When was the last time you took a break from working out?
I’m talking about taking a real break … not just a day or two off from your usual routine.
If you spend at least 45 minutes a day getting sweaty, most days of the year … probably for years on end … I’m talking to you.
You might go to the gym, run, or take group ex classes, or maybe you do exercise videos at home. And most of the time when you work out, you push yourself.
Maybe you need a vacation from your workouts.
BEFORE YOU THINK “STOP BEING WEAK” AND QUIT READING ….
Don’t Be Me
First, just so you don’t think I’m being Judge Judy: I am you.
Well, at least I was until a few years ago, when shit happened and I suddenly couldn’t work out every day. (Ironically, that “shit” was a bunch of random health issues and injuries I thought I was protected from because I worked out and ate a clean, balanced, and healthy diet, took my vitamins, and did all the “right” things.)
When I had to cut back on my workouts, I thought I would balloon up in weight, or suddenly lose my fitness base, or I don’t know. It just seemed like something bad would happen, or maybe I just wouldn’t feel like myself any more.
For sure, I would lose that odd virtuous feeling I had after a good workout. (See? I know you.)
Not working out every day sucked, big-time, until I noticed something.
On the days those random health issues weren’t nagging at me, I actually felt pretty great.
Fewer Workouts = More Energy
I had energy I didn’t know I was lacking before. It took me a while to realize this, but little things started to change.
One night I noticed that I wasn’t stressed about getting to bed at a certain time. Seriously, I used to be obsessive about getting enough sleep, so that I could make it through the following day.
But the realization totally hit home when, on a weeknight (OMG!) I found myself getting ahead on my weekend chores. There I was, standing at the kitchen sink, thinking, “Who am I? How did this happen? I’m like a normal person, but I didn’t even know I wasn’t normal till now.”
Because usually, I would have collapsed on the couch, nodding off till bedtime.
Are You Part of the <5 percent?
Now, remember: I’m a personal trainer, so fitness is my pretty much my life. I work out, I have taught (easily) hundreds of group ex classes over the years (which require hours of practice), plus it’s not unusual for me to demonstrate exercises for clients several times during training sessions.
Meanwhile, most of us struggle to find time to work out a few times a week – due to our schedules, interest, or motivation. Truth: according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, only about 5 percent of Americans get 30 minutes of exercise a day.
Even though I was so active, according to the medical literature, I also wasn’t in the overtrained crowd, or even in the overreached crowd.
Mostly, I was in the over-worked-out crowd, as are many of us who include “fitness enthusiast,” “gym rat,” “exercise nut,” “athlete,” or other exercise-activity descriptor in our identity.
I Dare You
If any of this is you, I’m throwing down a dare. I dare you to unleash the beast. How about you take a week off?
And THEN, after that week, try working out only every other day. Do that for a month.
You won’t fall apart. You won’t even lose strength or fitness. And you also won’t gain weight, unless you start eating extra.
I promise. Like 100 percent promise.
Seriously. Be a real beast and be brave. Be human. Just try it.
About 3 weeks ago, I started a “30-day get-back-into-shape” plan. I’d just come off a bad spell – including a weekend in the hospital. That’s a long story all on its own, which I’ll write about soon (when I’m feeling brave).
Basically, though, I was sick of feeling sick.
My plan was going great. I was working out every day (just right, not too much), making headway on some business and personal stuff, and I was happy with the progress I was making.
Seriously, even though I was concentrating mostly on cardio exercises during the first week (part of that long story), I was getting stronger. One night I had my group training session clients do some sun salutations, and I was surprised at how easily I could lower into chaturanga without going to the floor, and push into full upward-facing dog.
It felt amazing.
In fact, that’s when I started thinking about putting together a real 30-day plan for this blog, that I could do in real-time with my readers. How awesome would that be? (Awesome!)
And then that let me to think:
“Slow down, speed racer. You know how it’s gone these past few years. If you make this a ‘thing,’ you’re gonna jinx yourself. Instead, write about it offline as you go, get the 30 days done, and THEN publish it for readers to follow along with.”
‘Ha, Ha, Ha!’ Saith The Universe
The next morning I woke up at my usual time and walked the dog. I noticed I felt colder than usual and generally “off.” I couldn’t seem to warm up when we came inside, so I took my temp.
It was 94 degrees … on two different thermometers.
Now, on the one hand having a low temp wasn’t shocking, as I was just coming out of a significant thyroid “crisis,” caused by a medical snafu (that long story I referred to above). And I always run a low temp anyway (again, thyroid).
But on the other hand, that’s ridiculous. I bundled up, drank some hot tea, and kept moving, and eventually my temp came up a little bit, so I went to work.
By nighttime, I was downright sick, with a real fever this time, and for the next three days all I did was sleep.
That meant I missed a major exam I was supposed to take for an advanced qualification I was working toward. Plus, I’m self-employed, so my income took yet another hit (part of the long story).
Mostly though, I basically 1) felt like shit and 2) was beyond embarrassed by this nonstop barrage of problems. Plus, I was exhausted and I looked like a stoner because I was so tired.
Not very fit-spirational!
To top it all off, I developed shingles … and out of the blue my knee started hurting, which made me walk with a limp.
Did you ever see the old Mary Tyler Moore show, where she goes through a bad spell? It’s considered one of the top 100 sitcom episodes of all time – it’s called Put on a Happy Face. It’s a classic because we can all relate to it.
When I went to see my doc, a few more things came up (part of that long story, having to do with thyroid issues).
We agreed: I was in the midst of a bonafide “spell.” Like, all I could do was laugh. But … also not laugh.
Because how would I turn things around?
How to Get Out of a Rut
… or stop getting your ass kicked, and start kicking ass instead.
I already knew the answer, and I sure wish it was sexier. There’s only one real way to move forward, even if you’re in the middle of a “spell.”
The bad news: It’s the opposite of following a 30-day plan.
Now, I already knew all this based on my numerous (ha!) years of experience both living my life and coaching others. But the thing is, like everyone else on the planet, I wanted a plan that took me from A to B to C … preferably as fast as possible.
The good news: The key to moving forward is simple, whether or not you’re in a spell.
You just have to keep moving ahead, probably more slowly than you like, at least to start.
The bad news part two: You have to be patient, do stuff you might not always want to do, and get a little uncomfortable from time to time.
Seriously, I’ve used the whole “be patient, take your time, do a little bit of something every single day” routine numerous times. It’s how I got into fitness in the first place, after a partially misspent youth. It’s also how I achieved my goal of writing for major newsstand magazines, got a publishing deal on a book, trained for and finished a triathlon, prepared for a bodybuilding show, and more.
Chances are you won’t move toward your end goal in a straight line, and you might even back up/move sideways a little. You might even move at a snail’s pace.
Also, chances are you are gonna have to make some trade-offs along the way.
We’ve all seen the meme:
It’s pretty accurate.
And none of this means you can’t follow a 30-day plan. But what it does mean is that it might take 45 (or more) days. You might change vehicles mid-trip. You might decide you actually enjoy the scenery on a particular detour, and you could even change your ultimate destination.
The thing is, you just can’t stop.
Here’s my plan. Do a little working out every day. Load up my diet with nutrient-dense foods (I have a great recipe tomorrow). If I’m tired, rest.
Reevaluate in a week.
Are you ready to start with me? I have a feeling that the trip is gonna be worth it.
In the middle of a personal sh*storm – dealing with financial, health, or family crises.
Faced with too many things to do in too little time.
Overtired, overstressed, or just plain “over” stuff.
What does this have to do with fitness, you ask?
Kind of everything. I’ve spent the past 10+ years watching and listening to overwhelmed clients try to do it all. And I’ve heard them talk about their sore backs, their knees, their hips, and their shoulders. It’s as if they are carrying the weight of the world. And yet they think it will all better better if they just do more … and do that more even BETTER.
I’ve also been there. Over the past couple years, between some huge business/work changes, battling a pesky health bump, juggling online/offline work, walking my never-enough-walks dog, AND trying to get my own workouts in, there have been days I didn’t know which way I was going.
So Much To Do, So Little Time
My grandmother, who also was an entrepreneur, had a saying: “I’m so busy I am going to meet myself coming around the corner.” (She also occasionally said she was “busier than a one-armed paper hanger.” She said a lot of non-corny things, too.)
Anyway, when you’re in the middle of all that overwhelm, it’s normal to think: “I just need to get organized.”
But have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling overwhelmed, any attempts you make to organize your mind/tasks/life/stuff don’t ever stick?
That’s because when your mind is overwhelm mode, you can’t get a handle on exactly what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how you’re going to find the time, and often, how you’re actually going to do it.
Plus, when you’re struggling with brain clutter, you somehow seem to come up with even MORE stuff you have to (or want to) do. It’s a crazy self-perpetuating cycle.
Get Quiet, Get Clear
Before you can organize your tasks, your life, your stuff, your finances, or whatever … you have to do one thing first.
You have to clear your mind.
I know. Sounds impossible, right? When your thoughts are running you with a never-ending list of stuff to do/think about/etc. how are you supposed to shut them up?
Take it from me: going on a massive multi-tasking binge to get caught up on a few things first is the exact OPPOSITE of what you need to do.
Instead, try to STOP and get quiet … even though you think stopping is going to make it worse.
Taking some time to pull back and declutter your mind is totally worth it.
And here are some simple ways to make that happen.
8 Ways to Declutter Your Mind Backed By Science
1. Take a Nap
When you’re tired you’re especially prone to feeling overwhelmed.
When you haven’t had enough sleep, the pathways in your brain just don’t work the way they are supposed to. Your brain’s info-filtering system has a hard time differentiating all the input that’s being thrown at it.
And that means making decisions is even harder (1).
Seriously, what’s one of the first things you would do for a fussy toddler who can’t seem to get comfortable or happy? You’d think: “If only they would just take a nap.”
Try to take some time to chill, and if you’re freaking out about wasting time, set your timer and let yourself relax for 20 minutes. It’ll be worth it.
2. Write Down Your Feelings
One of the best ways to clear your mind of clutter is to take the time to write down your feelings/thoughts/tasks.
Here’s a huge hint that you will benefit from journaling. If the idea of taking the time to write down your feelings makes you feel stabby … like you have NO TIME for it, and it’s a stupid idea… it means you should do it.
Trust me. I’ve felt that way on numerous occasions. And then I’ve picked up my notebook, written for a while, and felt so much better that I vow to write in my journal every day (which I mostly do).
Anyway, study after study points to how beneficial journaling is to our well-being (2).
I find it to be especially effective if I do it as soon as possible after waking up, either in the morning or after that nap I mentioned above.
Write down how you’re feeling and thinking, organize your thoughts, and you’ll start to see your priorities develop, which will help get you out of overwhelm mode.
And if you’re worried someone will read what you wrote, rip up the pages. Problem solved.
This is another one of those things that if the idea of it makes you feel grouchy or like kicking the wall, maybe you need some of it in your life.
You’ve probably noticed over the past few years that meditation has moved out of the “woo-woo” sphere to become more mainstream. That’s because more stressed-out individuals have found it to be an effective tool to clear the clutter in their heads.
When life is hectic, do you ever feel as though you’re having a non-stop conversation (with yourself) in your head? Like your thoughts are scattered and out of control? That’s called monkey mind, and it’s a real thing.
But here’s another real thing: meditation helps soothe that monkey talk (3). Study after study has has pointed to the powerful effects meditation has on our brains.
It also has been proven to help improve coping abilities and resilience (4).
Try the Headspace app for some meditation assistance.
4. Go Outdoors … Maybe Barefooted
Getting outside to enjoy the sun and earth is huge when it comes to changing your mood, in so many different ways.
First, sunshine itself has powerful impact on your mood, energy, and sleep quality (5).
Second, if you go for a walk somewhere in nature – the woods, a meadow, the ocean, anywhere you aren’t surrounded by dozens of buildings and honking traffic – it can help qualm what Stanford researchers called “a maladaptive pattern of self-referential thought.”
Which basically is ruminating on negative crud. You know, like all that brain clutter (6).
Third, and maybe this is deep into the woo-woo sphere, but there is a growing belief that actually “grounding” or “earthing” your body by walking barefooted outside can help reset your body’s systems. It’s all rooted in bioelectricity.
I mean, if you think about it, your body actually DOES have an electrical system, one that operates all the way down to your cellular level. And electricity is a natural force on the planet. Yet we are the only living beings that do not (at least now, in modern times) regularly come into physical contact with the earth’s surface by walking on it.
Many alternative and integrative health practitioners (and even some mainstream ones) are suggesting our bodies “recharge” by coming into contact with the earth … that it makes a difference in our moods, our sleep, and maybe even more (7)(8).
5. Go for a Run (or Walk!)
There are so many reasons that workouts – like running and walking – help you feel better mentally.
Cardio exercise has a direct impact on the hormones that help you get stuff done (it’s true! there are hormones for that!) (9).
It also can help boost your mood and reorganize your brain for resiliency (100).
And if you do it outside (see number 4, above), you can get even more benefits, whether it’s from mood-boosting sunshine or extra calorie burn (11).
Listening to music when you run is even more beneficial.
Why? A Ohio State University study recently discovered that when someone exercises with music, it activates the area in the brain that deals with a higher level of mental function (12).
6. Spend Time with a Pet
For most people, pets aren’t just animals – they’re beloved members of the family.
And if you have a pet, you know that spending time with them – you know, actually patting, walking, or playing with them – brings you to the present moment. Pets don’t get preoccupied with their to-do list, their phone, or anything else (except maybe sniffing things, but that’s another story).
Anyway, that present-ness is incredibly centering.
And not only that, if you spend quality one-on-one time with an animal, it triggers the release of oxytocin in your body (12). Oxytocin is commonly called the “love” hormone, as it is helps increase feelings of warmth, well-being, and affection (13).
If you don’t have a pet, take a few minutes to watch one of the thousands of cute pet videos on the internet. You’ll get a dose of cuteness – and relaxation – without any strings attached.
Even though I have pets of my own, some mornings I watch cute pet videos online and they always start my day with a smile.
Seriously, check out this video of cat fails and try not to laugh.
7. Cut Back On Sugar and (Maybe?) Caffeine
What food group do we crave when we want a quick hit of energy or a mood boost?
Carbs, of course. And what do carbs contain?
Sugar. (Of course.)
But here’s the kicker. While sugar might temporarily elevate your mood and power you through that brain clutter, there’s the inevitable sugar crash, which can leave you feel agitated, tired, stressed and … overwhelmed.
Eliminating sugar from your diet is hard, but reserving it for sweet treats is easy, once you start to feel your mind calm (15).
Caffeine, meanwhile, is a tricky little beast. In the right amount, it can help give us focus and energy, but too much and we’re heading to the land of chaos. (16) (17). As with most things that can cause dependence, moderation is the key.
8. Set a Timer and Do Something
On paper, Saturday mornings should be an upbeat, relaxing time for me, because that’s when I finish work for the week and have the rest of the weekend off.
But often when I get home from the studio on Saturday, I’m super stressed. That’s because I start to think about everything I want or need to get done during the weekend, and when I think of the list I’ve created for myself, I get overwhelmed.
And that overwhelm makes makes me want to say “screw it” and take a nap (which actually isn’t a bad idea, as per item 1 on this list … except on Saturdays I’m really not that tired, just overwhelmed).
So here’s what I do instead.
I pick one thing on my to-do list (say, clean the fridge), set a timer for 15 minutes and I crank it out.
Sometimes I listen to music when I do this, sometimes a podcast. Sometimes, nothing.
It’s kind of awesome. Once I have knocked one thing off my list, it gives me a feeling of accomplishment and focus to do at least a couple more things before I kick back and enjoy my time off.
Make Some Brain Space and Feel Better
Taking advantage of some of these tips should help you get more organized overall – and also help quiet “monkey mind.”
One of the things I found when taming my own monkey mind – an ongoing process! – is that just as we develop physical habits, we also can develop habits with our thought patterns.
Taking a few moments to “declutter” our thoughts to break the overwhelm cycle goes a long way toward getting more organized with everything long-term (18).
Even if you’re currently the most disorganized person you know, it’s not impossible to change… with a little help from your mindset.
There’s nothing like a good motivational video to get you fired up for your day.
I know that when I’m feeling a little off (or lazy, uninspired, or like chucking all my goals), it can be hard to pull myself back on track. I have lots of little tricks – journaling, getting outside, working out – but sometimes even those tricks don’t work.
That’s when I go in search of motivational videos.
If you’re having one of those days, at least one (and maybe all) of these videos will help pull you back on-course.
1. Make The Choice For Toughness
Lesson: when it comes right down to it, success is a matter of heart, and if you have the heart, you have the will to succeed.
Duncan Keith definitely exemplifies this. He trains hard (mind, body, and spirit), eats clean … and he shows that he definitely pushes past the pain/discomfort to get the job done.
It’s all about making good choices, whether or not things are going your way.
2. Change Your Thoughts to Change Your Life
Do you lack motivation? Or find it hard to stay motivated?
What if motivation isn’t the real issue? Our brains are not wired to like change – in fact, change might even go against our survival instincts.
Here’s how to make a mindset shift and retrain your brain for success.
3. Define Your Strengths, Define Your Life
Misty Copeland is the first African-American female principal dancer for the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, after overcoming early rejection.
Her story is always so compelling!
4. A Single Choice Can Change Your Life
How Henry Rollins went from being an assistant manager at a Haagen-Dazs shop to becoming the lead singer of Black Flag.
“I don’t have talent, I have tenacity,” he says, adding that he knows he has to “watch, shut up, and learn” to succeed.
5. Be The Hero(ine)
There are so many great Joe Rogan motivational videos it was hard to pick just one, but this is a classic.
Your life is a movie … be the hero, not just a supporting character.
6. Be Good, Treat Others Well, and Treat Yourself Well Too
You already know what you need to do.There’s no magic involved.
Just do it.
Still not sure? Joe breaks it down for you in simple, easy-to-follow steps.
7. Destiny Is Calling You: Are You Gonna Answer?
This compilation from Oprah teaches that “failure” isn’t really failure. Instead, it’s an opportunity to correct your course so you can move closer to your best life.
She says each feeling of failure, loss, or unease is a cue to move in another direction.
8. Here’s Where You Find Your Motivation
Most of us wait for motivation to strike, but here’s the thing: it rarely just shows up for us.
Retired Navy SEAL and podcaster Jocko Willink says you can’t just “turn on” motivation, drive, or passion.
Instead, he says it boils down to your reason why, and he outlines how to discover that.
9. Find Your Greatness
What is greatness, and who can achieve it?
Where does greatness live, and what does it look like?
Here’s a series of playful videos from Nike. (Don’t try the pogo stick trick. Ever!)
10. Still I Rise
In this video, tennis great Serena Williams reads the powerful poem “Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou.
11. Be Unconventional
Uncommon habits, unpredictable results.
Skiing legend Bode Miller talks about how he pushes his limits through unorthodox means.
12. Celebrate Your Life
In this compilation video, women from across the world talk about finding pride and self-confidence in the face of adversity – often when their cultures didn’t encourage it.
They share inspirational stories of overcoming amazing odds.
13. The Power of the Solitary Traveler
This video talks about the challenges of solo endeavors, of overcoming and achieving goals on one’s own.
Using inspirational quotes, it outlines how the hardest walks lead to the highest destinations – and if you work hard, the right people will show up in your life, and you won’t always be a lone wolf.
What are YOU going to achieve?
How do you stay motivated? Do you have any favorite videos? I’d love to see them.
If this post pumped you up, I’d appreciate a like or a share. 🙂 Thanks!
Sometimes yes they are (built-in workout!), sometimes no they are not (carrying tons of stuff).
The truth is, even though I climb them probably 10 to 12 times a day, I never really give them a second thought. Or maybe it’s because I climb up them so much that I rarely think about those 28 steps (plus landing).
I did think about them today, though. And what I thought wasn’t so good.
Post-leg-workout, I found myself juggling a heavy gym bag, two bags of groceries, a bag of dog food, a water bottle, and a dog on a leash … oh, and let’s not forget the DD blackberry fruited iced tea I’ve recently become addicted to.
Standing at the bottom of the stairs, trying not to let anything drop, I decided it was probably prudent to pay attention to what I was doing. Because, you know, #safety.
When I’m in autopilot multi-tasking mode, things tend to go wrong. I end up dropping the water (or iced tea) all over myself, one of the super-thin grocery bags rips, or the dog decides something smelled really good two stairs back and she just HAS to backtrack and check it out.
So this morning, before attempting the summit, I let the dog off her leash, rearranged all my belongings, and looked up to see exactly what I was dealing with.
And I was like: Woah. Those are some stairs!
Suddenly, climbing them seemed like it was going to be a lot of work, and I felt kinda bad for my little dog, because based strictly on the size differential, it takes a lot more effort for her to scramble up them than it does for me.
It was a little jolting, to be honest.
Do you ever find yourself in a rut on autopilot, motoring along with your eyes straight ahead (or if you’re me, IN your own head)? When you’re in this mode, you don’t notice a lot of what is happening around you. And you might even THINK you’re seeing the entire landscape … but you’re wrong.
You think you’re safe, you’re doing the “right” thing, and that your path (rut) is where you’re supposed to be. But then … the universe announces that it has some significant other plans for you.
Plans you’re not so sure about.
I dunno about you, but at least for me, so far it’s been a wacky year. Until pretty recently I was just traveling along in my rut. I wasn’t necessarily happy in that rut, and I also didn’t know how to get out of it, so I just kind of numbed out.
But then things I never expected to happen have happened … and they’ve had an affect on me far beyond what I would have imagined.
Among other things, a family member died, and then another one passed away shortly afterward. Plus, a company for which I did a significant amount of contract work phased out a huge portion of its business, leaving me in a scramble mode.
And, let’s face it, the world is just kinda weird right now, and it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s fake.
All of those things left me kind of reeling. They have forced me to step back and reassess … just as I did this morning, with the stairs … but here’s the thing.
They also made me realize that the eyes I use to see things with probably don’t see things the way they truly are.
None of us do. We see things a certain way because of how we were raised, our education, events in our lives, where we live, the people with whom we surround ourselves, and even our ever-changing biochemistry.
I remember one of my science teachers explained how there are things we know, things we don’t know, and there is even more stuff that we don’t know we don’t know.
And it’s that stuff that we don’t know we don’t know … the stuff we are too myopic in our daily lives to ever notice … that really goof us up.
Take a Fitness Vacation
What does this have to do with fitness/wellness/health/mindset?
You will not change … and neither will your physique or your health numbers … unless you get out of your rut … and out of your comfort zone.
Do you do the same kind of workouts every week? The same resistance workouts, the same weights, the same cardio, using the same-old, same-old formula? What about your diet? Are you getting the results – the life-long results – that you want?
Or maybe you’re not doing any of those things, because you just can’t seem to get moving.
Here’s a radical idea. TRY SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT before the universe decides it for you. Intentionally knock your plan out of autopilot for a little while and see what happens.
Try a different workout – a dance class? Hike a mountain? How about sprints at the track? Mountain biking through the carriage trails? Maybe do a stairclimbing workout? (Hehheh: important tip: never run DOWN stairs.)
Or maybe say: For this week only, every day I will go for a walk or do some kind of movement for 30 minutes, and I will see how I feel at the end of the week. One of my Facebook friends just did this with running, and he posted about how great he felt for having stuck with his goal.
Maybe you could decide to get rid of all sugar in your diet for a day or two, just to see what it’s like. You could tell yourself that for one week, no matter how much your mind tells you otherwise, you’ll eat at least one salad a day, or go without nighttime snacking, or replace your coffee addiction with green tea.
New Ways of Seeing
You know how when you go on vacation, you can get a helpful shift in perspective, because of the new things you’re seeing/doing?
Go on a little detour with your plan – try something different.
Be brave! Intentionally hop out of that rut and see what the landscape looks like. It doesn’t have to be a big “thing” or huge production.
Mix it up. Because you never know when the universe is gonna decide to mix it up for you.
Let me know what you’re going to do to mix things up in the comments below!
Are you a planner? Or do you like to fly by the seat of your pants, letting life unfold spontaneously?
My natural inclination is to let things unfold – and many times, listening to my gut has put me in the right place at the right time. If you’re like me, you probably can think of several incredible opportunities in your life that seemed to magically appear – as if they were “meant to be.”
But when it’s been time to actually make that magic happen – to meet the challenge of those opportunities head-on – I’m most successful when I buckle down and follow a specific plan.
For instance, when I decided to compete in figure shows, I followed a step-by-step plan for my workouts and my diet.
When I landed a book deal I was completely unprepared for (long story, but definitely part of letting things unfold), I had to create a detailed plan to get it written … in a month … while still managing to train some clients.
And one more: when I suddenly found myself out on my ass from a business partnership, and an unexpected new opportunity for my own business unfolded in front of me, I had to figure out how to make it work, and that required a plan.
Make the Plan, Work the Plan
This morning, after spending a sleepless night fretting about some long-term stressors, I wrote a step-by-step plan to finally eliminate them.
It’s a pretty awesome plan, if I do say so myself.
But here’s the truth. I’m not sure it’s much different than some of the other awesome plans I’ve got tucked away in notebooks on the bookshelf next to my desk.
Here’s the thing about plans:
They are a map to get you from where you are now, to where you want to go.
Having that map – a structure – is comforting.
Writing a plan makes you feel like you’re doing something toward your goals.
Nothing is going to actually happen unless you actually follow the plan.
That’s right: it all comes down to action. Checking the to-dos off your plan is the only way that plan is actually going to ever work.
Otherwise, nothing is going to change. And also, if you keep changing your plan before it has a chance to get traction, you’re going to stay stuck.
Action is Everything
How do I know this?
Because of those unfollowed plans tucked away in my notebooks.
Why didn’t I follow those plans? Who the heck knows.
Maybe they seemed overwhelming or like too much work. Maybe they interrupted the status quo. Maybe I didn’t “want” the outcome badly enough. Maybe I wanted to take a nap or eat a cookie.
Or if you believe in predestination, etc., it wasn’t “my time” to follow them.
Anyway, chances are you’ve done the same thing.
There’s just one simple difference between the time you actually follow the plan and the time you don’t.
It’s not that complicated. In fact, it’s very simple – there’s no magic involved.
You commit to the plan. You decide to follow it even if you don’t feel like it all the time.
It goes like this:
You make a good plan.
You follow it for a specific period of time.
And then at the end of that time if it isn’t working the way you want it to, you revise it.
And you rinse and repeat until you reach your goal.
You continue doing that, even if you don’t feel like it on some days.
Winners vs. Not-Winners
I’ve been lucky to watch people achieve some pretty incredible things.
I’ve coached people for bodybuilding shows and through successful weight-loss journeys. I’ve had numerous friends train for and complete marathons and MMA fights. I’ve worked with young athletes driven to succeed in their particular sport.
I’ve also sat on the sidelines as I’ve watched entrepreneurs grow their businesses and peers build successful careers.
None of that stuff just “happens.”
Nearly every single time, all of those achievements have come about when those people put in the work, even when they would have rather been doing something else.
They’ve been alone in the gym grinding through a workout. They’ve stayed up at night, tapping away at their computer keyboards. They’ve run miles before we’ve woken up, and they’ve made phone calls while others waited for people to just show up.
They know today what they will be doing tomorrow. They know tomorrow what they will be doing next week.
They tune out the naysayers, and focus on the finish line.
And at preset intervals, they assess their progress toward that finish line and, if necessary, make minor changes in their plans to help get them there faster.
That Thing About ‘Adulting’
This isn’t easy.
One of the biggest challenges as an adult is that you often don’t have someone standing over you, making sure you do all the things you need to in order to be successful.
Chances are, no one stands over you in the morning to make sure you get up early enough to complete your morning routine. No one’s cooking you three square meals a day. At work you might have a supervisor who oversees your daily activities, but anything extra? That’s all on you.
In the past, I’ve used coaches to help me. Sometimes having a coach has worked for me, and other times I skipped out on them (and, yes, on myself, too). And I’ve worked with clients who no-showed on me, too, when they were struggling with following their plans.
So, basically, there are two choices. You do, or you do not do.
And once you decide to do, actually do what it takes to get it done.