, but the saying “it’s all about balance” really is kinda true — yin and yang baby. Now go out and live your life. Find that balance. Using your newfound awareness of how you process information, try to be true to who you are and what you want long-term at the same time. Remember to ask lots of questions and then ask more questions with the assurance that you’re moving in the right direction – 1% better, day after day, towards a sexier fitness future for yourself!

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