There are certain perspectives that make life extremely difficult and others that make life much more enjoyable. It all comes down to how you see the world.
Ultimately, your perception creates your reality. And, as author Tim Ferriss puts it, “reality is negotiable.”
Most people view life as a light switch. They think either/or. On/off. But life doesn’t work that way. It’s more of a spectrum.
You’re probably not homeless in the slums of India, nor are you the richest person in the galaxy. You land somewhere along this financial spectrum.
In the world of wellness, most people think of themselves as either healthy or unhealthy. This way of thinking is damaging for a few reasons.
If you see the world as a light switch, then you will likely say to yourself, “I’m not unhealthy, so I must be healthy.” For example, if you eat well, exercise often and get enough sleep, you tell yourself, “I am a healthy person. I do X, Y, and Z. This is the right way to live.” But that can create blind spots.
What if there’s more to it? What if you could feel even better? Someone might consider themselves healthy as they consume whole grains three times a day and run for six miles each afternoon. They may never ask themselves: “Is there room for improvement here?”
The light switch mentality can be even more damaging if you see yourself as unhealthy. Why? Because humans hate to be discouraged. When we feel like we suck, we tend to give up before we even begin.
If you think that getting healthy is some HUGE monumental, life-altering change that you have to make on January 01 of each year then you’re not likely to stick to it or even [authentically] start in the first place.
If someone has spent the majority of their life denting the living room couch, funding Coca-Cola, and providing job security for the local pizza delivery guy, then they aren’t very likely to immediately start eating healthy foods, sprinting on the beach, and shopping locally.
Frankly, these things just sound daunting and not worth the effort.
What they need is a gradual progression toward their goals. In fact, that’s what we all need.
You are far more likely to start something if you subconsciously believe that success is truly within reach. And there is great power in starting.
It turns out that the light switch mentality is pretty American (or at least Western-thinking). It’s closely related to the microwave mindset which says, “I want it now!”
The Japanese have a different perspective. They focus on a concept known as “kaizen” which means constant improvement. It’s the idea that you improve a little bit each and every day, rather than trying to be perfect all at once.
Perfection is the enemy of progress. Kaizen has transformed the economy of Japan over the past several decades, and it can work for you in achieving your goals as well.
Jeff Olson talks about this in his world-renown book “The Slight Edge.” It’s the slight edge—the little things we do each and every day—that transform our entire lives.
He refers to the microwave mentality as “The Quantum Leap.” We want success now. We want to be 100% healthy tomorrow morning. But life doesn’t work that way and you will be living inside a prison of discouragement until you realize the freedom of the spectrum.
We see the light switch mentality whenever we “fall off the wagon.” Oh we were doing so well! And now we’ve blown it.
“I was being healthy. But then I had that piece of cheesecake and now I’m in the unhealthy-person category. I’m awful. I’ll never reach my goals. Might as well have a cookie while I’m at it.” This is a byproduct of either/or thinking.
Instead, when our behavior doesn’t quite match our intentions, we need to forgive ourselves. We say, “Oops! That wasn’t the best choice. But I’ve been doing awesome, I know where I want to go, and I won’t let one little mistake throw me off. I’m going to keep making better decisions that move me toward the healthy side of the spectrum.”
Health itself is a big spectrum. If you used to be a two on a scale of one to ten and now you’re a six or seven, that’s legitimate success. Light-switch-thinking says, “that’s not good enough.” Spectrum-thinking says, “I’m right on track.”
This is a totally different approach that will make the entire journey more enjoyable while putting the power back in your hands. You’re no longer a slave to categories. You can choose to move yourself along this spectrum as much as you would like.
Here are some simple, practical things you can do to start moving toward the healthy side of the spectrum:
- Go for a walk (while listening to the Rebooted Body podcast!)
- Choose a delicious salad with shrimp, beef, or grilled chicken instead of pasta or a sandwich when you eat out (you don’t have to conquer every meal. Just improve one of them!)
- Get in five minutes of bodyweight exercise in the morning before work (you don’t need a full 45 minute workout!).
- Switch out one chemical cleaner in your home for a more natural solution.
- Consume magnesium in the evening and turn off screens after 8PM to improve your sleep quality.
- Consume more fresh, bottled water from real springs.
- Write a list of ten things you are grateful for today and let that gratitude really sink in.
Once again: success in any area of life ultimately comes down to the small decisions you make each and every day. As Kevin says, “success doesn’t live in the future, it lives in the actions you take today.”
Throw away either/or thinking, and realize that you are somewhere along a spectrum. And that is a beautiful thing. Take notice of where you currently are. Make a plan to gradually improve (or let us help you).
Make a return to simplicity. Starting today, do something that will move you in a healthy direction.
Founder of Rebooted Body and host of The Rebooted Body Podcast. Kevin helps men and women finally get a body and life they love with his unique blend of real food, functional movement, and psychology. To work with him personally, choose a program.