“Generally, beware of dissipating your powers, and strive to concentrate them.” -Goethe
“The gift that keeps on giving” originally was a positive, uplifting, and valuable marketing strategy. This catch-phrase, first introduced into the world in 1924 was originally used to describe the phonograph—later trademarked in 1927.
What’s the purpose of this random history lesson?
Nothing much besides curiosity and to remember that this catch-phrase originally served as more than a term used to describe various sexually transmitted diseases in today’s time.
Humans love receiving gifts (the good ones of course). Gifts make us feel wanted, appreciated, and as I recently discovered, receiving gifts is one of The 5 Love Languages that Gary Chapman describes in his immensely popular book.
However, one of the best gifts received over the last few decades is the Internet and technology.
Now so, more than ever, information—no matter the subject is a few keystrokes away from your disposal. Anything you want to learn, Google has you covered.
With a simple search, you can discover…
“What’s the best fat loss diet?” (23,700,000 results)
“What’s the best workout program?” (23,900,000 results)
“Which diet should I use to lose fat the quickest?” (28,200,000 results)
“What’s the best methods to pick up girls?” (258,000,000 results)
“Why are men so stupid?” (53,300,000 results)
“Who’s the best band in the world? (Jamiroquai…right?)” (479,000,000 results)
“How to potty train a flying squirrel?” (13,800 results)
Welcome to the age of information overload
Information overload was first coined by Alvin Toffler back in 1970 from his book Future Shock, where he (accurately) predicted that the increasing amounts of information being produced would eventually cause problems for people.
What exactly is information overload?
If you desire to appear vastly intelligent, want to impress a date or friends, you can call it “cognitive overload” due to the “brain being able to process vast amounts of information depending on the form it’s presented in.”
In simpler terms (which I prefer), information overload is when you’re dealing with more information than you’re able to process to make sound and sensible decisions.
What typically follows after being flooded with information is usually a delay in making decisions, or flat out making the wrong decisions.
According to Daniel Levitin, author of the The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, states that “we’ve created more information in the past few years than in all of human history before us.”
In fitness, many people receive the gift that keeps on giving in the form of spammy and emotionally baiting information products designed to make us feel less than.
Information overload in fitness is one of the biggest detriments in people’s quest for fat loss.
Our minds can maybe handle three, perhaps four things at once. However, after that, shit hits the fan and we start to exercise poorer judgment; fail to take action, and lose our focus.
The dangers of information overload in fitness
From a beginner being paralyzed about which workout and diet to start, to an intermediate deciding upon which routine to implement to carry forth the momentum from his beginner program—information overload shows no mercy.
Living inside a world where information overload is unregulated brings about a huge state of unresolved anxiety and stress as you can’t meet the ongoing demands of hearing about, yet, another diet that someone claims are the best one to use for fat loss.
One of the most crippling aspects of this dilemma isn’t the information available, it’s often times the feeling of not having any control of direction on the specific task (i.e.fitness goals)
These feelings ultimately lead you down a highway to suffering from paralysis from analysis.
Fitness overload leading to paralysis from analysis
Desire fades away. Motivation vanishes into thin air. Status quo starts to sound alright. That initial vision of transformation seems like a fantasy. The next logical step is to stop altogether due to feeling overwhelmed.
Should it be Paleo? 6 meals a day or 3? Fasting or not? Are carbs at night okay? What carbs at breakfast, how many for lunch? Organic or not? Is sugar really toxic? Will fruit make me fat? Do I really need to put butter in my coffee (hell no!)?
It’s not just nutrition.
Everyone has an opinion on training programs.
Should you train full-body? Bodybuilder training? What about body pump classes? Upper/lower splits? Push/pull splits? Powerlifting? Do I need to kick my ass into the ground at every workout session (absolutely not)?
On top of the metric ton of options available, our ambition and desire to be 100% correct is playing a starring role; thus making us doubt our choices and delaying making a decision until we’re absolute certain.
Our minds can become so full about “what might happen”, or “what we should do” that you can’t think past those possibilities to make a decision to even start (some might call this failure to launch).
I know this too well.
I wanted to write for years, learn a language, learn to actually dance (not the drunken monstrosity they call dancing in some of these clubs), public speak, and become a better communicator.
Gathering information is always a good thing; thus allowing us to evaluate the best possible options and weigh the pros & cons. But after awhile, the laws of diminishing returns takes in effect.
Instead of helping and educating yourself—“analyzing”, “studying”, or whatever else you want to call it starts to stump your growth and development.
By continuing in this process without applying or taking action, you cripple yourself and start to second guess yourself because all the excess (and often times contradictory) information swimming inside your brain—thus putting a stop sign on taking action.
Combating information overload
The very first step to eliminating information overload and becoming action oriented is to become conscious of the issue. If you aren’t present, then you stand no chance of creating a solution. After all, being in the present moment is only when change is a possibility.
Most situations, whether it’s tackling a fitness or creative goal—studying and planning is a discreet and gentler form of procrastination and fear settling in.
Reading more books, listening to more podcast, watching more health shows, reading more fitness blogs isn’t the answer to taking action—that resides inside of you.
In order to remove, or at least negate the effects of information overload and not let analysis from paralysis set in—try out these questions and thoughts when it comes to why you’re doing something.
Random questions, observation, and exercises to try for minimizing information overload
No need to try each and every suggestion below all at once, read them over and decide which ones look implementable to you.
1.Use the power of why– I believe I first heard this on Tim Ferriss’s podcast when describing why we have to do things.
More often than not, the things we think we have to do aren’t as dire and necessary as they initially feel. A way to combat information overload is to ask yourself “why” three times before deciding on an action or adding new material into your regimen.
Do you really need to add another rule to your diet or exercise program? Are you creating limiting beliefs within your mind about why you can’t do something?
Asking “why” three times allows you to dig deeper into the root of the issue.
2.Pack only the essentials– Ask yourself “what do you absolutely need to do” for your fitness goals to become a reality and leave everything else by the waste-side.
3.What actions are an absolute no ifs & buts in your daily regimen? -We all have activities, hobbies, or things that are a necessity for daily pleasures and improvement; without it, we feel the day wasn’t as productive or accomplished as it should've been.
4.Do you have too many commitments? – Ask yourself and analyze “what are the true commitments that I really want to do; which ones are adding value to my personal life and positively supporting my fitness goals?”
Which ones do you say “yes” to because of guilt, obligation, protecting others feelings, or expectations placed by norms and rituals?
Regardless of the reason, learn how to say “no”—it’s your best friend. No opens the door for you to say “yes” to what truly matters most to you; thus allowing you to flourish in fitness and your personal life.
5.The worst case scenario game? You’re trying something new and there are some initial fears and hesitations (everyone has them). You’re wondering if you know enough or if you’re looking stupid.
To remove this mental cloud, think about the worst thing that could possibly happen and then think about the actual probability of that happening.
Ask yourself, “What could actually go wrong and is it even a big deal if it does go wrong? Could I live with the worst case scenario?”
Is the worst case scenario actually going to hurt you or just cause a little discomfort?
6.Don’t multi task– Pick one goal and task at a time. This is single handily one of the biggest mistakes people new to fitness and those stuck in a seemingly never-ending plateau commit.
Most people want to lose fat and build muscle simultaneously (aka the holy grail of the fitness world). This sounds good in theory, except these two objectives require opposite approaches—especially in regards to nutrition.
One needs a caloric deficient and the other needs a surplus. Taking this approach will leave you spinning your wheels with the ignition stick stuck in neutral.
7.Opt for efficiency and only spend as much activity on your goal as needed– Less is better and more is often times a waste of time and life better spent living the good life and having experiences.
Opt for efficiency and effectiveness over duration and quantity. An intelligent designed 45 min workout is better than a 90 minute workout all over the board.
8.Take some breaks and rest– No one is “beast mode” 24/7 (if they tell you anything otherwise, they’re full of shit).
No one is firing on all cylinders 24/7. Everyone needs to rest, recover, and decompress.
9.Adjustments are normal– The real learning comes from the work inside the trenches. You won’t develop flawless squatting technique studying at home, you practice at the gym.
You won’t become a dazzling salsa dancer reading articles on salsa. You won’t become a proficient and effective writer by only reading about writing.
You won’t lose fat just by knowing the biochemistry of fat loss.
You only achieve and receive by doing. By doing, sure mistakes will happen, and that’s when you assess what worked and throw away what didn’t while bringing some new tools to the mix.
10.Is there really a certain thing as not making a decision– Technically, there isn’t such a thing as not making a decision, when you procrastinate, you’re making the decision to let life, your body, circumstances, and randomness become the default deciding factor on your fitness progress.
11.Limit, curate, and take breaks from the consumption of information– One of the best decisions (albeit difficult) I made was to take an extended break from the Internet and public eye in general.
Over the course of that break, I wrote a little, didn’t publish anything but most importantly, I gained my sanity back.
I re-established my identity and remembered my mission and what I wanted, not want what I was expected to want.
In fitness, we see new trends each day, what this person did to lose weight; even if it weren’t our plan, we start to sub-consciously doubt ourselves and have the urge to jump to their program.
Put a limit on how much facebooking you’re doing, the more facebooking, the less happier you'll feel about yourself .
Be mindful of the information you’re consuming on a daily basis. If the majority of your information is reality TV, gossip, click-bait news articles, and cat videos—expect to have a junk food mindset that isn’t serving any value.
Think about something in fitness that is giving you fits? Think about your approach with those challenges and assess whether you can start to trim some of the excess fat (information) from the challenge?
Start with at least 2 of the 11 options from above and allow some time to see if those tools help.