Last night I was sitting around with a group of friends from the gym and they were commenting about people who had left the gym, quit training, etc. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Training, losing weight, building strength, being healthy are conceptually very easy. It is the mental and social aspect that make it incredibly tough. Why do so many people fail? While thinking about this I pictured it as a line drawn in the sand. On one side you have the people are consistently moving forward towards their goals and on the other side you have people who have failed, quit, or never made an active attempt to reach their goals. These goals can be everything from losing weight, saving money, having a fulfilling career, having a happy marriage, etc. While all very different goals, I find that the ability to be successful in one area usually builds up the abilities needed to be successful in other areas. Also, I’m not writing this from a perspective of having it all figured out. I’ve quit things, I’ve failed, I’ve struggled. I’ve done things I look back on and wish I never had and there are things I look back on and wish I’d done differently. Writing this is a reminder to myself as much as anyone else. It’s a reminder to take those lessons and learn from them and do better in the future. It’s a reminder to learn from those around me that teach me what to do and what not to do.
So, how do you keep from being that person on the wrong side of the line? Simple: get on the right side of the line and then run as far away from the line as possible. People who fail and quit tip toe too damn close to that line. I’ve been there and it’s a scary place. It’s scary to look at what you might become from where you once were or where you once wanted to go. In all areas, tip toeing near the line is just rolling the dice. One misstep in the wrong direction and you’re on the other side, the side you never wanted to be on. This is true for fitness, relationships, work, everything. How can you stay away from the line? Stay away from these three mistakes:
Marriages fail because one or both parties begin having selfish attitudes. They begin to believe that the purpose of marriage is to make them happy. They believe they deserve it. People fail to find happiness and fulfillment in a career when they begin to think selfishly. “I deserve a raise, I deserve a promotion”. People fail in fitness when they become selfish about their progress or their feelings. “I worked hard, I deserved that sweet. I’m working hard, I deserve to lose more weight.” The growth that occurs from the process, the pursuit is the greatest gain, far more than how much weight you lose or what your abs look like. Here is a secret that I have learned: you don’t deserve anything. Marriage is an opportunity to serve your spouse. Work is an opportunity to serve your employer and their customers. Training is an opportunity to learn patience and commitment. In that sense, you deserve the opportunity to find joy in the pursuit of serving and growing. The happiness comes with the process, not in the outcome. All three of these take time and commitment and sacrifice and in the end you don’t get to determine the outcome. So release your selfish attitude, stop focusing on your happiness, start focusing on the process of serving and run away from the line.
Failing the Small Things
The devil is in the details. When you care about something, you focus on the details. If you bought a brand new car that you loved and really wanted to show off, you would spend hours detailing it until it looked magnificent. Fast forward several years and now that same car hasn’t been washed in who knows how long, it’s got stains on the seat, and trash in the floor board. That’s what happens when you stop caring. In marriage, the small things make all the difference. These can be everything from getting off your phone at night, commenting on how your spouse looks when they dress up, and doing the dishes. In your job, it can be making sure to follow through on phone calls and work emails, having a positive attitude in all situations, and leading by example instead of pointing fingers. In fitness the small things are keeping a training log, doing your warm ups and mobility, sending your coach updates, etc. The truth about the small things is you can still get by without doing them. You could get your work done with a bad attitude, you can stay married without ever helping to do the dishes, and you could get stronger and skip all your warms ups, but the sad thing is you’ll never realize your full potential doing that. You’ll never have a great marriage, you’ll never find full satisfaction in your work, and you’ll never be as fit as you could be. The small things don’t take much extra effort either, they just take a little caring. Run away from the line.
Fear of Sacrifice
Sacrifice is scary, in all situations. When you make a sacrifice you have to have faith that what you’re doing is the best thing. In marriage, you have to make sacrifices for your family and for your spouse. No longer are you looking out for just yourself. You have to sacrifice yourself to the greater good of the family. In work, you have to sacrifice time and energy. Maybe you have to stay up late working on a project or maybe you have to travel and spend time away from those you love. But you do it because it’s for the greater good. It’s what needs to be done. In the pursuit of health, you may sacrifice the pleasure of certain foods to follow a nutrition plan, you may sacrifice time and energy to get your training in, you may have to sacrifice some relationships (if all your friends go out and eat and drink, that can make building better habits tough). So in these situations we have to have faith that what we gain is far greater than what we are giving up. Personally, I’ve given a lot of time to the gym. I’ve missed out on events, I’ve had some relationships with good friends fade away, and I’ve sacrificed my body to pain and injuries. But what I’ve gained is far greater than what I’ve lost because I’ve gotten to be a part of some great events, I’ve forged great relationships, and I’ve seen my body do things I’d never think it was capable of doing. Everyone can experience this in fitness and in the other areas of life. Don’t fear sacrifice. Run away from the line.