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I’m Schizophrenic. And So Am I.

February 22, 2010

What if I told you that we are all schizophrenic by nature? No way, right?

Then, what if I told you that our schizophrenia explains why we are often torn when making decisions, acting on those decisions and generally following through with changes we’ve said we’ll make? This may not sound like words you want to hear, but according to the latest book by Chip & Dan Heath, Switch, we are just that – schizophrenic. But there is hope and strategy in how to change things when change is hard.

Switch is the follow up book to Made To Stick. Switch was written to identify what makes change so hard. And in their exhaustive research, characteristic of these brothers, they find some pretty compelling evidence in their studies. For example, the first study they cite has to do with popcorn – and how we will generally eat as much as you give us, even if it tastes horrible. Moviegoers were given two sizes of stale popcorn. After the movie the tubs were weighed. Again and again the studies found that people eat in proportion to what they are given. Does this shed light on behavior? On habit? The Heaths point to the conclusion that you don’t always have to change people; simply change their situation (at least when it comes to popcorn!).

I’m only a few chapters into the book, but the schizophrenic nature we possess lies in the two side we all have. The Elephant is the emotional side of us while the Rider is the rational side. The Elephant is obviously a very strong element within us and can charge through to get things done. But the Rider is the analyzer, the one who thinks and who controls the reins. The Elephant is interested in the short term while the Rider is looking long term. Think about this: How many times do you know what you SHOULD be doing, but your emotions win out and you instead make the lesser choice? We do this everyday I would guess. It all depends on which side is stronger – our Elephant or our Rider.

When the Elephant and the Rider come to a fork in the road, therein lies the everyday problem in deciding who is going to win. More studies cited in Switch indicate a unique conclusion: Self-control is an exhaustible resource. We can literally exhaust ourselves with the decisions we are forced to make. And when we have had enough, one side loses and the decision gets made. The bigger the decision, the faster the exhaustion rate. What looks like laziness in others is actually exhaustion by the choices or decisions one has to make. Furthermore, when some look like they are resisting, it’s nothing but a lack of clarity. Too many choices can provide a lack of clarity, but if we are guided in a direction with clear cut objectives, we will must often succeed.

Let’s stop there and I’m going to apply what Switch concludes while tying in our health and wellness into this information. The Heath brothers conclude that for change to occur three things must happen:

You Must Direct the Rider

Resistance is a lack of clarity, so you must provide clear cut direction. The Rider, or the analyzer, in us, wants to make good decisions but we’re often plagued by too much information or too many ways to go. How can you provide yourself clear cut direction when it comes to health/nutrition/exercise? GOALS! We’ve talked about the power of goals and having a strong WHY. Make those goals specific as far as what you’ll eat, how often you’ll exercise, what exercises you’ll be doing, how much you’re eating, etc.

You Must Motivate Your Elephant
What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The Rider can only force their way for only so long. So motivate your Elephant by reviewing your health stats. Visualize things that you will be able to do as you attain your goals. Cut out pictures or hang some up. Find music or movies that empower you. What will you reward yourself with when you hit your goals. With these pieces in mind, you can surely motivate the Elephant inside you.

Shape the Path
Make it easy on yourself to embrace your health/wellness decisions. No elaborate spreadsheets are needed. Find a program that works for you that has the support and step by step guide you may be seeking. As you shape your path, you make it easier for the Elephant to go on auto pilot and charge along. You then make it easy for the Rider to steer the Elephant. Together, the Elephant and Rider can enjoy the ride together – and you can then make true change a possibility.

My Appeal to You
I’m only partway through Switch. And while it has several applications for use, I can’t help but apply its use to me and fitness. Let’s face it, eating right and working out are no-brainers for better health, longevity, etc. But so many times our Elephants take over and before we know it we’ve downed our third piece of cake and we’re looking for more ice cream. I’ve mentioned a few programs before and I’ll mention them again. The entire program for eating right and working out with ease is simply found in the Primal Blueprint book. The nutritional evidence in this book explains the choices we should all be making and why. The workout evidence supports a lifestyle that is simply active; its just that simple! No truck pulls or 3 hour sessions at the gym are needed. And with this book, your path can be shaped. There is a great community of followers of this program that can be found at Mark’ It’s up to you then to direct your rider in the right direction and then motivate your Elephant. Elephant in this example may be a poor use of words when it comes to weight loss. But if you are overweight, imagine your Elephant becoming a Wild Stallion. Visualize that!

Last night I had this change method in my head. I have struggled this weekend with my workouts. My perspective as I write this is that I believe I am overtrained. I have been too hard on my shoulders this past week and it is taking its toll. I could have elected to take a rest day, but with every ounce in my Rider crying out, I steered the Elephant around and I did a core workout that did not involve my shoulders and solicited some sweat in the meantime. Rest days are a necessity, and I’m not poo-pooing their need, mind you. My Elephant was making excuses for why other parts of my body couldn’t participate and I was not going to hear from him last night! I saw my goals, I knew what I should do and I followed the pathway I had set for myself 8 weeks ago. From there it was a lot easier. I modified my program, got the workout in and was able to rest my shoulders. That beats quitting any day of the week!

Change is always a necessary reality in life. Perhaps now knowing we are schizophrenic by nature will help you understand we all have the same struggles. It’s ultimately how you respond to those struggles and shape your path that determines where you go in life. It’s time for us all to Flip The Switch! Because Life Is On!

Do you agree or disagree with being schizophrenic? Do you struggle – and if so, how do you respond to make changes stick?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2010 10:39 am

    Oh i SO believe the whole everyone is schizo thing…i have thought this for years (as it pertains to me)…

    and of course I struggle. i think you would be hard pressed to find anyone that didnt??? i mean really…i struggle DAILY…whether its about food, working out, if i should say something about the idiots around me talking fantasy [insert randon sport here] and not working and being too get the picture.

    now as far as struggling with decisions that are more long term and not just day to day or whether or not i am going to eat a piece of cake, i dont struggle so much there..i have gotten quite ‘focused’ and some would even say ‘tunnel visioned’ and ‘obsessive’ about a lot of things lately…

  2. August 17, 2010 12:38 am

    If you really had schizophrenia as I do you would reconsider the notion that everyone is so called “schizo” and please refrain from playing on stereotypes like “I’m schizophrenic and so am I” it is not a split personality. Hopefully this will educate even slightly

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