Breaking The Slide to Inertia

One thing I've learned over the past year is the importance of not letting it all fall apart.

Once you are past your twenties, and even your thirties, and as aging takes its toll, there is a tendency to relax, go with the flow, and let it all hang out. There are all kinds of seemingly good excuses for this. After all, isn't it natural to fall apart with age, bit by cruel bit? If the senior members of your family are carrying some spare baggage... well, then it must be genetics, right? And who can fight that?

This is a long way of saying that I had not been taking the best care of myself physically these last few years. I'd got into that workaholic rut of just whacking away at the keyboard, doing all sorts of seemingly important tasks, but leaving the most important task of all - my own health - to the ravages of natural decline. I'd put on some weight, got into some unhealthy eating habits, and basically started to let it all hang out.

It's not that I was not into exercise, or at least the idea of it. As a teenager and into my early twenties, I had been very active indeed and in extremely good physical health. More recently, although the mind was still committed to the idea of doing exercise and maintaining health, the body was a lot less convinced. If you have ever tried to turn the tide, and been unsuccessful, then you will know what I mean. Whenever the time comes to do the workout - be it multi-gym, yoga, aerobics or whatever - the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak! It is either too cold, or too hot, or you feel tired, or you're too busy... or, you just don't feel like it right now!

That was my dilemma and so all efforts to turn the tide were sporadic and eventually doomed to failure as the long arm of conditioning took control, and restored the status quo. I might persist for several days, but the thermostat would eventually kick in and order would be restored. Eventually, I realized that if I were ever going to be successful with this, then my exercise schedule would have to be the FIRST thing I did in the day, i.e. before I did absolutely anything else. That's a nice theory.

However, when you are already an established coach potato like I was, getting up at the crack of dawn for a well-intentioned workout was not my idea of a good time! I had been pondering this idea for quite some months without ever doing anything about it. However, I do believe that when you are committed to an idea, an idea whose time has come, that idea will find a way! So it was that I was listening to an excellent Tony Robbins program, Get The Edge! (highly recommended, if you have not already studied it), and this was precisely what he was talking about in one of the first sessions. Tony Robbins calls it the "Hour Of Power", and recommends that everyone should establish this routine in their lives. In fact, he even said that if you act on nothing else from the course but this one idea, it would totally transform your life beyond all recognition.

Of course, he was preaching to the converted, at least mentally anyhow. The thing that finally got me to really sit up and pay attention though was when Anthony Robbins mentioned how his wife had been letting it all slide, but she kept telling herself that she was not too far gone, and could always "turn it around" if she really wanted to. That was a real wake up call for me, because that was EXACTLY what I had been telling myself! (Maybe you are doing the same?...) Anyway, that night I resolved to do the Tony Robbins Hour Of Power the very next morning. Without going into too much detail here, there is more to his system than just exercise, although physical exercise is definitely a key component of it. There is also expressing gratitude, visualization, stating affirmations, and deep breathing.

Sure enough, I arose early the next morning and before I did anything else, even breakfast, I went out and did the Hour Of Power. Of course, I felt great afterwards, and much inspired to do it again. I think that what made it really possible for me to keep this up though is that before you do anything else, you first have to go out for a walk for 10 minutes. If I had had to start exercising right away, it would have been hard to find the motivation to fall out of bed just for that. However, what is nice about beginning with the walk is that it really IS a very pleasant thing to do.

Where I live, and depending upon the time of year, you are either walking in the early dawn to the loud chorus of chirping birds, or else actually strolling in eerie silence under the moon and stars (in winter)! Either way, it is an extraordinarily enlivening experience. Hence, even if you feel too tired to exercise when that alarm rings, you can just persuade yourself to do a pleasant leisurely walk. By the time you are time I am done with that, the body is then awake and lively enough to give the exercise session a go. I personally alternate; one day I will do Yoga and the next will work out with my little exercise machine.

Now, according to the findings of Maxwell Malz in his famous Psycho-Cybernetics, we have to persist with a new practice for 21 days or more in order for it to become established as a habit. Hence, despite a heck of a lot of resistance at times (including having to do my walk with an umbrella at least once), I DID make it through the 21 days. Happily, one year later, I am still doing my Hour Of Power exercise schedule most days of the week. I say most, because I do not feel it necessary to be legalistic. If I feel too tired one morning, I will definitely lie in and miss it. Yet, I think it's fair to say that I do it at last 3-4 times a week at a minimum.

Moreover, I am definitely a lot fitter and healthier now than I was just one short year ago, with a lot more energy and positive motivation. A new habit and paradigm have been established and this new way of doing things is almost certainly permanent. So how about you?...

If you are someone who is in the same dilemma that I was in a year ago, you may wish to take heart from all of this. What I can do, you definitely can do too. What is key is finding something that will work for you. I personally found the Tony Robbins, Get The Edge! Hour Of Power to work well for me. You may too. However, it's not essential to do THAT specific routine, just so long as you find SOME routine that you like and commit to it.

Sometimes, just the fact that you "ought" or "should" do something is simply not enough. You need more positive motivation; more reasons to do it. For me, the fear-based reason was that I wanted to stay healthy and well to be able to still be around for my two lovely cats (okay, in your specific case, replace with "my family"!). The pleasure-based reasons were to feel better and more energetic... AND, I came to look forward to the early morning walk!

The point is that at some point in your life, you have to realize that if you do not do something to stop the slide, it will not stop. It will just continue until you are past the point of no-return. The sad thing about the point of no-return is that you do not really know when you are past it... until you are. In theory it is never too late to do something, but in practice it often is. So, if exercise has been on your mind but not in your body of late, make it a MUST. Devise strategies to make it happen. I suggest first thing in the morning before you do anything else, because then you CANNOT defer it for something "more important" because once this is a part of your routine, nothing else happens - period - until you have done this!

If his style works for you, try out the Hour Of Power from the Anthony Robbins program, Get The Edge!, or else simply devise what makes sense to you. Read appropriate health magazines (e.g. Prevention) and books that give you ideas on how to eat and exercise properly. Get yourself the education you need in the most important subject of all - your health and wellbeing. The important thing is that you do SOMETHING. It is when you do nothing that the slide continues by default. The most important leverage that you can get personally and professionally is the leverage of your own health. So, do it now, for your sake as well as for the sake of your family.

Copyright 2008. Asoka Selvarajah. All Rights Reserved.

About Asoka Selvarajah

Dr. Asoka Selvarajah is a writer and teacher of personal growth and spirituality, and the author of numerous books and courses. His work helps people achieve their full potential, deepen their understanding of mystical truth, and discover their soul’s purpose.Subscribe to the Aspire To Wisdom list to receive more articles and resources to your inbox.

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  1. Thanks Ashoka:
    You are right, I have not exercised in 20 years, so today and everyday I have excuses for not doing. I have tried to do little weight lifting may be 1 to 3 times a week. Some wewks I am doing my target, while others weeks just go by.
    Thanks again.

  2. Dear Asoka,

    Just a few days ago a thought of you came to my mind. I was going through some old paperwork and found some of your first writings and wondered why I hadn’t continued to hear from you and about your wanderings. As I reread them I recalled how I valued your thoughts at that time.

    So I’m really surprised to receive your email today! And, I’m looking forward to read your latest. I have a feeling this is just what I need at this time. After all, there are no coincidences! Thank you!

    Best regards,

  3. Drifting into idleness.

    I could not agree more with the observations expressed in this article. However I do not believe that ageing alone or for that matter busy schedule should be sufficient excuse for missing out healthy exercises. My experience is that to do with forced absence from available activities. The absence may be due to injury or practical remoteness from locations that provide the most congenial opportunity for exercices.

    I have discovered that playing physical games one enjoys, offers the opportunity to exercice without being so conscious of the attendant aches as during exercise time spent in the gym or jogging/running. It takes a great deal of will power to do monotonous exercises, one tends to count the minutes rather than enjoy the action.

    However even in sports it is necessary to do some other exercises to ensure that the muscles and the rest of the body are honed and tuned for the beloved sporting activity.

    Time spent on the treadmill may be short and rewarding but the usual positioning of such equipment, almost always near the bedroom, poses the temptation of sleeping on for a little longer.

    Group exercising, either in the gym or at a sporting facility is to preferred to individual workouts. Let there be always some fun in whatever exercise routine one adopts.

  4. Good Article, Asoka, thank you! What works for me – walking 3 to 4 times per week, doing all my own housework, eating very sensibly, no red meat, no dairy, seldom wheat, loads of water to drink, using my own oil mix, I do self massaging, stroking, (from a Taoist book) 4 – 5 times per week, breathing sessions together with certain sounds to strengthen the physical body and naturally, above all, Gratitude to the Creator in the form of prayer and/or meditation as well as gratitude to my body. Maybe this will help someone else out there who is not able to do many physical exercises. Blessings, Mary

  5. Hello Asoka

    I’m glad to “hear” you. Congratulations for sticking to an exercise program, and thank you for sharing your experience with us and for the encouragement.

    Pedro Luis.

  6. yes, you are right. The problem is when the inner motivation falls.
    But I’ll try to do that.

    p.s. you can use, from now, this email address

  7. For years, there have been a lot of infomercials on TV selling exercise equipments that promise fantastic results. But, it was found out that most buyers used the equipment for a little while and the equipment ended up in the attic, basement, the backyard shed or in the garage. There are two main reasons for this behavior. I will discuss one here.

    The buyers do not stick to the use of the equipment in a consistent manner because they are driven by the cerebellum. This is the part of the brain that we have in common with the reptiles. This part of the brain drives our routines, habits, patterns, and conditioned reflexes. Most humans have the tendency to be driven by this part of the brain because they don’t have to make decisions, they do things automatically. To stick to an exercise program, one has to select a task among various seemingly important tasks. And, most people do not want to make decisions, they just react to any stimuli in front of them. Then, they shift from one task to another without being able to go by a preconceived plan. This type of behavior also happens no only with equipment bought on TV, but also the same lack of sticking to a plan happens in all areas of people’s life.

    There is another reason why people do not stick to an exercise program, but I will write about it in another post.

    Asoka was able to stick to an exercise program because he uses a high developed part of the brain. If anyone cannot stick to an exercise program, possibly, the reason can be that he or she goes by the cerebellum a lot. In this case, an important part is to recognize that one is driven mostly by this part of the brain. And then, one catches oneself going by this part of the brain and to stop what one is going to do and stick to the program. Buying the Tony Robbins’ program as Asoka recommends is too to make a decision but sticking to this decision is big challenge. The Tony Robbins program tells you about sticking to a program.

    No wanting to make decisions is addictive. The seduction is that is better to go by the path of least resistance. One needs to recognize this addiction and be in a program to eliminate this addiction.

  8. When a lizard finds a path where it finds food and there have not been attacks by predators, it will continue going through this path forever without any deviation until it is threatened by a predator. We humans are the same like the lizard. We also use the cerebellum like lots of animals. A “lizard path” for us can be a number of activities that require little or no decision making processes and are easy or relatively easy to do. Then, this set of activities become our comfort zone, our “lizard path.” Once one finds a “lizard path,” one resists altering this path to accommodate an exercise routine or any other activity.

    A person with a high IQ can also, consciously or subconsciously, go by the cerebellum like the lizard due to his or her personality or due to picking up a script from one of his or her parents. He or she just like a low key position in life. Or, a person with a high IQ chooses a vocation where he or she just do simple tasks. While one part of him or her is going by the cerebellum to do simple tasks, other part of him or her is doing abstract thinking. We all use the cerebellum to one degree or another. The key is to know when to overrride it.

  9. Patricia (Spain)

    I’m with Mary on this. Good article Asoka and I too was wondering about whateverhappenedto…. ;>D

    I do Nordic Walking early in the mornings, but now in summer here, only if I get up and am out before 7:30. I have a round pool where I can alternate with the walking. But what I found very good for me (age 58 and not looking nor feeling it) are the 5 Tibetan Rituals. They are easy, quick and effective…especially for those cold and rainy days…or when I didn’t make it out early enough to avoid the heat of summer.

    I am currently trying to meditate more regularily, using visualization and the law of attraction. ‘Things’ are working!

  10. There are millions of people in the world in Western societies that suffer of degenerative diseases which the cause or co-cause is lack of exercise.. Some doctors know about this but what they do is to prescribe drugs. Some of the people that have these diseases know that they need to do exercises but they don’t do them. They don’t want to spend time doing an exercise program but they spend time waiting on line to buy prescription drugs and waiting at the doctor’s office. Meanwhile, their lives become shorter but they still don’t do exercises.

    How can that be? Do they want to die sooner? In one hand, they go to the doctors and take their prescription drugs religiously which show that they want to live. But, in the other hand, they don’t do the exercises. One disposition cancels the other.

    The cause of these people for not doing exercises can be that they have their “lizard path” and they don’t want to change their path. Or, they suffer from attention hyperactivity deficient disorder(AHDD).. Children are the ones that are diagnosed with this disorder but some adults have this disorder too. People normally think this disorder is that children have a lot of energy. But, this disorder is about the individual is constantly changing from one activity to another. As soon as another stimulus arises. the individual reacts by responding to the stimulus. So the individual cannot stick to an activity for too long. Thus adults with AHDD cannot stick to an exercise program. Another reason that adults don’t follow an exercise program is that, per Sigmund Freud, they have the “dead wish.” This means that even though they look that they want to live, subconsciously, they want to die.

    I hope that the Asoka’s message and experience, and what Mary, and Patricia are doing serve to stimulate others to do excercises.

  11. Thank you so much, Asoka, for that message. It’s amazing that shortly before I checked my e-mail and got this message, I was thinking how I really needed to start an exercise program and stick to it. Like Susan said, “After all, there are no coincidences.”
    I enjoy hearing from you, and look forward to hearing more in the future.

  12. There are lots of people with AHDD and they don’t know it. They are detectable. They are the ones that when one starts a conversation with one of them, and instead of acknowledging one’s conversation by paying attention, by engaging him/herself in a conversation about one’s points, instead he / she starts a conversation with an entirely different subject right away, leaving one hanging. He or she will not at least paraphrase what one said. He or she will answer one’s question before one finishes saying the question. If one proposes a solution to a problem, he or she will propose another solution before one finishes explaining the proposal, If one discusses a subject, instead of going deep into the subject, he or she will escalate the subject out of proportion to a more complex or simpler level without acknowledging one’s points. More often than not, the conversation ends in an argument.

    It seems impossible for an individual with AHDD to stay in a position even if one agrees with his/her position because he/she will say what one said in a different way. Then, he/she comes from a different position even when both initially came from the same position. . It looks that for him or her polarizing any conversation is his/her way to shift from one angle to another. As soon as one clears one subject, he/she will find another angle and start another argument. Thus, one can never bring a conversation to a conclusion or solution. They are constantly shifting from one subject or activity to another in anything they do or say. They never dwell in one subject or activity, they just move on continuously.

    This is the type of person that buys an exercise equipment and uses it for a little while and later on buys the next popular exercise equipment. But, he/she will never stay using an equipment long enough to see results. He/she will continue for ever from one exercise program to the next mixed with long periods of time of complete inactivity in between.

    I had acquaintances and heard about individuals that fall under above description of AHDD behavior and perhaps you all have run or will run across with individuals with AHDD behavior. It is important to identify individuals with AHDD because, then, one does not get upset with them or take it personal. It is an automatic impulse in them, they mean no harm and no offense. Understanding this behavior can keep one from having arguments with them.

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