Episode 94 | Dr. Patrick Porter, Ph.D. | Get it Done! Stop Procrastinating.
Many times, you might think that you procrastinate because of laziness or poor time-management, and that’s really not the case every time.
Procrastination is often caused by avoiding situations because of negative emotions such as anxiety, frustration, boredom, and those other negative emotions that we attach to whatever the task is at hand – whether that’s working out or following a nutrition plan that serves you.
On today’s NEW podcast episode, Dr. Patrick Porter shares nuggets of information to help you rewire your brain, learn to stop putting things off, and start accomplishing your goals…
Patrick is not only my dear friend, but he’s somebody I trust because he has been on the cutting edge of brain wave training technology for nearly 30 years. He’s an award-winning author and speaker, including a recent TED talk. He’s also the creator of BrainTap, which is distinctively designed to relax, reboot, and optimize your brain’s peak potential.
Now until April 4th, Patrick is hosting A Better Brain Summit… a free series of interviews so you can learn how to improve cognitive function and prevent neurodegenerative conditions so you can feel empowered, focused and fully present in your life! And yes… I’m a guest! It’s completely free.
In today’s new episode, we discuss…
- Changing your systems and discovering the underlying problems that are blocking you from changing your behavior
- Conditioning your brain to naturally work better in order to get into the flow of life.
- Understanding the neuroscience and psychology behind behavior change
- Winning the battle of replacing bad habits with good habits
- Clearing blocks that stand in the way of becoming the person you aspire to be
Follow Along With The Transcript
[KATHY SMITH]: Patrick, welcome to the show. It’s such a pleasure to have you here.
[PATRICK PORTER]: It’s great to be here, Kathy. Thanks for having me.
[KATHY SMITH]: I love the fact that we’ve worked together maybe like five years plus now. And I’ve seen, first of all, your company take off. I’ve seen the technology take off. So, today, I really want to focus on, as I said, habits, and how do you create these habits, and how do we get consistent with our goals? So, here’s the typical cycle in the fitness world. And you’ve heard it over and over again. You think, “I’ve got to lose weight. I have to get healthy. I have to bring down my blood pressure. I’m going to start a new program.”
You run out and you might buy a new piece of fitness equipment. You might buy some new exercise clothes. And then, for about two weeks, you set the alarm, and every morning, you’re up and you’re doing it. After two weeks, it starts to taper off until eventually, you just don’t feel like doing it anymore, and you give up. And that’s a cycle where you start to feel like a failure. And then, the cycle repeats itself.
So, what I’d really love to get into– I know it’s your specialty. First of all, what do we have to know about the brain and how the brain is involved in that cycle, and how do we break this cycle?
[PATRICK PORTER]: I think the one thing people don’t realize is the brain has very strict rules. It says, “Hey, this is the way we’ve always done things.” It’s going to try to keep doing them that way regardless of what we want to do or how we want to do it. In something called neuroplasticity, which means that we need to break that up a little bit. And there are a few ways to do that.
Number one is you have to reframe, like, what’s going on here for people doing these New Year’s resolution kind of– they say that they only last about 14 days, like you’re saying– is that they don’t have it as part of their nature yet. It’s kind of like you have to change the script or flip the switch in your brain that says, “Hey! Look, this is my lifestyle now. This isn’t something I’m doing to lose weight,” because that’s not a very good goal – or get a thinner tummy. But a bigger goal, a massive goal, like, “I want to be healthy. I want to be there for my grandkids. I want to be there for my spouse.”
Something that’s bigger than you has to be at the end of that. That’s kind of the character that you have to have, because it’s just something that the brain goes, “Do you know what?” Weight loss being the example, you said, of being in shape because they go, hey, how many health club memberships go unused every year? People buy them and they think, “Oh, I bought it. Now, I get all the benefits.” That’s not the way it works.
[KATHY SMITH]: Right. So again, I know we talk about external cues, to your point, like losing weight or slimming down your waistline. But what I try to reinforce are the internal cues that really keep you motivated for a lifetime. And what are those? “Well, I feel so much more energetic.” “I feel more confident.” “I feel more alert.” “I feel more focus.”
And tuning into those inner cues is, honestly, what keeps me going. Because I can’t go a day without any kind of movement, because of how I feel. Is there some way we can start to turn that switch on, though, of listening to those internal cues?
[PATRICK PORTER]: Well, unfortunately, they say that we’re, 25% of the time, unconscious, which means that we just pretend we don’t know. So, one thing is to become more aware of what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and really be honest with ourselves. And then, when we have a chance, we’ve got to take action at the moment.
We can’t say, “Do you know what? I’m going to do this or do that. And then, later, I’m going to change it.” The brain really wants that change to be made at that point of stress. Stress is how the brain grows. It usually doesn’t grow– there’s a lovely meaning that was going around that had a little button over here, and then, it said, “Your comfort zone.” And then, it said, “Your success is over here.”
People don’t understand that they have to be willing to go through a little bit of pain. One of the sayings I used to have for my clients over the years is, “Anything worth doing well is worth doing terribly at first.” People think they have to be perfect at first. Get rid of the perfection and look for progress. Progress is the key. And then, don’t beat yourself up. Every day is a new experience. In fact, we used to tell people that every meal, you have a chance to either turn your body into a fat-burning machine or a fat-storage machine.
So, when you look at that one meal, so what; you had a bad meal. Big deal. Get over that. What are you going to do next? Because you didn’t get where you’re at with one decision. There were a series of decisions that were unconscious. If 25% of the time, we’re not even following through with what our main goals are because basically we fall asleep pretty much is what happens. We just say, “Oh, well, stress has got me.” Or “I’ve got all this to do. I don’t have time to do these things.” We’ve got to also become a priority.
Priority, unfortunately, for most people, in their health field is when they get hurt or they get injured or they get sick. Then, they go, “My health is a priority now.” But we need to start thinking about this as an insurance policy. When you think about your body, what you do today is going to build your body two years from now is what they’re saying. So, even though we might get a benefit today because we feel good. We get those brain chemicals going and things of that nature, but the reality is that we’re building our body of the future by the foods we consume, the water we drink, the attitude we have in consciousness, the people we hang out with. And it all plays a role.
One of the tips I always tell people is before you go to sleep at night, make a review without shame, guilt, or resentment. Just make that review. Be honest with yourself. Because just in that review, a lot of people will make changes. They’ll become honest with themselves. But if they’re living in a Pollyanna world where they go, “Well, I do everything right,”– we all know people that we sit across from at a restaurant, and they’ve eaten total junk food. And then, they tell us how this is something they never do. But the reality is that if they did it then, they probably do it at other times.
Or they say, “I really always work out, but I’m not doing it right now.” There seems to be a lot of excuses. We always say, “You either have results or you have excuses.” And so, people need to look at what is the deal of becoming really honest with themselves and not beating themselves up as much as just saying, hey, the subconscious is what we’re talking about here, and that subconscious is no more educated than a fourth grader.
So, how are you going to persuade a fourth grader to do the things that you want to have done when you’re not looking? That’s what we’re talking about.
[KATHY SMITH]: Okay. So, let’s follow that one through. How do you influence that fourth grader? So, here’s a fourth-grade mind– I have an idea, now that I think about it. Let’s use you as an example for this, because, Patrick, you look amazing. For the listeners that are listening and not watching this at this point, Patrick told me recently– so, I’m assuming he’s okay with me saying it.
He’s lost 40 pounds, and he’ll let you know what period of time. It was a pretty short period of time. The point being, you know what you were supposed to do, Patrick. You know it. You know all of these techniques. What was your moment? What was that time? Because that’s what I want to delve down into. I want to get out of the intellectual side and get into what’s going to help somebody say, “Okay, it you’re there, do this.”
[PATRICK PORTER]: When I had my franchise company, we were a weight loss company, and I was always in great physical shape. I mean that’s what I did. That was my career. People would come in; I had to be in shape. We actually owned a one-on-one fitness center. So, I mean, I never missed a workout. I’d just walk across the hall, and I could go work out.
But then, when I sold that company in 2006, and then for about ten years, I pretended that all of that work that I did back then was going to keep me healthy, which didn’t happen. And actually, I did an interview with a company for a documentary called Live Better, Live Longer. And I looked at myself and I went– and I’ve done a lot of videos. But for some reason when they showed that video and all the other healthy people that are on that video, I went, “Oh, my god. If my franchisees could see me now, they’d be going, ‘man, there’s a client for us.'”
I just thought I can no longer make the excuse that because I travel 43 times a year, and I’m going to these different restaurants and eating poorly and traveling. So, I did things like the blood flow restriction bands. And I did things like intermittent fasting -things that I knew about, but I had never really applied for myself. Now, I only eat in a six- to eight-hour window. And for me, that seems to really work for me. And I work out every day. Of course, I’m home, so I can do that. But now, I have the resistance bands so I can take those with me when I travel. And basically, I’m setting myself up so I can’t have excuses.
And, of course, I always use part of my practices – visualization and using things like that, because I know that’s a key. And I never really worked on myself as far as health and fitness because I was always healthy and fit. I mean I had all these sessions that I created, but I dealt with things like, “I’d rather do a stress-free journey or something rather than weight loss.” So, I started really focusing and using that visualization and really trained my brain.
Also, I didn’t realize how quickly I was eating. And, so, that’s one of the keys that I found out was that I became an unconscious consumer of food. And what I decided to do – was one of the techniques we taught our patients – was, you take a bite of food. You put your fork or thing down. You chew that food. You don’t take the next bite until that flavor is gone, because appetite is of the mind, hunger is of the body. I don’t really get hungry; that isn’t my problem. I never feel ravenous. I could probably have a three-hour eating window.
[KATHY SMITH]: Okay there’s a saying I love to use, “Win the morning; win the day.” What do you do first thing in the morning? What should somebody do to set themselves up for success all day long?
[PATRICK PORTER]: Well, the first thing that I recommend people do, before they even leave their bed, is start to do some breathing techniques. I use one called Wim Hof. It’s basically you’re laying down. Your eyes are closed. You’re breathing in as deeply as possible; filling the lungs completely. And then, you’re exhaling it out as fast as you can. I worked up to this. And I do 20 reps of that three different times.
[KATHY SMITH]: Can I try it? Can I try it for a second here? So, you’re breathing in as deep as you can. Through the nose or through the mouth?
[PATRICK PORTER]: Through the mouth; there’s no way you can do it wrong. You just breathe in as much as you can. Fill the lungs completely.
[KATHY SMITH]: Got it.
[PATRICK PORTER]: And then breathe out. And you keep breathing. It’s better to do it if you’re lying down because you can get a little lightheaded. But when you’re done, what happens is your body begins to vibrate. You have energy. We have to get our blood flowing and circulation going. And my clients, when I teach them this breathing technique– or, if they can’t do that one, they can do box breathing, which is a very simple one, where you might breathe out to the mellow count of four. Hold it to the mellow count of four. Breathe into the mellow count of four. Hold it to the mellow count of four. And you go through that. That’s an easier one for people. And some of my clients, that’s the one that they choose to do.
So, you have to choose where you want to play. It’s kind of like exercise. Some people will like one, and some people like the other. The whole key is to wake up your body to get your body energy flowing so that your brain gets woke up. Our brain needs a lot of oxygen in the morning.
[KATHY SMITH]: Okay, so you wake up with that. I like that. I do a nasal breathing technique. I get eucalyptus, and I put it on my hands, and I put it up to my nose and through the nose. It’s inhaling, holding the breath. And then this is something that I have gotten into. Kate Grace, my daughter, has gotten me into it. It’s part of the [inaudible 00:15:43] Technique. You inhale, you exhale and then you hold that breath. And I have a timer, a stopwatch, and I try to hold it for 20 seconds, 30 seconds and eventually 40 seconds. And in altitude for me to hold that for 40 seconds, it really starts to enliven my body and my cells and my brain. And there is a lot of research about that breathing technique.
But to your point, whichever one you choose, it’s important that you find one that works for you. But this first thing in the morning is exactly what I do. So, then what do you do, though, to stop what I call the ruminating brain. And what so many of us get, especially as you age and especially as there are issues in the world and in your family or whatever, you start to go through the “what ifs.” “Oh my gosh, “What if I get this? What if this happens? Why did this person say this to me? What if I’m a failure? What if this doesn’t work?” And your brain starts to go in a spiral. And how do you stop that brain and turn it into a place where it’s like, “Oh, my gosh! What can I get done today? What should I be doing today,” and turn those into positive thoughts?
[PATRICK PORTER]: Yeah, well in therapy, we call it a pattern interrupt. And the one we use, we are interrupting a pattern, because that’s a habit. And people don’t even realize that they have the habit of negative thinking or they have the habit of catastrophizing. And I simply tell my clients to visualize a large red stop sign. Say the word, “Stop!” Stop giving it energy. Stop giving it time. Stop giving it place in your mind. That’s sacred space between your ears. You don’t want to give it up to something you really don’t want to do.
But then, once you’ve done that, it’s really important that you visualize three things you would rather be doing. What could you take action on? Energy follows thought. So, if we can think of what we really want, like for the day, whatever that is. In the morning, for me, there are certain things I always set up that I know I need to accomplish. I tell my clients, “What is it that you know that is a ‘must have’ today?” Make that meaningful by visualizing it in bright color, putting sound in the background, stepping into it, living it through to the completion. Don’t just visualize it; you have to do it.
But visualize it completed. That’s the key. Most people forget about that. They visualize what needs to be done, and then, it becomes a drag. You need to visualize it being completed. That feeling of completeness creates what’s called surface tension, and the brain and body have to, basically, motivate you to finish it, because they’ve seen it in the mind. And the brain doesn’t know the difference between real or imagined, so if we can get it to imagine that it’s already completed, but in real time it’s not, there will be that motivation, that unconscious drive to complete that task.
[KATHY SMITH]: Yeah, I think it’s hard for most people to imagine that concept you just mentioned, which is real, imagined. Our brain doesn’t know the difference, and that’s why so many top athletes train by lying on their backs, visualizing the race. And I’ve seen them. I’ve worked with athletes. I’ve trained with athletes. And there they are going around the first turn of the track or they’re skiing down the hill, and they’re visualizing that first gate, the second gate, how their shoulders are going to look, how they are going to be turning. And then, they see themselves going across the finish line and winning the gold metal or whatever.
And that repetition in your body and in your mind, then, transfers to the body. So, that is something that is a hard concept to get. But one way you can even think about how that works is think about biting into a lemon. And think about taking a bite of really sour, tart lemon and keep visualizing it. And as you do, you’re going to notice you’re going to start to have a little saliva in your mouth. You’re going to start to feel that taste a little bit. You’re going to feel it through some of the changes that are happening in your body. And that’s the same thing you’re talking about.
And it’s what I do when I’m in a good space. But I will tell you that it’s something that takes training, because if you’re going off the deep end because of anxiety, tension, depression, anger, betrayal, any of these other things, it’s hard to reset. So, I am constantly, on a daily basis, going to do what you said. Find three things that you can accomplish and feel good about. And one line that I have that I’ve been using recently is, “I’m getting up this morning, and I have a date with God.” And that thing, because it makes me laugh. I said it once and somebody got a giggle out of it.
That can mean anything. It can mean I’m getting in the outdoors and being in nature. It can be that I’m walking in the snow and saying some gratitude prayers. But this fact that I start my day every morning with that breath and, “I got to get up because I got a date with God.” That makes me smile and laugh and gets my juices flowing. So, what you’re saying, I think, is you’ve got to find your version of that.
[PATRICK PORTER]: If we don’t have direction – something bigger than ourselves, or something bigger than the moment – then, our subconscious is really designed to be lazy. Because it’s trying to conserve energy all the time. Our body wants to conserve energy, because this body hasn’t really evolved like the times have. It says, “Oh, we don’t know if we’re going to have food. We don’t know what’s going to happen.” So, it’s thinking, “Well, let’s slow everything down. Let’s not do anything, “Let’s just rest and relax.” But what happens now is, unfortunately, our body is resting, but our mind is going 100 miles an hour. So, I think it was said by a Buddhist one time that I was listening to. He said, “Our bodies are designed to have our mind at rest and our body moving.” But most of us, we have our mind moving and our body at rest. We need to get those two to work together.
[KATHY SMITH]: Right. Well, I know I have to let you go here in a little bit, so can we just switch gears for a second and talk about the ageless body and aging in general and, how do we start to support the positive side of aging through our thoughts, through our actions, through our mental state? So, we’re not beating ourselves up about the perfectionist side. And I do have a saying. It’s been on my website forever – “Progress, not perfection.” So, that’s the message.
But underlying that message, do you have any little simple techniques that can help people go into the acceptance phase of, “Yeah, I want to change things, I want to be better. But I also love myself, because I’m pretty damn good. I love who I am, and I want to feel good about myself every morning- not that I’m less than and I have to do more to be more, but that I’m pretty great at who I am.” How would you frame that, while at the same time, we want to make improvements?
[PATRICK PORTER]: Right, well, I actually have a technique that I teach my clients, at night, to do that. Because each night when you’re going to sleep, a lot of people, they call it “shoulding all over themselves”, and that’s probably the worst thing you can do for your longevity. We know that negative thoughts create corresponding negative chemical reactions in the body that actually destroy us. When it was said that, “He who angers you, conquers you,” that was said by Buddha years ago, we now, know, through medical science, that’s true. So, if you’re holding any anger, any resentment, it’s not hurting the person you’re angry with. It’s hurting you because you’re thinking the thoughts and coming through.
So, what I recommend is when you’re lying in bed, whatever happened during the day, think of those positive things that happened to you. Live them. Because what that’s going to do is that it’s going to also– those positive memories hold with them an inherent, psychological positive, which also has a chemical corresponding youth agent. We don’t see a lot of people who are happy and healthy, depressed or anxious. You’re going to age better; you’re going to live better. You want to really focus on the positive. It’s kind of a quaint little way to say it – focus on the positive; eliminate the negative.
But in positive psychology, we know that you can do that, but it’s more than just a thought. You’ve got to visualize it; you’ve got to realize it. And that’s why it’s so good to do in bed, because whether you’re alone, or you’re with somebody, you just close your eyes, roll over, you can do your little exercise, sort out your day, really focus on the positive. Because then, the brain goes, “Do you know what? They really focused a lot on those positive experiences, I want to have more of them.” And then, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy for positiveness. I’m not saying become a Pollyanna, but focus on those things that were good today, and you’ll start noticing there’s a lot more good happening to you today than you thought every was possible.
[KATHY SMITH]: So well said, and I’ll tell you why. Because as I’ve done that through the years, you start to look for the little, small, positive things. So many people think, “I won the lottery/I didn’t win the lottery.” Those positive/negative. And when you’ve been on this planet and you’ve been around for a long time, you think about that one interaction you had. Like yesterday, my windshield wipers weren’t working and I stopped, and this young kid helped me do something that helped the windshield wipers with me. And I made it home through the snow, and I think, “How fortunate was I, to have that person there, at that moment, to help me with something,” as opposed to, “Oh, my god. I got stuck in the snow storm, and this didn’t work, and I could have died.”
You can spin this two different ways, and the more you look at it– or I go walking in nature. I go on a hike, and each time I go on a hike, I find a new really amazing thing, and it could just be a flower bud, or snow, the way that it’s on a tree that creates a shape. And I remember, through the years, as I’ve been and I’ve trained and I’ve coached people, I can take people on a hike and they’ll say something like, “Are we going to do this hike again? Haven’t we done this before?”
And I’m thinking to myself, “I can go on this hike a thousand times, and the waterfall or whatever I see could light up my world. I think that’s a bit of the shift that happens when you start focusing on all the little things that are happening in a good way in your life.
And then, from there, maybe I’ll close and I’ll let you finish up your thoughts. But it creates this aura around you. And that aura gets bigger and bigger with all of these positive thoughts that you’re putting out in the world. And even though I don’t love that term “law of attraction” I do believe as you do that, you start to just naturally have people gravitate in your life that make your life a little better. So, on that note, give me your one last parting thought on– whether it’s food, or fitness, or life, or a habit. I’ve gotten so far: breath, visualize, set positive intentions. And what would you say would be the fourth one to add to that?
[PATRICK PORTER]: I think it’s: expect something wonderful to happen but be extremely grateful for whatever happens. Of course, we want to have big expectations, but expectations can also be the theft of joy. So, we want to be realistic about that, and then acknowledge whatever we get. Like you said, a date with God. The reality is that we’re being delivered exactly what we need. Maybe not always what we want. The country song that says, “I thank God for unanswered prayers,” so there’s a bigger source or a bigger force out there than you and I, and once we harmonize with that, and like you said there seems to be this aura around us or whatever that happens. People want to be around positive people, and when you share that energy, life’s going to be better.
[KATHY SMITH]: Okay, well on that note, it’s always a thrill to talk to you. And I love what you’re doing for the world and our brains, so keep up the good work. I can’t wait until we can hike in Park City together, one of these months.
[PATRICK PORTER]: And I’ll be in much better shape this time!
[KATHY SMITH]: So, I won’t hear that heavy breathing with Cynthia behind me! Bye, Patrick, have a good one!
So, my big take away today is that many times, we think we procrastinate because of laziness or poor time-management, and that’s really not the case every time. Procrastination is often caused by avoiding situations because of negative emotions such as anxiety, frustration, boredom, and those other negative emotions that we attach to whatever the task is at hand – whether that’s working out, whether it’s eating the right nutrition plan.
Patrick, today, has shared a bunch of little nuggets of information that are going to help you start to rewire your brain and learn to stop putting things off and start accomplishing your goals and sticking to them, which is so important when you want to be consistent. So, if you want to learn more about how Patrick has created his wonderful Brain Tap, and more about Brain Tap, or his TedTalk, or any of the other tips and habits that he has, then go to his website which is braintap.com.
If you liked this episode, don’t forget to check out all the other episodes. What I love about the podcast – and people are telling me over and over again – they take them on their walks with them. So, you can learn about hormones, intermittent fasting, blood flow restriction training, the latest techniques and strength training in sleep, how to get better sleep, and so much more. Put in your ear buds, put in your headphones, go for your walk. I talk, you walk, and we have a good time together.
As a reminder, all of these episodes are available wherever you listen. So, check out the Art of Loving with Kathy Smith whether you’re on Apple, whether you’re on Stitcher, whether you’re on Spotify, and you’re going to find a huge selection of all these other episodes. Until the next time, here’s to your health.