If you know you can do it, you won’t.
The sound of dripping rain whispers through the darkness, sending a pinging combination of self-deprecation and relief to your foggy conscience. You already know it, you’re just trying to reason it, as you roll over towards the window to confirm the severity of the precipitation outside, you’re not working out today. The morning jog you had planned is off, so is the 30 minutes of weights after. It was all written down, fastened to the fridge with the magnetic letters ‘N’ and ‘T’, part of the message ‘Never Quit’ you had spelled out for yourself the night before when you were certain that this was the turning point for you. This was the time you showed up, stayed disciplined, and made a real change in your life. But it’s raining, and no one likes to run in the rain. Maybe it will clear up and you can run later. At least that’s what you tell yourself as you pull the covers back over and dive headfirst into another REM cycle.
Wasn’t that easy? To just give in? To knowingly sacrifice your intended outcome for temporary comfort? Of course it was, it’s what we do. We’re animals, after all. Instinctively wired to pursue the path of least resistance. To avoid pain with far greater ferocity than we seek pleasure. It’s only natural. And it’s why, often times, we become our own worst enemy.
This is the story so many of us are living. The fact is, just about everyone desires to be in better shape, to be healthier in some way, and knows, with at least some certainty, the steps they need to take to accomplish their goals. Lack of education isn’t why we fail. But it’s also not because we set our sights too high. Most of us just want to look good in the mirror, that’s a completely realistic goal. If anything, we give up because we know we can do it.
All of us have an ego we’re constantly trying to protect. Some larger than others, but it lives within each and every one of us. And it can get us in a lot of trouble. Ego makes us act illogically, gives us tunnel vision and can repel others whose relationships would bring value into our world. Super awesome thinker and writer Ryan Holiday wrote an entire book dedicated to how we burden ourselves with ego. But it can also work in our favor.
If there’s one thing our brains universally don’t handle well it’s the feeling of inadequacy. We absolutely hate feeling like we can’t do something we wish we were able to. Of course, that emotional connection is key. We’re not going to get up for something that we couldn’t care less about. But it’s in these challenges, the ones that we know we can only overcome by fundamentally changing who we are, that we find the will to succeed.
I’ve been an athlete my entire life. At least that’s what I tell myself when I think about my identity as it applies to physical fitness. The truth is that I haven’t been a competitive athlete in years. And in the time since I’ve left the arena of high-level sport, I’ve faced the same challenges we all do when it comes to our physical regimen. I didn’t have the will, the same drive, to maintain my body with anywhere near the same level of commitment as before. I’ve gained and lost forty pounds on multiple occasions. I’ve built and lost muscle, developed endurance only to let it fade. I just didn’t see the point in being disciplined if I had no use for it.
The truth, of course, is that there is a use. A physically fit body is a mentally fit body and I need all the mental fitness I can get. I just wasn’t making the emotional connection because I didn’t have a challenging goal that spoke directly to my motivation. I needed my ego to work with me. To take on a challenge that I knew I couldn’t accomplish without becoming someone who can.
It’s being 31 days since I’ve committed to completing my first Ironman race. Ironman is the most grueling triathlon on Earth and I’m positive I can’t complete it right now. So, I’ve been committed to becoming someone who can. My ego doesn’t like the idea of not being able to do something athletic. After all, I’m an athlete, remember? It’s been a decade since I went a month without missing a workout. I haven’t had a compelling reason to be committed at a high level. Now I do. And I haven’t even though about missing a day. My ego simply won’t let me. To do what I’m committed to doing I have to become the man I’m committed to being.
Ask yourself, are your goals big enough to tap your dark side? The ego in you that snaps you into action when threaten with the fear of not being enough? Challenge yourself to become more. Your future self is counting on you.
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It’s a weird dynamic, this relationship we have with failure. We love stories about it. No one likes a movie where the main character succeeds unchecked. We like the struggle, the adversity. It inspires us, reminds us of what’s possible. But that’s when someone else is the subject. That’s when someone else is going through it. When it comes to our lives, every failure makes us question how much we really value the outcome. How much do we really want to succeed?
The fact is, just about everyone desires to be in better shape, to be healthier in some way, and knows, with at least some certainty, the steps they need to take to accomplish their goals. Lack of education isn’t why we fail. But it’s also not because we set our sights too high. Most of us just want to look good in the mirror, that’s a completely realistic goal. If anything, we give up because we know we can do it.
It’s fundamentally difficult, with so much distraction and opportunity, to find the time to get it all in every day. To truly be productive and not just busy. So, what’s the solution? How do we get back to a place where we’re not constantly being pulled in a million different directions? Where the day doesn’t waste away behind the steady flow of new and completely irrelevant stimulants being thrown at us non-stop? The answer is simple addition by subtraction.
It’s understandable, in a world increasingly full of distraction, that it takes a near herculean effort to put our best foot forward in that department, but that doesn’t make the threat of wasted time any less real.
And while the battle for time efficiency may never cease entirely, there are plenty of safeguards we can implement to systematize our efforts.
Here are a few simple, practical ways to up your productivity and stave off waste.
It’s 3 A.M. and you’re doing that thing where you look at the clock and think about how many hours of sleep you’ll get if