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Have you ever wondered why do we do the things that we do even though many times those things are not in our best interest? So why do we keep doing the very things that harm us? The answer is “our emotions”.

Anthony Robbins puts it this way. In every situation there are 3 decisions that create your destiny:

  1. What are you going to focus on?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. What are you going to do?

As an example, let´s look at Terry Fox. Terry was a young Canadian whose battle with bone cancer prompted him to run across his country to raise awareness towards this disease, despite already having had one leg amputated.

How Are Your Emotions Screwing Over Your Attempts To Be Fit And Healthy?
Canadian Athlete, Humanitarian And Cancer Research Activist

When Terry Fox was diagnosed with cancer his focus was, “I don´t want more people to suffer from this” instead of “I am sick, I have lost my leg and I am going to die”
What that meant to him was that he was the vehicle with which to create awareness of this disease.

What he did was to run a marathon per day (more than 26 miles) across Canada.
I consider Tony Robbin´s perspective right on the spot, but I would like to explain that from another angle.

We as humans are driven by 2 important emotions, pain and pleasure.  We are driven to avoid pain and to reach for pleasure.

I would say that in most cases, avoiding pain is a much stronger motivator than the actual pleasure that you can get, but probably the more important issue is how immediate that particular pain or that pleasure are.

If we go back to Terry Fox´s example, we could say that for him the thought that his life could have been wasted by not spreading his message was by far more painful than the “pleasure” of avoiding the physical and emotional pain that running could have caused him. In this case, we could say also that he was experiencing the pleasure of knowing that he was doing something great for humanity.

How can you apply these concepts to your health and fitness?

Let´s consider, for example, losing body fat % (the amount of body fat that you carry) which is actually more important than how much you actually weigh.

There are two main things that you need to focus on to obtain these results: healthy diet and exercise.

Let´s forget for a second all of the different diets and exercise routines that you could choose from; the fact is that generally speaking, we know what is better for us, we understand that eating whole foods, fruits and vegetables, instead of processed foods, is a lot healthier. Along the same lines, we also are clear about all of the benefits that exercise offers and the repercussions that we face for not exercising.

So, if we know all of that, why do we still not do what we need to do for our health? One of the biggest problems that we face regarding our health and fitness is that the pain of not doing the right things is not immediate. To make things worse, the pleasure of not doing those things is immediate.

How Are Your Emotions Screwing Over Your Attempts To Be Fit And Healthy?
With What Do You Associate Pizza?

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If you eat a slice of pizza for example, you won´t see any immediate negative repercussions; you won´t gain noticeable weight, you will most likely just notice the pleasure that the pizza gives you.

The same thing with exercise, if you don´t exercise today, you won´t experience any obvious immediate negative impact either.

Now, keep in mind that those nearly imperceptible consequences will compound over time, if you keep up that behavior, and the next thing you know, you will pack on undesirable body fat by having unhealthy eating habits and not exercising.

So what can you do to avoid this downward spiral?

Bring the future pain to the present – associate things in such a way that you feel the pain now versus in the future.

One of the things that I hate the most is waking up after a party at home and finding all of the dirty dishes and mess from the party the night before. So, no matter how tired I am, I clean up everything before going to bed, so that the next day I see a nice clean place when I wake up. It is not that I love cleaning; it is that I hate the feeling of waking up to a huge mess.

Basically, the pain of finding my place dirty is greater than the pain of cleaning it up. On top of that, the pleasure of finding the place clean in the morning is also bigger than my discomfort while cleaning when am tired after the party.

By now you are probably wondering what do Terry Fox´s case and my example above both have in common? Now, it is true that Terry´s action was very transcendental and mine was a very trivial one, but in both cases, we have put the immediate pain of not doing the particular action above and beyond the pleasure of not doing it.

How can we bring future pain to the present in health and fitness?

How Are Your Emotions Screwing Over Your Attempts To Be Fit And Healthy?
Are You Choosing Health?

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How can we act now, and avoid future pain? If a person has been teased for a while about how shabby or overweight she is, she might bring that “pain” of being harassed with her into the present, motivating her to do whatever it takes to lose those extra pounds. The discomfort of actually exercising or quitting the junk food habit will suddenly be irrelevant to her and she will do what it takes.

Considering this concept, to aim only for a gorgeous sexy body might not be a strong enough goal to go after if there is not some sort of immediate pain for not getting that incredible body. Compare this to the previous example, where that this person had the strong desire and thus, motivation, to change her body to stop the torment she was experiencing.

To really drive home my point, here is one more example. Let´s say that if you are told by your doctor that if you don´t lose weight you will die and won´t see your kids anymore. There is a good chance that you will change your lifestyle to lose those pounds. You are bringing the future pain of dying into your present and letting it motivate you to make your health a priority.

Now, why is this not the response that people always have? One would think that it would be, right? For example, why a food addict, who knows the consequences of his choice; that he could die and never see his children, keep eating unhealthy foods?

How Are Your Emotions Screwing Over Your Attempts To Be Fit And Healthy?
Why Do We Still Not Do What We Need To Do For Our Health?

Copyright: fotoatelie / 123RF Stock Photo

Unfortunately, one answer is that for him to die could be an actual relief, because he will stop feeling all his current pain of hopelessness and worthlessness. He might even consider that by continuing on this unhealthy path and dying, he will serve his family in a better way. Yes, this may sound extreme, but I want to make a point here.

In this case, to have the desirable behavior of starting to eat in a healthy way, it is necessary to bring back the relevance of life into his awareness. He needs to change his focus from the pain that he is experiencing to the pain that his family would experience without him. To change his mindset will require a deep journey within, most likely through professional help, which allows him understand that he is valued and loved by his friends and family.

This fascinating free webinar teaches you how to have self-acceptance, love and forgiveness, as well as how to pinpoint your underlying unconscious blocks, that cause destructive behaviors which ultimately are reflected in your relationship with your body.

Here are some strategies for bringing pain to the present to help you with your everyday healthy actions

Strategy #1 How to Embrace a Healthier Diet:

If you are sick, and somebody offers you one of your favorite dishes, it doesn’t matter how much you like that dish, you probably won’t even consider looking at it. This is because you are sick, and in the present moment, it is more “painful” or “uncomfortable” to eat that food.

What happens with those delicious non nutritional foods such as pizza? Normally you focus on the exquisite flavor of the pizza, not on the negative effects this pizza could have on your health.

When you see a pizza ad for example, you see a hot, delicious pizza, that looks and smells great that you can eat with your friends in a fun environment. Now, what would happen if you change the focus and meaning of that pizza?  What if instead, you see a greasy, cold pizza and you can even feel the heaviness that you might feel after eating that with a can of pop? Now, how badly would you want to eat it?

Experts create changes in eating behaviors based on the associations that we have towards specific foods. Watch this video and see how Tony Robbins ruins pizza forever.

Strategy #2 How To Apply This To Exercise:

In order to apply this way of thinking to exercise, you need to find pleasure in exercising, not focus on the pain or discomfort, or even a strong dislike of exercising. You also need to focus on the pleasure that you feel after working out. That pleasure could be the satisfaction that you burned some extra calories, or the feeling of a great stress release, for example. On top of that, you should also pay attention to the negative associations of not doing exercise, such as feeling bloated, stressed out, shabby, etc.

Leo Babauta goes beyond bringing the pain of not doing a particular action into the present.  He also focuses on reducing the pleasure of not doing it.

Create positive feedback for habits you want to form. Find pleasure in the exercise you are doing. Focus on your muscles, feel them working and imagine them getting toned. Remember the pleasurable feeling when you finish your work out thanks to the release of dopamine.

Create negative feedback for not doing the habit. Focus on how bad you feel for not exercising, how bloated, shabby, heavy, tired, stressed out.

Reduce negative feedback for doing the habit. Make it easy to start exercising, start with something small, like exercise just for 2 minutes. Make it fun. Play music that inspires and motivates you. Find a workout partner, etc.

Reduce positive feedback for not doing the habit. When you don´t feel like exercising and decide to keep your butt on the couch, associate that with unpleasant things, like feeling bad for not working out, or asking your family not to let you watch TV or rest or do something pleasurable.

In summary:

Your emotions, not the knowledge of what you need to do, are what will rule your life and shape your destiny. One of the best motivators toward taking action is to bring pain of not doing the action into the present.

By focusing on the negative consequences of not doing something, in our case that would be not doing something healthy for your body, you will hopefully move away from the pain of these negative consequences, and move forward in the positive direction.

As Tony Robbins says in his video above, what you focus on and what it means to you,  will determine what you will do about it.  He says that an emotion creates action, which in our case, could be the negative emotion motivating you to take positive action.

On the other hand, if you manage to apply Babauta’s suggestions, not only will you bring the pain of not doing the desirable action into the present, but you will also reap the benefits of doing so, thus reinforcing that action.

And you, how do you bring the future pain to the present? Please share that with us in the comments. We´d love to here from you. Remember to share this post with your friends in G+, FB, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

Meme´s photo copyright: amikos / 123RF Stock Photo (Meme was made by

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