Taken from the world of behavioural science and neuro-linguistic programming, the ladder of learning principle highlights the various stages most people go through (or get stuck on) when trying to achieve any significant life goal. This is even more so relevant when trying to achieve a health and fat loss goal. Here are the 4 stages and how you can progress through the levels to reach that all important last stage.
People in this stage often mean well and have aspirations of better health, fitness and body shape. As such, they begin exercising and dieting on a regular basis, jumping from one fad to the next (or maybe sticking with the exact same ineffective plan for months or years on end). Unfortunately, results are hard to come by and these people may even get fatter and unhealthier despite their efforts.
The people in this stage falsely believe that they are doing the right thing simply because they are exercising and dieting. However, they fail to realise that their exercise and nutrition habits are actually counterproductive as they are following out-dated or unproven principles usually spruiked by the latest self-proclaimed expert, magazine or well-meaning friend. People in this stage are considered to be unconsciously incompetent; they are doing something about their health and fat-loss goals but are going about it all wrong.
Education is key. These people need to find trusted sources of information regarding up-to-date scientifically proven exercise, health and nutrition principles. Furthermore, hiring a coach, advisor or fitness professional to aid in the application of a sensible, sustainable and individualised program would really help with progressing past this level.
The vast majority of people in Western Society are stuck in this stage. They are overweight, unhealthy, unhappy and they know it. Yet they chose not to do anything about it. Nobody thinks that fast food and lack of exercise are good for them. Ignorance isn’t the issue, choice is.
People in this stage are well aware that they are not doing what they need to do in order to improve their health and quality of life. Regardless of their situation, they most likely have a flimsy string of excuses as to why they can’t change. They justify their current state and situation by clinging to self-sabotaging reasons such as lack of time (even though they spend hours each day on social media or watching TV), lack of money (despite spending hundreds or thousands of dollars each year on alcohol or take-aways) or poor genetics.
Excuses are really just an emotional self defence mechanism. We use them to avoid having to admit we are doing something wrong and therefore feel bad about ourselves and the decisions we have made. We all have trials and tribulations in life and some people go through much worse than others, but it’s up to us to decide whether we use these as reasons to improve or as excuses to remain the same (or get even worse). To stop this self-sabotaging blame game, we need to accept full responsibility for our actions regardless of our situation and be okay with getting angry with ourselves from time to time. Only then can we begin to look for solutions and get motivated to make the required changes.
People in this stage are on track. They eat well, exercise regularly, drink lots of water, take their supplements, get to bed early and are achieving results. But it’s REALLY hard work. They feel deprived, like it’s too much of a shift from their usual routine and lifestyle. They constantly feel like they are missing out when they turn down an alcoholic drink, a dessert or biscuit. They really have to motivate themselves to get to training and on most days would much rather hit the snooze button. But they are serious about achieving their targets so they push themselves in any way possible to stay true to their goals. These people are consciously competent; they are on track but it takes all of their thought, motivation and will power to do so.
Feeling this way is not a recipe for long-term success. Life will inevitably throw a curve ball (such as illness, travel, relationship issue, finances, etc) into the mix, which will ruin their well planned routine and most likely result in a relapse into old, comfortable, unhealthy habits. Any results achieved will soon be lost. Furthermore, this person may be surrounded by well-meaning friends and family who are actually not supporting their new healthy lifestyle by pressuring them to ‘relax’, ‘not be so hard on themselves’ and/or ‘live a little’. Peer pressure will continue to build until a snap point is reached and the new healthy lifestyle is sadly tossed aside.
Time is the best remedy for someone in this stage. Giving the mind and body a few weeks (and possibly months) to truly accept a new routine and lifestyle will go a long way to helping this person progress to the next stage. This person should definitely avoid any ‘quick-fix’ plans, diets, programs and detoxes as they will always be waiting to reach the end. Instead, they need to look for a sensible program/solution that provides them with the education and motivation to make sustainable changes to their routine. It’s important to understand that success is a journey and not a destination. Furthermore, this person may have to distance themselves from the people in their life who do not support their new healthy habits, at least until they progress to the next stage…
People in this stage are usually unfairly categorised by others as just being ‘lucky’ in that they have the outwards appearance of being blessed with great genetics (because they are in great shape and health) and possess an inhuman amount of motivation and will power which allows them to always eat well, exercise often and turn down unhealthy foods and alcohol with the greatest of ease. The actual truth is that the people in this stage have often worked long and hard to get here. But because of their dedication to their health and wellness goals, they now enjoy a state of mind which means they no longer have to constantly think about staying on track or wonder whether they are making the right choices. They enjoy eating healthy foods (and often crave them). Exercise is a reward and something to look forward to. Unhealthy food and having to miss exercise sessions feel like punishment. These people are unconsciously competent; their healthy routine happens easily, enjoyably, naturally and without too much thought. And because of this, ALL aspects of this person’s life improve significantly. This is the stage all should aspire to.
It can get pretty lonely in this stage. As not many have reached (or will reach) this stage, the people who actually do so may feel somewhat ostracized by their friends and family. Their healthy lifestyle choices may be met with comments from loved ones that they are weird, obsessed, over-the-top or no longer the person they used to be. Social situations may become uncomfortable as the pressure to give in to unhealthy choices will be high in order to ‘fit-in’ with others.
Finding people who are also in this stage to spend time with will be of great benefit as it will further reinforce the healthy lifestyle. But also understanding that other people’s negative comments are usually just a reflection of their own insecurities will help the person in this stage to stay true to their preferred way of life. It’s important to live a healthy lifestyle in a way that does not make others feel bad about theirs, but instead motivates them to rise up. This is usually done by gentle encouragement, helpful advice (when asked for) as well as setting a good example regardless of the setting or situation. For people in this stage, they owe it to the loved ones in their life to help them become better people too. Having this sense of altruism will help these unconsciously competent people to enjoy it even more and reap even great rewards.
Hopefully this article has given you something to think about regarding your own health and fat-loss journey. You should now be able to clearly see which level you are currently at and what lies ahead of you, if you take the steps required to rise up.