I say this a lot: It’s not your fault.
I have met thousands of people on this journey to transform the way the world thinks about health, and I hear again and again stories of people who are frustrated with themselves. They know they should be making healthier choices, but they can’t seem to get it right. After years and years of trying to be better, many people reach the conclusion that they are failures. Or they are broken. Or they are weak.
It’s not your fault!
Your brain is hardwired for Stone Age survival. It’s not your fault that humans quickly outgrew their primitive roots and now live in a present full of calories, distractions, and threats that our ancestors could never have imagined.
This programming runs far deeper than many of us realize. In fact, your brain is wired to prioritize immediate gratification (eating that candy bar) over a reward that might be in our distant feature (reaching our goal weight).
Here’s the science:
How we think about ourselves in the present moment and how we think about ourselves in the future are very different. We can look at the advances in neuroscience to explain those differences. How we think and act in the present and the relationship with our future self becomes better understood when a person is placed in an FMRI brain scan – a machine that measures blood flow to a specific region in the brain that is activated by thoughts or emotions.
There is a particular area in the brain that has been mapped and shown to be devoted to self-reflection. When a subject is asked to think about themselves in the present tense, that precise area of the brain lights up. When they are asked to think about a stranger (non-self) the scan lights up a very different area in the brain.
Here is where it gets interesting. If volunteers are asked to think about themselves in the future and how they will perceive themselves five years from now, there is a wide range of responses. Most of the subjects’ FMRI scans light up the same area that previously became more active when they were asked to think about a stranger and just a few activate the area that is associated with present self.
It gets better. Those that see themselves more as strangers when asked to think about the future also demonstrated a different profile. When compared to those that connected well to the future, the “stranger” brain group were more likely to struggle with delayed gratification, more likely to have poor habits, and have more difficulty saving money and dealing with the challenges of modern life, such as when we are asked to delay actions to a future time.
Psychologists call the phenomena temporal discounting. It explains the tendency for your ancient brain to want to value immediate reward and devalue the importance of delaying gratification for future benefit.
This is why it is so easy to get hooked on bad habits. It’s the way your brain is wired. Immediate concerns driven by actual need or impulse fit very nicely into the “immediate return” brain that you were equipped with 10,000 years ago. You get instant feedback and reward, easily creating bad habits. When you attempt to adopt a good habit that will give you a future benefit – but the immediate reward or feedback is weak or missing – it seems harder to do.
See? It’s not your fault!
The good news is that all of these challenges are surmountable. We’ve seen thousands of people transform themselves and their lives with the Habits of Health Transformational System. For now, don’t worry about the how. Instead, I want you to forgive yourself for the frustrations you’ve felt over the years with your own choices. You were fighting a battle you didn’t know existed, and until now, you didn’t have the tools or the knowledge to build the life you want.
That’s not your fault, so stop beating yourself up so we can get to work on your transformation.