Posted by on Mar 23, 2015

Tanner Baze likes to lift weights, watch romcoms, cuddle with humans, and his dog Bowser. He’s a fan of all things Star Wars and Harry Potter, and he loves turning people into superheroes. Want to train with Tanner? We can hook you up.

Thinking sucks. Have you ever thought about something so hard you got a headache? I have.

I hate thinking.

Actually, I shouldn’t say that I hate thinking. I actually love thinking. All of my closest friends will tell you that there isn’t anything I love more than getting into a good ol fashioned mind blowing conversation. Hit me with some novel ideas or a view I’ve never considered and I’m ready to roll. The machinery in my mind is working.

Where I hate thinking is when it pertains to my training. I don’t want to walk into a gym and have to think my way through what is going on. I don’t want to have to plan my session right then. I enjoy thinking on my feet and being spontaneous, just not when it comes to being in the gym.

I REALLY hate thinking when it comes to eating well. There isn’t anything I find more destructive to success than having to think my way through a rough patch, an unexpected situation, or an un prepped meal. This is where failure happens.

When it comes to dieting and training, I prefer to not think at all. In other words, I like to rely on habits.

Habits. That’s the good stuff. The stuff that is integral to success. Get going with some good habits and you’re likely to succeed. What’s amazing about habits is that you truthfully don’t even think when carrying out your habits. When’s the last time you thought about the actual act of backing your car out of the driveway or brushing your teeth?

Habits make up 40% of our day. They’re a powerful tool to use to your advantage.

Habits work in a simple system. According to Charles Duhigg they follow a cue, routine, reward system. The cue sets off the routine, after completing the routine you receive the reward. The amazing thing about this system though is that your brain literally shuts off when completing a habit.


For those who haven’t read The Power of Habit, these are graphs of brain activity in a lab rat. The rat is responding to a cue (the click) and the reward (the chocolate). The first graph is before the action has become a habit. The second graph is after the habit has become ingrained. Very little thinking is happening in the second graph, demonstrating that when a habit is being practiced, it involves very little brain activity. No thinking, just doing.

How does turning our brains off relate to diet and training success?

We all wake up with good intentions. We wake up saying we’re going to work out, eat well, kick ass, and go to bed with abs. Fast forward to 7pm and we’re pulling through Taco Bell getting a crunch wrap supreme and wallowing in our self-pity while simultaneously saying we’ll do better tomorrow.

Why do we suck so bad as the day goes on?

You’re not some superhero with infinite reserves of willpower capable of withstanding every single temptation by just focusing really really hard. People are asking things of us that we don’t want to do, but we do anyways. That takes willpower. When it comes to eating, thinking is what screws us up. We’ve exhausted all of our willpower by the end of the day, and start thinking. That’s when Gwen Stefani makes a cameo and shit goes bananas B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

If we had a habit to rely on, say making a salad as we walk in the door, or stopping by the gym from work, thinking wouldn’t be able to get in the way. Because we wouldn’t actually be thinking. We’d just be following our habit. A productive habit that gets us closer to our goals.

How do you build a system that prevents you from thinking?

Way easier said than done, kemosabe. We’d all love to stop thinking just on a whim and never have to pick it up again. Implement a set of habits that just carries us through the day and be done with it. Never have to think, question, or rely on some shoddy willpower.

Side note: This is why personal chefs/personal trainers/nutritionists can charge exorbitant amounts. We’re literally preventing your brain from screwing things up for you. That’s why Ramit Sethi, personal finance king, spends $50,000 a year on a team of people to watch out for him. He doesn’t want to think about it.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to try, by God. Here’s how to build a No Thinking Allowed System:

Figure out the one thing you want to focus on first. Develop, or find the cue.

Do you want to start going to the gym, eating better, drinking more water, AND cut out all beer (you’re crazy)? More power to you. I just wouldn’t advise you do all of these things at once. How about you slow your roll Speed Racer and lets pick one little bitty thing to focus on.

How about going to the gym? Simple enough right. Most people have a gym membership of some sort. Our first step is setting up a cue that gets you into your gym routine. Some people find that getting off work becomes their cue. They leave work, and get straight to the gym. For others, it could be setting an appointment – complete with a reminder, in your calendar. When the reminder goes off, that’s the cue. Others might set their gym bag right next to the front door. The alarm goes off in the morning, they see the gym bag and off they go.

The cue can be anything, the important thing about the cue though is that it leads into your routine.

Figure out the routine.

The routine is you going to the gym. It could be as simple as walking into the gym and walking on the treadmill for an hour in the beginning. The important thing is that you’re there. The act of getting yourself there in the beginning makes all the difference in the world.

You’re not going to start going to the gym and all the sudden be killing it. Don’t expect that. You’re going to go to the gym, and for a long time it’s going to suck. You’re going to feel tired, you’re going to feel lost, uncomfortable, etc. These are all important. These things need to happen. You need to keep going when these things happen. That’s an integral part of forming this into a habit.

Reap the rewards.

Going to the gym offers one of the best rewards imaginable. An endorphin rush so powerful that it sets you on fire for life. Don’t be coy. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Think about the last really good workout you had. You probably walked out of the gym ready to kick life square in the face.

Forget sculpted shoulders or abs that give you an excuse to sell that washer. The reward for going to the gym is getting high. Gym: the new drug all the kids are doing.

The endorphin rush is just one of the rewards though. That’s the immediate reward you receive. The long term reward that keeps you going is noticing that you’re making changes. These could be changes in your weight, how your clothes fit, your strength and speed, or your spouse not being able to keep their hands off of you.

Many people who fail at a diet often chastise themselves for their lack of willpower, placing blame squarely on their shoulders for not having the necessary willpower to carry through with their intentions. This couldn’t be more wrong. Willpower, or lack thereof, isn’t to blame for failure. Willpower is a finite resource, and requires a ton of thinking power. The only way to prevent yourself from relying on willpower is to develop your own no thinking system that sets you up for success. Go out there and quit thinking, and love the results that come from it.

Featured image by Vincent Pollard and used under a Creative Commons License.

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