• Tony

Avoiding the Complacency Trap

In my last article Mental Fitness for Physical Fitness, I reviewed the 6-step plan to get your mindset ready for a positive physical fitness experience. Now that you have your plan in place and have started your journey towards accomplishing your goals, there is an obstacle that intermittently occurs and will get in your way that is never planned for—complacency. A complacent attitude is defined as being too satisfied with yourself, so that you do not feel that any change is necessary. It can hit you all at once or slowly creep up on you. Here are examples of two people with the same goal which is to lose 40 pounds. Person A loses 15 pounds and thinks “ugh, this is hard, and I did lose 15 pounds, so whatever—I am good with that”. Person B loses 25 pounds and decides “I think 40 pounds was too high of a goal for my body type. I feel great—maybe I’ll recalibrate my goal and work on building muscle now”. Person A clearly became complacent while Person B decided to shift their focus while continuing to make progress toward another goal. We should never discount the job well done by Person A, however did they truly become complacent or hit a stagnant point that made it easy for them to give up? I discussed in my prior article about having a plan and how things can change along your journey and so should your plan. There are many variables, mostly unforeseen, that we will experience. Person B never imagined how they would feel after losing 25 pounds. They quickly recognized it and recalibrated their plan with a new goal. Whether you progress in your journey with no changes or many, it is important to keep sight of the larger goal. Stopping and deciding you have done enough is the result of a complacent attitude. You had a vision and now you owe it to yourself to see it through!

There are early behaviors that are recognizable and should be minimized to keep you on track to meet your goals. Here are some examples:

  • Falling into the “Why I can’t” mindset. It is easy to come up with 1000 reasons why you cannot do something, especially when things are not going exactly as you planned. When reasons “Why I can't" start to infiltrate your mindset, what usually follows is a negative domino effect. There will be good days and bad days and navigating through them at times will be difficult. But do not fear. Go back to or make a new list of reasons "Why I Can." This will revive that inspiration, energy and positive mindset you need to get you through the bad days.     

  • Taking shortcuts. They may start out innocently but can quickly become habit forming. There will be a time when you take a shortcut, we all have. However, do not let it become commonplace. Having a belief your short-term success is good enough will undoubtedly be unfavorable to your long-term goal. Stay detailed to your plan. Envision what you want. How you see yourself based on the goals you have set is the picture you want to keep locked in your mindset. This will provide you with the conscience you will need to stay on track and not deviate too far from your plan.  

  • Losing focus. Your mind wanders and your body suffers as you become easily distracted. The mind-body connection is a strong one. The manipulation the mind has on your body is not done by words, rather by your thoughts and feelings that influence you physically. Losing focus is an emotional trigger that ends with a feeling of being lost. When you are lost, your goals become faint and, in some cases, disappear. Take yourself back to a time when you were at your best and allow that positive mindset to take control.

  • Becoming too comfortable. Easing up occasionally is OK, we are all human. However, what you do not want is to ease up to a point when you get too comfortable and becomes habit forming. These are the kinds of obstacles that will get in your way. You have a plan, stick to it! If it needs changing, change it! Being too comfortable can cause you to make careless choices and deviate from or abandon your plan altogether.

  • Losing your passion. Passion has many highs which can be incredibly exciting and lows that can be incredibly detrimental. This is where self-discipline comes into play as it can provide the stability needed. Getting your passion back is not insurmountable. Take a step back, take a breath, and go back to what got you excited to initiate your goals in the first place. If you must start all over again, then do it. It is a matter of doing what it takes to keep the fire burning. Keep the passion—if not, the goals are nearly impossible to accomplish.

  • Becoming too repetitive. Being too repetitive without changing your plan intermittently based on progress can cause stagnation, deflation in your mindset and decline in effort. Rest recover and be sure to re-calibrate. There is a fine line between staying close to what works and what does not. It is easy to recognize and rid yourself of what is not working for you. Go with what works but be mindful to change it up when it does not.

I stated previously how self-discipline is the single most important attribute to reaching your goals. I cannot underscore how critical this learned practice is. Self-discipline is the complacency blocker. We start out on the right path with the intention of staying strong and sticking to our plan. As time goes on however it becomes more difficult to sustain it. Distractions such as anxiety and stress are more commonplace in today's world. These are two reasons why sustaining self-discipline presents a challenge. When we face stress, we tend to deviate from our dieting and exercise plan. According to an article written by Harvard Health Publishing ("Why Stress Causes People to Overeat", 2018) stress impacts eating in two ways by releasing two different hormones. Epinephrine (aka adrenaline) is released when we are faced with short term stress and can shut down eating altogether. Conversely, if stress persists, the hormone cortisol is released which increases appetite, resulting in the temptation for food high in fat, sugar or both. In both cases, it leads to an unhealthy wellbeing. Here are a couple of examples that will help you avoid the pitfalls and sustain self-discipline with your diet and exercise plan:

  • Find a healthy balance in your diet by searching for delicious alternative foods you can swap out that will keep you on track. You can save on calories and see healthier results without compromising your favorite foods. Is there a staple in your diet you cannot live without? Just make it work! It may be as simple as your coffee creamer or as decadent as a scoop of ice cream after dinner. If you choose, you can easily figure out how you can offset that treat during one of your later meals. Your diet may not always be perfect, but if it keeps you motivated and helps you overcome some self-discipline setbacks, then you are on the right path.

  • Change your sleeping schedule to an earlier bedtime. Quality sleep and healthy eating are two of the most important aspects of overall wellbeing. In an article by MedSleep, (“Sleep Early, Eat Healthy”, 2017), it was discussed how Northwestern University published a study on the relationship between sleep patterns and eating habits. The study found that those who regularly go to bed late and sleep late consumed an average of 248 more calories per day, twice as much fast food, and half the amount of fruits and vegetables than those who went to bed early and awakened early. Their conclusion: good sleep and healthy eating choices go together.

Keep a few things in mind. First, the lifestyle changes you make based on the good habits you form will prevent you from falling into the complacency trap. Second, when you decide to alter your goal, change your plan or pivot altogether —this is not complacency. Third, discouragement and disappointment will be a part of your journey. If you can navigate through it, you will undoubtedly come out the other side and be better for it. As you change and grow, as you learn new information, your ideals may change. Complacency is the enemy of progress. If you are making progress, even if only mentally, you are actively rejecting complacency. 

Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, updated: July 18, 2018 ("Why stress causes people to overeat", 2018)

MedSleep, (Sleep Early, Eat Healthy, 2017),

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