I see people all the time who make great decisions. They have a beautiful idea. They create a masterful plan. Then they half commit. The plan falls apart. They get nowhere and they quit.
Why does this happen? Because most areas of life have a threshold for results.
This means that anything you do, any project you undertake, requires a minimum amount of effort before any results can be expected. Anything less than the threshold in those endeavours means you’re just trying to make your Instagram interesting. For example, studying a language. If you take one Spanish class once a month and don’t practice in between, the rate at which you forget the language will be greater than at which you learn. Two years later you’re down two grand and have no mas Espanol.
Growing your abilities is like baking. You have all the necessary ingredients for making delicious cookies but, you half-assed the execution. You didn’t measure properly, you lazily mix them in the wrong order, forgot to pre-heat the oven and baked them for twice the recommended time. When you pull out the cookies, they look like Donald trump’s hair had a lovechild with sheep dung. Even though you know about a dozen places you could have improved on how you baked the cookies, your inner monologue goes something like “I pretty much followed the recipe. Baking is stupid, I am just naturally a bad baker, I have a genetic predisposition to bake like an idiot” or however you rationalize half-assing it to yourself. When in reality there were dozens of integral steps along the way and you missed them because you weren’t focused or committed and therefore the end product didn’t work.
In a critical way, achieving life goals is no different than making cookies, although there might be fewer calories involved. You want Ryan Gosling’s body, so you start to eat kind of healthy, you sometimes do some crunches on a Bosu ball. You follow all the steps but with the commitment of a drunk sorority girl. Therefore, you don’t lose any weight or build any muscle. Instead, you end up hating the gym, hating your body, and resenting anyone who manages to get fit. Those are some salty cookies.
What should you do? Quit working out and give up on fitness forever? No. Get your shit in order. Bake another batch of cookies, and make sure you actually follow the recipe this time. The recipe is not wrong. Lots of people have followed it with great success. It’s your execution that is wrong. It’s you, thinking you can achieve success with a half-assed effort. It just doesn’t work that way.
Life is just a collection of recipes. If you follow them as written, you will succeed. There is no secret sauce. I have yet to meet the person who does everything right and doesn’t get some gooey, delicious cookies in return.
“That sounds awfully boring. I don’t want to just follow recipes for my whole life. I am a trailblazer.”
Well good for you. I am too. But if you have never baked before it might take you years before you make your first batch of edible chocolate circles. When you are starting, follow a recipe. Repeat the recipe until you can bake those cookies blindfolded while sitting naked, playing backgammon in an ice bath.
Then you can slowly start to change the cookies. More sugar, less flour, tinker with small things at first. Begin to notice the outcomes, the effects. Start to try different recipes. Then, and only then, begin to start creating your own recipes. Yes, I am telling you it should take years before you are comfortable making your own cookie recipe. You are not going to become Ms. Christie overnight. If you can’t live with that, then buy your damn cookies at a bakery. (AKA get calf implants, Johnny Drama)
“But my friend Jenny baked for 20 minutes and won ‘who is the best chef in Nowheresville?'”
Congrats, that person is lucky, lying, or a phenom. You aren’t that person.
I see people all the time in the gym doing unusual workouts. I ask them what program are you following?
“Oh cool, how long have you been working out?”
Good God. I understand the importance of listening to your body and I preach it, but I promise you that with less than five years of workout experience you should not be concocting your own workout plan. Not if you’re serious about what you’re doing. You will not be able to improve on workout plans that have already been developed and tested by greats like Dan John, Pavel Tsatsouline and Bill Starr. For every year you have in the gym, these guys have a decade.
Swallow your pride, cut the ego. Listen to smart people. You have to earn the right to freestyle.
From now on, when you commit to something, stick with it. Make sure that the amount you have committed, will satisfy the threshold. Be honest with how much you can commit. When people ask me to design a workout plan, I always ask how many times a week can you guarantee you will go to the gym?
“Six days, easy,” they say.
“How many times have you been to the gym in the past month?”
Then you have about as much chance of working out six days a week as I do of sitting on Hilary Clinton’s face.
There is no shame in going to the gym 1-3 times per week. None at all. But if you are working out twice a week, while following a 6 day/week plan, you won’t get one-third of the results. You will get no results. You will get some shitty ass cookies. If you commit to going to the gym 2/week. Go for those two days. Don’t let work emergencies, tummy aches or pregnancy scares stop you from going.
I usually set my goal above what I need. If I’m on a 5 day/week plan, I go to the gym six or seven days a week. That way, if I ever need to miss a day, I am fine, and worst case I use the extra session to stretch and work on some weaknesses. I over-commit because I know life is going to throw some bad beans at me, and I don’t want to throw away what is important because my best friend has joined a pyramid scheme.
A requirement of whole-assing something is that you must say no to half-assing things in which you weren’t really interested anyway.
Do you want to attend a lecture on the history of the canoe? No. No, I don’t.
Do you wanna try Zumba with me? Sorry, no.
Have you ever wondered how chocolate is made? I haven’t, please never contact me again.
Make sure you keep room in your life so that the things you have committed to have space to breathe. If you commit to Olympic weightlifting, ballet, run club, and paddle boarding, maybe you will get it all done, but more than likely, shit will fall through the cracks. I often find that it’s the important things like exercise and diet, that are tossed aside because somebody commits to attend a Tupperware party.
The moral here is — don’t half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.
Start to see yourself as a person that sees things through, whether it’s fasting for a day, swimming in cold water, or not eating chocolate for a month. Slowly develop that self-perception.
Get it done, prove to yourself that you can. Determination and self-discipline are muscles. Make them strong. Every time you start something and quit, you are training the quitting muscle. Neurons that fire together, wire together. If you continue to quit so often, you will associate committing and quitting so closely that you won’t know the difference. Each time you are agreeing to do something, you will quietly be planning your escape route.
Instead, every time someone asks you to do something, you should think carefully because you are now the type of person who when they say yes, it means yes. People begin to count on you and your assent becomes the equivalent of a guaranteed RSVP.
Here’s a quick summary of perfecting your ability to whole-ass things.
- Start by deciding what you really want to do.
- Then, say no to all the shit you don’t want to, or know you can’t do.
- Set realistic goals. (SMART goals are an easy place to start)
- Stick to those goals like your life depended on it.
- Achieve the goal, probably faster than you thought you would.
- Pick a new goal.
- Become Barack Obama.
Life is too short to collect participation ribbons. Be the guy who follows through, be the guy who gets it done, be the guy people wonder how he gets so much done. Build your self-discipline to the point where you are more reliable than diarrhea after Taco Bell. While it may seem like you get less done by focusing on fewer areas, in the long run, there will be many more opportunities for those who can follow through. Good luck, and if you finished reading this article, congrats, you just whole-assed your first thing, don’t lose the momentum.
Thomas Walker writes regularly on his website. Thomas is a Vancouver-based writer passionate about health, personal growth, and mindfulness. He runs Projectkailo.com a site dedicated to sharing knowledge and motivating change. Follow projectkailo.com for more great content.
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