Be honest, you and I both aren’t fans of making decisions.
We’ll do everything we can to circumvent or even push back the most stressful decisions of our lives. The act of taking action is scarier than the act of thinking. Still, when it comes to achieving goals—unless your goal is to do nothing—at some point, you have to take action. You must make a decision.
But that gets a little scary when your emotions creep in; once they get involved and start churning in your head, all hell can break loose.
Here’s the thing about emotions: they can be defeated by changing your perspective.
I get emails every day from people looking for the one hack, the secret sauce, to achieving their fitness goals. And most often this is my reply:
Practice where you want to be.
The Pain of the Beginning
Anyone who’s started a diet can tell you that those first few days, even weeks, are filled with a ton of emotions and struggles.
- Saying no to your favorite late night snacks
- The bland taste of veggies that you’re eating by the handfuls
- And the sweat (and sore muscles) you have to work through via exercise.
You made a decision for health and longevity, but there has to be a better way, right? A shortcut? A quick fix? A 5-minute-fat-blasting-ab-shredding-muscle-building routine that helps you lose 30 pounds in 30 days?
Our emotional perspective at this time is all about the goal, the end, your results.
This is all your emotions want. But what would happen if you changed your perspective?
What if you decided that instead of focusing on the outcome, you’d concentrate on the act of practice, first. And not just any act of practice. But the act of practice that the most successful people do every single day.
What kind of practice is this?
Pull up a seat, my friend. Because it’s story time.
I Can Fly Twice as High
I’ve never been eager to read books. Early on in my childhood, I knew that I was a visual learner. Show me how to do something, and I can (usually) do it. My mind works best with a ton of stimulus. It’s why video games have always worked for me: I’m a problem solver.
Reading, though, meant that I had to quiet my mind. I had to let my wandering thoughts sit still. Nine times out of ten, I’d get a few pages into a book, and I’d fall asleep. Or my mind would begin racing and my focus disappeared lickety-split.
Up until last year, if you excluded the books I was forced to read for school, I’d probably read less than fifteen books for pure enjoyment in my life.
A friend of mine, whom I look up to as a writer, told me point blank that if I wanted to improve as a writer, I needed to read more.
So, I did what anyone in the internet age would do today, I Googled: “how to read more.” And then I asked some of my more erudite friends about their reading habits. None of my friends proclaimed to be speed readers. They didn’t have any secret process or strategies for reading numerous books a month either. Except for one.
They read every day, no matter what.
For some of them, that means one to two hours of reading in the morning. For others, they read as a part of their nightly routine before bed.
And some follow Ryan Holiday’s advice and carry multiple books with them everywhere they travel, reading every chance they have.
So I came to a turning point last year. I knew that if I wanted to become a better writer, I needed to read more. But how would I do that if my brain could barely make it through a dozen pages before I slumbered off or lost my place because of my racing thoughts?
How could I catch-up with many of my friends and fellow entrepreneurs who are voracious readers? They had years of a head start on me. There’s no way I could read as much as they do in a month. Let alone a year.
So why even try, right?
It’s thinking like that that causes us to give up or not even attempt our goals. We create these daunting tasks and tell ourselves that our self-worth, or the opinions of others, are tied up in whether we succeed or not.
Those barriers aren’t placed by other people, though. They’re placed there by our minds; we construct the obstacles to our success.
And instead of doing the one thing that made my friends’ great readers — aka practicing where I wanted to be — I was far too focused on the mountaintop, the end goal of “being well-read.” Here’s something to think about:
You can’t get to perfect if you don’t practice.
And sitting around and lamenting about the literature that I’d skipped during the 30-years I’ve spent on Earth, wasn’t going to get me any closer to my goal. I needed to put into practice the concept of “practicing where I wanted to be.”
That meant reading every day. No matter what.
How I Begin My Day
And to make this quest a bit easier, I decided not to set a goal of reading a certain number of books by the end of the year. For one, I would’ve (probably) set the number so low and procrastinated until the last minute. And second, I knew if I’d reached said numerical goal by the middle of the year, I would have never picked up another book in all of 2016.
But achieving a set number of books wasn’t the point. The point was I wanted to not only improve as a writer but as a reader. And to do that, I needed to practice where I wanted to be. So I read every day. First thing in the morning, for thirty minutes.
I didn’t start with something huge like “read a book a week.” And I would have failed if I had tried to read one book a day. But thirty minutes?
That, I could do.
And if all I read in thirty minutes was twelve pages, so be it. If it took me a month to finish a book, fine. The point wasn’t the end goal; the point was practicing where I wanted to be.
By the end of 2016, I read nearly thirty books. A 200% increase from the total number I had read in my previous 29 years.
Then, in the first month of 2017, I finished five books in a month. Which, if I kept that pace all year, I’d double what I read in 2016. But, honestly, I could care less about trying to hit that number.
It Works for More than Books, Too
You can apply the concept of practicing where you want to be in your quest to lose fat and look better naked (or in eating more nutritious foods).
Too often, when you decide to go on a diet or start exercising, you try and do it all at once—you try to be perfect from the get-go.
But if you break it down, and practice one aspect that those who’ve had long-term weight loss success practice every day, you’ll see huge changes in a few months.
Here’s a list of what some of those practices are:
- Tracking everything they eat or drink
- Lifting heavy weights 3-4 times a week
- Walk more (be that 10,00 steps a day or 5,000)
- Eat more lean protein
- Consume more fibrous veggies
- Limit their consumption of liquid calories, aka drink more water
- Have a consistent sleep schedule
- Limit their consumption of overly processed foods
When you put these principles into “practice” — many of these are the same principles I used to lose over 50 pounds and now use with my online coaching clients — you’ll feel better, move better, and look better.
Practice Where You Want to Be
I didn’t become an overnight bookworm by reading every day. And eating more lean meat, lifting heavy weight for a week, or drinking more water for a month won’t turn you into a fitness cover model overnight. Remember: It’s not about the end; it’s about the process.
And when it comes to reading, the process for me hinges not on trying to catch-up with my bookish friends, but on practicing where I want to be.
So whatever your goal may be, don’t focus on the mountaintop. Stop looking for the finish line. Instead, look at what those who are the most successful do every day, and practice where you want to be.