In Part I, we talked about how your intrinsic drive is probably pretty high but how different friction points that may be disrupting things for you. In Part II, we continue the discussion of what is getting in your way and how to deal with that.
Friction Point: Not trusting the process
The Real Issue: Not knowing how to find a trustworthy process
If you’ve ridden the fitness rollercoaster, you know the cycle of big promises, initial excitement, plateaus, and giving up. Why do we give up? Don’t blame discipline. In my experience, if someone truly trusts a process AND the outcomes are important, they will go to the ends of the earth to make things work. Those people will almost always be successful—even when the process itself is imperfect. But when we begin to doubt…things quickly begin to feel pointless. From there, we often begin to gamble on random solutions.
You’re not psychic and you probably won’t be able to predict how something will work for you. However, there are some strong signs that you can look for in order to find a trustworthy process:
1. Is the process brittle?
I don’t care if we’re talking about low-carb eating, high-intensity intervals, or saving Middle Earth, the questions are the same: is the system open to variation? To individualization? To the idea that alternative strategies can be effective?
If an approach requires zealotry, it can certainly be effective but—if enough pressure is applied—it may shatter completely.
2. Is there inherent value?
Coming back to the example of eating veggies, do you really need to get shredded abs to believe that drinking more water has value? If the answer is yes, then you’re back to a transactional relationship. However, if you see the inherent value in something like eating veggies or a 20-minute walk, you will truly be able to integrate a given habit.
3. Do you have metrics?
What are the most important things for you to measure? These might be external metrics—like weight on a bar or body composition. They also might be internal metrics—like energy levels, diminished pain, or confidence. Warning: don’t hitch your cart to one single wagon, like body weight. However, If you tune into the right metrics and see consistent progress—or at least, you can feel confident in your approach.
4. Do you know how to course-correct?
Imagine stepping on the scale and seeing that everything has gone wrong. Are you mentally and emotionally prepared to handle that? Do you know what strategies you’ll need to course-correct?
If you are depending on best-case outcomes for happiness, you are setting yourself up to be disappointed. Best-case outcomes are for 20-year-olds who in their parent’s basement, work out for three hours a day, and spend 100% of their disposable income on supplements. Unless that’s you, you’ll have to learn to take joy in an imperfect process.
Friction Point: Feeling overwhelmed
The Real Issue: Over-budgeting your time/stress load and under-budgeting self-care
We talked about planning fallacy earlier—how you may underestimate how much work will go into a certain goal. The same concept applies to recovering enough to benefit from that work. We often do the hard part well and then ignore the relaxing part.
Sleep, nutritious food, stress management, and other regenerative activities are essential. They increase what we can handle and decrease the amount of time required to transition from least mode back into beast mode.
It’s important to remember that exercise is a set of physiological buttons that you can push. If you find the right button, you get the specific stress you’re looking for. That stress tells the body to adapt in certain ways—like mobilizing fat stores or building muscle. But—just like calling an elevator—pushing the button multiple times doesn’t make things happen faster. Ask what the minimum effective dose is before to turning each training session into a Rocky montage.
Friction Point: Insufficient time
The Real Issue: Prioritizing other things over your own health
This isn’t a planning issue so much as a prioritization issue. Other things will always come first if you let them. Most companies are content to let you work 24 hours a day until you fall over. Netflix will happily have you binge-watching until 4 am. Only you can truly take control of your time.
This is why the idea of shrinking the change is incredibly important. Instead of waiting for the perfect time to begin a new fitness regimen, you can sprinkle 2-3 five-minute movement sessions into your day. Is 15 minutes a day enough to revolutionize your health? Probably not. But the difference between starting and not starting is profound—so maybe just start.
Friction Point: Ongoing stress and anxiety about outcomes
The Real Issue: Trying to control the uncontrollable
A guy gets off a plane. His friend, who is picking him up from the airport says, “You look tired. Why didn’t you sleep on the plane?” The weary traveller says, “If I go to sleep, who’s going to keep the wings on?”
There are three circles: 1) things you can control completely, like what shirt you choose to wear; 2) things you have some control over, like what city you live in; 3) things you have zero control over—including whether the wings stay riveted to the plane.
Adapted from Stephen Covey
In business, I learned to differentiate between a lagging measure and a leading measure. Your bank statement is a lagging measure. It tells you what has already happened. How happy your people are is a leading measure—that tells you what will happen.
Your body weight and composition are lagging measures. You can feel good, bad, or indifferent about them but you can’t worry them into a different place.
To sum up
You’re motivated. Trust yourself. Your real job is to remove friction points. You can do this by understanding yourself, taking on modest but sustainable habits, and building systems to help you navigate the obstacles that life throws in your path. You can do this—and now you know your next move.