Why You Can't Learn Your Way Out of Limiting Habits


Habits are a challenging obstacle for everyone. Whether you are trying to get to the gym more consistently, attempting to change how you show up in an intimate relationship, growing out of some old patterns that are holding you back at work or simply trying to attune to your child that's challenging your preferences, habits hold you back.

My book Strength To Awaken is an in depth exploration of how to work with habituation for precisely this reason. If you want to change in any area of life, you must confront the habits that hold you. In many challenges learning new strategies, applying new techniques to some area of your life or training yourself to behave differently largely fail. To put this into the words of Robert Kegan, Harvard's professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development, you don't need "technical change" but instead you require "adaptive change." Strength To Awaken is an adaptive approach to working with limiting habits.


If you needed technical change you wouldn't still be struggling with trying to change. Learning a new technique or appling a different strategy would have already worked. The persistent challenges, the type of change that bumps up against your more entrenched habits, requires adaptive changes. This means you must qualitatively grow the complexity and size of your psyche. If you don't grow, that is undergo adaptive change, the habits of your life have you, possess you and thereby govern you. Instead of being captured by your habits you need to possess your habits.

This all important shift is the process of growth and development. One psyche is smaller than the habituations thereby allowing limiting habits to have, hold and govern you. The psyche that has undergone adaptive change is larger, more complex and thus capable of holding, governing and mediating habits. Instead of struggling with limiting habits adaptive change allows you to set limits on your habits which is a remarkable transformation.

When ever you are working toward changes that require adaptive growth, consider a these points:

1. What would you have to experience if you actually did change?

Typically your habits are organized around you NOT experiencing facets of yourself and your history. Deep change work (whether that's losing 20 pounds of fat and gaining 10 lbs of muscle, taking responsibility for creating intimacy in your relationship and self-regulating yourself in the face of contact that creates anxiety or establishing new leadership capacities in your organization that require you to hand off greater responsibility and freedom to your team) almost always places you face to face with facets of experience that you are equally if not even more so committed to not experiencing.

Identify what you are likely to experience, physically, emotionally and mentally as well as socially and perhaps economically. Moving this commitment into your awareness shifts essential dimensions of your limiting habits from subject (that which holds you) to object (that which you hold).

2. Make an explicit commitment to yourself to metabolize these unseen and guarded facets of your experience.

If you don't feel through and welcome these facets of your experience you will likely not change. Move neglected, guarded and strategically avoided facets of experience into awareness. Clarify these objects and make commitments to experience these parts of your life without manipulation.

3. Live into the decisions that most serve your life (not necessarily the ones that most serve your habituated sense of comfort).

Move habits from subject to object. Learning new strategies, approaches and or techniques will not result in the change you desire if the change requires adaptive growth. Learning adds tools but often fails to bring underlying habits into the light of your attention. This movement from subject to object frees you up to live into the decisions that support your well-being, excellence and elegance as a human being.

Enjoy,
~Rob
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Do You Need More Muscle?

Building muscle should be a priority for everyone especially for adults over the age of 22 to 25. Around this time you started to lose muscle cells. When you lose muscle cells you lose muscle mass. When you lose muscle mass two important measures start to erode: 1. Metabolic Rate and 2. Muscle Strength. 

When your metabolism slows down, it becomes much easier to put a layer of fat on your body that you simply don’t need (or want). Worse yet you’re likely lining your organs with fat, which has serious long term health considerations. One thing you might not be aware of is that your body interprets the deposit of fat on your organs as a stressor. This stress in turn sets off a series of biological processes that make you more likely to store more fat (both the fat that you see on your body as well as the fat you don’t see on your organs). So fat triggers a stress response which in turn stimulates more fat storage which, you guessed it, produces more stress (Nice cycle eh?).


Here’s what you probably don’t know. 

Chronic stress shrinks your brain (yeah, read that again... your brain gets smaller and likely less integrated). Stress also shrivels the ends of your chromosomes in your cells accelerating cellular aging and predisposes you to anxiety and depression to point a just a few negative effects of stress. The physical stress of fat is obviously just one piece to a larger puzzle but for many this is a serious obstacle. Many live in what is now frequently being called an obesity epidemic, at least that’s what a broad selection of experts on the subject matter tell us. 

This lowering of your metabolism is one of the major problems because week to week you are likely to eat about the same amount of food. If you are losing muscle cells week in and week out you don’t need as many calories. Those extra calories, as we all know, end up in places that you don’t want - especially if you’re biologically functioning in chronic stress. Oddly it appears that the larger the belly, the greater the duration of stress and thus the smaller and less integrated the brain becomes. Yes, all this just from losing muscle mass and this is just a sliver of the impact of losing muscle mass.

Take a deep breath and liberate yourself from your habits of mind around what you prefer and how you relate to your lifestyle. You need muscle mass. Muscles are like a sponge soaking up nutrients that you consume. Simultaneously they are like a furnace creating immense amounts of heat burning off stress through movement. Generally speaking the more muscle you have, the greater the effects. As such, your life and the quality of your life is in many ways dependent upon your muscle mass.

Your life and the quality of your life is in many ways dependent upon your muscle mass.  


If you’re concerned about getting big and bulky muscles, remember muscles are the engines of what keeps us all lean. Adding 2 lbs of muscle will burn about 10 lbs of fat over the course of the year. That’s losing 8 lbs the healthy sane way. The interesting truth is that if you’re trading in fat for muscle, you get smaller, not bigger. Muscle is immensely dense, fat spreads out and takes up lots of space. Lose fat and gain muscle and you will see your measurements go down. As a long term strategy (I am talking about spread out over 2-10 years you can augment training methodologies that heighten the cultivation of size or avoid size gains. Most elite athletes avoid size gains like the plague, yet they train rigorously. If you don’t want to get bigger over the long run (once you have gotten most of the fat off your body and organs), there are many intelligent approaches to keeping your muscles powerful and efficient without gaining size. 

If you are like most adults though, you need more mass right now. 


Muscle strength cannot be reduced to a “macho” thing that you may or may not not be attracted to. The larger truth relevant for everyone is this: You need muscle strength, this is a pragmatic fact. 

If you don’t believe me go volunteer at a nursing home for a week. It will dramatically change your perception of strength and what happens to your quality of life when you can’t move around freely. Muscle strength determines freedom of movement perhaps more than any other single factor and science tells us that strength is positively correlated with quality of life. When you lose strength you also lose quality of your life. It’s that simple.

One of the questions everyone is wise to address is this: Does your day to day lifestyle increase your capacity to move about freely with greater ease and more flexibility? If you can not say yes to this, consider breaking out of your conditioned lifestyle that presently holds you. If you are not moving towards becoming more, then you’re slowly, or perhaps not so slowly, eroding the quality of your life. 

Strength and metabolism do not have to decline with age. In fact, it appears that these decline more in concert with lifestyle than with your chronological age. Strength training is a massively (perhaps the most) powerful way to reverse both of these measures as you grow older.

Strength To Awaken is the most integrated approach to strength training you will find on the planet. Greater integration means greater results. Train smart, learn to engage whole-heartedly into the discipline of strength training as this book does and you will enjoy multifaceted adaptations that will likely serve every facet of your life.

Enjoy
~Rob



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When you Should and Shouldn't Train for Size


Size, it's a major focus point in the field of strength training. Unfortunately size is not properly understood so I am going to chime in on a few things.

1. You need more muscle mass. 


If you haven't followed my blog on why - you need to read it here. Muscle mass generally makes you smaller until you have gotten your body fat down to fairly low levels. So for most people, training to gain more muscle mass means you'll trade very dense muscle tissue for very dispersed adipose tissue (this is especially the case when you refine your nutrition to support muscle growth and fat loss). Get bigger muscles & you get smaller. This is the kind of size that's good for most people.

2. Athletes, slow down! 


If you happen to be a aspiring athlete who wants to get bigger and stronger... slow down!


I remember coming back my senior year in college and telling my lacrosse coach that I had gained 10 pounds of muscle. He was sitting in his office studying game tapes and here was his two year captain rolling in telling him that I gained 10 pounds of muscle since last season. What do you think his response was?

He got angry.

He knew all too well what this typically means. To him, I was telling him something along these lines, "Hey coach, I trained really hard and got slower for you... but I look good on the beach."

What was my response?

I said, "Coach, I gained 10 pounds of muscle and...I got faster. I am faster than last season."

That's when he got excited.

Gaining muscle in the conventional sense typically slows you down. Training methodologies that are designed to just build muscular size (these have become the most popular and wide spread) are not the exercises that likely you should be doing. You want to build muscular power, joint integrity and your ability for something I was talking about yesterday with a young athlete - progressive acceleration.

If you gain muscle, make sure you're doing it in a way that builds more starting power, better joint integrity and higher measures of progressive acceleration. If you're doing this your coach will be happy with what happens come competition. Athletes, whenever possible consult with seasoned experience working with athletes at the highest levels of your discipline. Learn what they are doing and employ these methodologies strategically.

In most cases you will find out that you want to avoid size like the plague, unless size is also making you neurologically more powerful, explosive, dynamic, flexible and more insulated from possible injury. If size is slowing you down, chances are you're training yourself out of being competitive.

3. The real size everyone needs.

Here is what 99% of the discourse on size is missing. While you may or may not want more physical size, you should be training to inhabit more of your psychological size. That's right you want your sense of self to be bigger, broader, more inclusive and integrative.

You need a bigger self.

Training can grow your sense of self such that you are larger than culture. This means that you are bigger than social conventions. Social norms don't drive you, your larger intelligence directs you. The self that's smaller than culture is directed by culture. The self that's larger is the one doing the directing that stems from a larger integrity. This self is big, but to be perfectly honest it's not big enough.

If you're interested in training to become larger my book Strength To Awaken is perhaps the most nuanced discourse on the subject matter. I show you how to cultivate a self that is bigger than polarities. A self that is larger than the dualities of pain and pleasure is a massively large self that is capable of an elegance that smaller, less integrative selves can not even dream of.

The next time you dive into your training I recommend focusing on what size of self you are training. Are you "exercising" your self that is smaller than your socially constructed habits or are you training the self that is larger than your habituation? Are you playing inside the conditioning of pain and pleasure or are you playing in a self that is outside of this conditioned box?

And for those of you who are worried about having a big self, or a "big ego" as it might be referred to... relax. We are not talking about inflating the ego's sense of self importance to monumental proportions. We are instead talking about growing your ego functions to massively powerful and refined levels such that you can regulate social pressures, personal habits that may hold you back as well as unresolvable polarities. These become facets that you participate with, manage and regulate instead of being managed and regulated by them.

Expand your sense of self, train to grow a larger more capable self and you will likely be served in every other facet of life.

Big Love
~Rob
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