Train For The Process Not The Outcome

6 min read

It’s The End Of The Line

Five months of slogging through soups and salads, but it’s all about to be forgotten as you gingerly step onto the scale on a gloomy Monday. The numbers flash up by your toes. You’ve finally scraped under 9 stone. You swell up with excitement, spring back onto the bathroom tiles, and get ready for the first day of the rest of your life.

Except it’s not that simple, and your expectations are about to get dashed against the curb. There might be one less pound pressing into the soles of your feet, but for all intents, this is still the same person who was in a depressed stupor yesterday. Transformations don’t take effect overnight. The outcome never meets expectations, and the more hope you place on that target weight, the more you’re about to be disappointed. 

So here’s the reality of it. Train and diet for the outcome, and you’ll likely end up more depressed than you started. The person you dreamt up in your head, whether that’s with two stone less blubber, an extra stone of pure muscle, isn’t going to feel that great once you finally get there.

The Dopamine Glitch

There’s a mechanical reason for this calamity, one that’s wired into the control hub. And it’s all related to dopamine, the kingpin hormone that drives ambition and productivity. That’s what encourages you to dream, plan, to move from one setting to a better one. Because I always like to draw the line back to the lives of our mammoth-hunting ancestors, dopamine would have been the stimulus to step out of the cave and seek out novelty. That could have been food in a neighborhood megafauna, a watering hole to sate their thirst, or a new neighborhood with better shelter and more abundant food.

Dopamine didn’t push them to find novelty for novelty’s sake. Life in the pre-farming age was a constant fight for survival, and dopamine sat on the driving seat. Things might be a little different now, but the mechanics of this neurotransmitter remains the same. It’s an intrinsic part of setting up the goalposts and smashing them down.

At some point you’d have started to wonder where all this talk of mammoths and men in loincloth link back to the dangers of reaching your goal weight. The twist is in how dopamine likes to operate. There’s more being pumped around the brain during the chase, than in the completion of it. Back in the times of our nomadic ancestors, we would have been constantly embroiled in the process of seeking something. We’re wired to be stuck in the chase. And that’s fine, because it’s designed to be emotionally fulfilling. 

Now say we were to disregard our evolutionary neurochemistry and place all our hopes and dreams on getting across to the finish line. That’s where we end up creating a glitch of sorts. The dopamine created during the run-up to the goal will vastly outweigh the small pulse that gets shot into the brain when you step on the bathroom podium.

This failure of reality to match up to months of escalation results in a confused brain and a subsequent decline in dopamine. Which translates to scuppered motivation, apathy, and a big risk of a relapse. This phenomenon is known as dopamine prediction error.

Most fitness programmes rarely make the vital bridge from short-term success to a long-term transformation. There are obviously more elements that make up an individual’s story, but this dopamine prediction error has a big role in throwing a wrench in one’s ambitions of reaching and holding onto a six-pack. 

To wrap this mechanism in the most practical of terms, you should be careful putting too much emotional weight on your fitness programme’s final destination. Because there’s a big chance that it ends with you on a downer, and primed for the rebound. It’s not even a great way to get there in the first place, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to experience this dopamine glitch for yourself.

Training For The Process

There happens to be a much better way of powering up your fitness transformation, and moulding it into an unstoppable force of nature. Once you’ve set up your distant goal, move it off to the side. That leaves you with the chance to focus on what really matters. The daily grind. The process. Here’s where the magic is meant to happen. 

As I’ve said before while sliding back a glance to our primal ancestors. We’re wired for the chase. Goals are just an excuse to enter that game. Each day comes brimming with opportunity, wide open for whatever habits can help power you forward. Each habit, however small, lends the brain another jab of dopamine, encouraging you to ignore the discomfort and move on to the next rung of a never-ending ladder. Every time you complete a task, there’s another dopamine rush. And with the right diet, and enough social media detoxing, you’re going to be highly sensitive to the effects of this neurotransmitter.

Mechanically speaking, that’s your insurance. With the sights set on the process, the outcome comes and goes without fuss. There’s no room to dwell on the fact that you’re the same person you were yesterday. When the goal is brought down, it’s time to move on to the next one. The process itself, and the habits strung across each day, should be much the same. 

If you hit your weight loss goal target, then you could simply switch across to the next one. It could be maintenance, it could be to dig a little deeper and get the abs to come out of their hiding place. But you’ll stick to your 6 am alarms, the meal prep, the training sessions, the fasts, everything that got you there. It’s simply a matter of tweaking the calories, adjusting the cardio, and moving forward from there. What’s important is that you continue to lean in, and stay poised on the front foot.

Don’t Hope For A Better Future, Work On Building A Better Reality

Takeaway – Rely on reaching the goal, and you’re likely to end up depressed and demotivated. The reward just won’t match the hype. Focus on building a routine that can power you towards that goal, and you’re set to take your fitness transformation into the stratosphere. The process matters far more than one milestone ever will, however much stake you place on it.

Related Article – Setting Up The Perfect Morning Routine

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