It’s been proven time and time again—in most cases, more is almost never equal to better. And in many scenarios, more directly equates to WORSE.
First scenario: don’t have a heart attack and fall to the floor clutching your chest in front of a crowd of people. The likelihood of you getting help is exponentially lower when compared to being around only 1-2 people. Why? Because every person in the crowd thinks that ‘someone else’ is going to do something and EVERYONE stands around doing NOTHING. They all assume that someone must have already called 911 and that someone else must know CPR better than they do. When there’s an emergency witnessed by only 1 or 2 people, those bystanders feel obligation to help even when not properly trained to do so. “Did you call 911? No? OK, I’m doing it now. You start CPR!”
To further illustrate this point, a few years ago, a house near me was started on fire after a man inside was murdered. Lacking that important Murder/Arson information, and seeing the flames shooting out of the house’s window from my bedroom window I ran out to help. I was the only one there but could already hear the sirens in the distance. A man was about to jump from the second floor, and I coached him to wait for the fire department and to go shut his bedroom door. Unfortunately, he jumped 2 seconds after my direction and now was directly under a first-floor window that was getting set to blow out. He was a ginormous monster of a man—easily 2-2.5x my size and his legs were now both broken. As I was dragging him by MYSELF to move him to safety, I took note of my surroundings and saw that there were now easily 15-20 people gathered to watch the festivities. And not one of those people did a single thing to help. Why? Because all 15 of them thought that the other 14 of them would do something. Why did I help? It’s true that it was partially because I’m trained to help, but I believe it was mostly because I was the only one there initially. If I didn’t do something, nothing was going to get done.
Lesson: more people usually means less gets done.
Second scenario: have you ever gone shopping with a list for a few items? You’re strolling through the store and you’re met by one of those ladies in the hairnet behind a kiosk. She offers you a sample of jam on a piece of toast. She says, “This one is raspberry mango delight, but we have 15 other varieties to choose from.” Which one do you pick? Well, if you’re like some Americans, you don’t pick. The fact that there are TOO MANY CHOICES causes you anxiety of making the wrong choice, so you just walk away without ever choosing. You didn’t come in for jam anyway! Conversely, if there was only that one choice or perhaps a choice of 2 flavors, statistically most American’s would walk out with a jar of jam. Maybe two!
In the book, Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz argues that eliminating or reducing consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers. “Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well-being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.” The Paradox of Choice
Here’s a real-life example that happens to me. I find that when I’m shopping for a new pair of running shoes that the more color choices there are, the harder time I have deciding. Black, white, blue and pink? Easy. Pink. Fourteen different iterations of color and shade and trim? I’ll eventually choose, but I will suffer from buyer’s remorse afterwards. “Shoot. I should have gotten the white soles instead of the black soles.”
Lesson: more choices (or information) doesn’t make the choice easier. It makes the choice harder.
Hold on. FireSQFitness is dedicated to topics covering first responder health and wellness. How do having a heart attack, helping off-duty at a fire and choosing jam or running shoes relate to that topic?
Here’s how. Firefighters, as well as civilians suffer from a couple syndromes known as failure to launch and analysis paralysis. I believe that one segment of firefighters is experiencing failure to launch which is very much like doing nothing standing around for someone else to help the heart attack victim. They think if they do nothing long enough someone will finally tell them the BEST way to accomplish their goal and they won’t waste any time with that nonsense about exercise and a sensible eating plan. I’m convinced that another segment of firefighters that are doing nothing for their health and wellness are doing nothing because they are overwhelmed by the shear number of choices available. They would rather do NOTHING than commit to the wrong choice. This is the equivalent of having too many jam choices.
My crews know that they shouldn’t bring me a problem if they’re not also bringing me a solution. So, here’s me, bringing you solutions!
1. Failure to Launch Syndrome
These firefighters are seekers and information gatherers. They’re tire kickers. They’re interestedin training and nutrition, but they’re not committed to it. To them, wellness sounds like a good idea, but they never successfully pull the trigger and get started. Much like the heart attack bystander they lurk in the shadows and hope someone or something else will solve their problems, so they don’t have to do any real work. They might join a gym or sign up for a challenge, but they fail to put in the real work to accomplish anything.
These firefighters just need to DO ONE THING. Do anything but do it consistently and without quitting. Go after something with relentless abandon and when that’s been conquered, do something else. Start with a 10-minute walk after every meal. Or don’t. Start with something else that seems easy and do-able. And then keep doing it.
2. Analysis Paralysis Syndrome
These firefighters want to know “the best way”. Often, they phrase their questions as such. “What’s the BEST WAY to lose weight?” “What’s the BEST WAY to increase bench press?” They ask a lot of questions to various resources they consider to be authorities. They become quickly frustrated when one resource disagrees with another resource and fail to understand that there are a lot of ways to get to their goal. But all those ways involve starting and consistency.
Here’s a secret: there is no BEST way. There is only the way that you can execute reliably and consistently. So just START. Pick one thing—make it a little thing. A thing so easy that you say, “of course I can do that every day”. Then DO IT. And keep doing it. And when it’s a habit, add on another little thing.
I promise that will work way better than doing everything and then stopping after 10 days! And it will work far better than doing nothing. Pick your thing and get started.
“Here’s a secret: there is no BEST way. There is only the way that you can execute reliably and consistently. So just START.” -AZ
I’ll wrap up now because this installment has gotten a little longer than I usually like. No one else is going to handle your health and fitness. There is no BEST WAY. There is only the way that will work best for you. Find that one small lifestyle change to begin working on and go for it! Just remember: It all matters.