It's only fair to share…

Recently I went to a talk given by Ant Middleton, the former SAS officer who has become famous through his role on SAS – Who Dares Wins and SAS Australia. Regular readers will recall that I have written about my fascination with what human beings are able to do with a mix of mindset, determination and some encouragement.

In these days when it is assumed that the only people worth listening to are “experts” with some form of university degree, it was refreshing to hear a man talk about what he had learned in the school of life. More than that, he was able to describe the lessons he has learned in SAS training, his missions and other aspects of his life including climbing Mount Everest and how they can apply in everyday life.

There are two key learnings and principles that can be applied to our health. First is the inevitability of failure and how rather than fear it we should embrace it as a learning experience. The second is breaking down tasks into “bite size” components.

Virtually everyone who has gone on a diet has “failed” in so far as the regain some or all of the weight lost.  This becomes “I have failed to lose weight”. There is another way of looking at it. When weight was lost, certain changes were mad which led to this. These changes brought about success – defined as weight reduced. If after that, other changes were made that led to weight being regained – that is quite a separate matter.

But even if one wants to regard the entire process as a “failure” there are lessons which can be learned and applied the next time. The problem is that we often repeat the same process and expect a different outcome. If we dispassionately examine what worked and what ‘failed” then we do not have to repeat the same mistakes or failures twice. We have a choice to learn from what has gone before.

Often, we become too scared to try again as we fear failure. Nobody, but nobody will get everything right – it is not humanly possible. However, we can learn from what did and did not work. Failures are lessons in life. Sports people get this intuitively and whilst they do not set out to lose, take lessons from each loss and strive to do better next time.

The other fear can be with exercise programs. Many have embarked on an assortment of get fit regimes and find that they “failed” to get fit or did so and then let it go again. The same principle applies. Do not be afraid of starting again and in particular starting something new. You can learn from what did and did not work for you.

The other gem, in my opinion, was the notion of breaking any task down to components. Let us again look at weight loss. It can all seem too hard and overwhelming. What if we broke it down to components? First are you capable of buying different foods at the supermarket? Are you capable of cooking or preparing different foods? Are you capable of putting only a set amount of food on your plate? Are you capable of not having seconds? Are you capable of going six or eight or even 16 hours without eating? Are you capable of drinking water instead of fruit juice or soft drinks?

If the answers are yes, then you have broken the concept of dietary change down to its component parts. There are other ways of “slicing and dicing” this so go with what would work for you. The key is that once it is broken into components it becomes easier to wrap your head around it.

The embracing of rather than fearing failure and the breaking down of tasks into components can be applied in all aspects of our health and our lives.  Not everything we do will be a “success”. That which is not can be a steppingstone to what we do next.

Positive mindset is seen in some quarters as “pop psychology” and derided on that basis. These principles are not about positive mindset, but about taking action.  A positive mindset will help, but ultimately, change in life only comes from action and doing things differently.