No pain, no gain.
If it’s not hurting, it’s not working
Nothing worth having comes easy…
Or does it?
We’re conditioned to think that if it doesn’t inflict discomfort, inconvenience, stress, pain, or hardship then whatever we are doing isn’t enough to elicit the required response that we want, whether in our working lives, our exercise or our nutrition.
This narrative is broadcast everywhere. Television, social media, newspapers and magazines will all have you believe this.
Let’s take the example of weight loss, if that’s something you believe would improve your life. You probably assume the following:
You HAVE to do intense cardio five times a week. You HAVE to cut out all carbs from your life You HAVE to limit your calorie intake to 1200 Kcals per day You HAVE to spend all your money on buying this tea with magic “fat burning” ingredients endorsed by some celebrity…who’s never been overweight in their life and also is about 20 years old and doesn’t have anything else to do with their day than go to the gym and cook healthy food for themselves. But never mind all that, it’s definitely because of this magic tea they’ve just started drinking, and of course they haven’t been paid to speak about it at all.
And if you can’t stick with whatever zero-sugar-keto-paleo-atkins-tea-that-tastes-like-piss diet you’ve been convinced to go on? Well, that’s just your fault. You clearly don’t want it enough, or don’t have enough will-power or you just aren’t the sort of person that can be one of those ‘health and fitness freaks’. You feel your very identity doesn’t align with being able to achieve those goals.
And this is where your journey into a ‘new you’ ends. Sadly, this is the path most trodden, and it is why an alarming number of people who embark on extreme weight loss diets gain that weight back again and sometimes more.
Extreme changes are unsustainable and therefore likely to fail.
The desire for a quick fix lures you into making too many changes, or too big a change. You just layer this new ‘lifestyle’ on top of your existing one, regardless of your current responsibilities, schedule, limitations and preferences. You think that all those things are the very reason you haven’t achieved your goals, so you ignore them, when in fact, they hold the key to your success.
If it’s not extreme changes that get results, then what is? Well, by inversion, the opposite is true.
Small changes are sustainable and therefore lead to success over time
The more you work with your current lifestyle, the less discomfort and friction is applied to your life, so it’s easy to stick to. It’s the snowball effect: this seemingly unnoticeable small change at the start is compounded over time and eventually delivers big results. You just might have to wait a bit. However, it’s probably still going to be quicker than trying and failing a million times over and over forever and ever.
Get excited about your trajectory of progress rather than the gradient of progress.
How to Find the Easy Win
Finding the easy win will be unique to you. Here’s an idea of how to start off using the example of weight loss:
1. Audit your current lifestyle and behaviours. Write down everything you do, eat, and drink for a whole week.
2. Pinpoint one thing that is most obviously stopping you from achieving your goal. For example, if you want to lose weight you would need to see where the most regular highly caloric intake is coming from. For example, maybe in your daily habits you always have a chocolate bar with your afternoon cup of tea (if you added those calories up throughout the week that would be about 1,400 Kcals, which is close to a whole day’s worth of calories for some people). If you just removed that you would see significant changes over time.
3. Assess whether that change is sustainable for you. Maybe you really love that afternoon chocolate treat and you know there’s no way you could give it up. You could either modify it, so instead of a large KitKat, you go for the smaller KitKat. Or you could go to the next most obvious caloric thing and remove that (e.g daily glass of wine). The further away from the most obvious thing you go, the slower it may take you to get there, but you will still get there over time.
4. Review your progress every few weeks and see if you are getting closer to your goal. If you think you have stalled in progress, then it might be time to tackle the next most obvious and easy thing to change. It doesn’t even have to be something to remove, it could be something to add, like an extra 5,000 steps a day. Slowly modify or add new behaviours, but not until you’ve nailed the first one and stopped seeing progress with it.
Remember, you want a good return on your investment. If you can achieve your goals by just walking a bit more every day then why make your life miserable with that 5-times-a-week-hit-training-zumba-crossfit-boxercise-class or that zero-sugar-keto-paleo-atkins-tea-that-tastes-like-piss diet, which won’t get your where you want to be anyway because you’ll end up starving and probably injured within 2 weeks. Enjoy your life whilst achieving your goals. Just be patient.