This post is inspired by Dan John’s “Tough or Reasonable” and Ido Portal’s “A tip for the generalist,” as well as Precision Nutrition’s “Calorie Control Guide for Men and Women.”
Clarity and Focus in Exercise and Diet
Scenario #1: The Over-Zealous Eager Beaver
You suddenly become flushed with inspiration to overhaul your life, and with the best of intentions, you begin a super-strict Zone Paleo diet and an intensively exhaustive exercise regimen. What typically happens here? The majority of people who commit to this undertaking last a very short time before fading out and reverting to old habits. By attempting to change everything all at once, nothing actually sticks. (See BJ Fogg’s paper, “A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design.”)
Scenario #2: What Would Lao-Tsu Do?
You read about the Paleo diet and are very curious about whether or not it’s the right choice for you. In order to try it out, you decide to avoid bread for one week and see what happens. By Saturday, you notice your jeans fit a bit looser around the waist, and your energy levels mid-morning are more consistent. Great! The next week, you decide to subtract pasta from your dinner, instead adding spinach or kale. What happens in this situation? Flash forward one year in time, and this person has made several drastic, wholesale changes in their life by adopting new habits one at a time and ensuring that they last.
What is the point here? Most people who desire change in their life actually try Scenario #1 rather than Scenario #2, thus setting themselves up for failure by trying to change too many things at the same time!
Let’s adopt some Clarity and Focus in Exercise and Diet. For the next week, you are allowed one goal and one goal only relating to your fitness and nutrition. Be specific and meaningful here! For example, when practicing pull-ups, aim for one more unbroken rep than your previous PR. Or perhaps when eating out for lunch, have a lean meat and a dark, leafy green each day. Whatever you choose, be sure that at the end of the week, you can actually sit down and say that you’ve accomplished that goal! No ambiguity, vagueness, or lackluster goal-setting allowed.
Let’s take this a step further. Say that, like most people reading this blog, you partake in some sort of group exercise like CrossFit where your workouts are planned for you. How can you choose to make your own goals when someone else is designing the movements, reps, and sets each day? This is when you need to take individual accountability for your own movement practice. If the ‘WOD’ has back squats for strength but your goal is a 200-lb deadlift, then explain to your trainer that you are focusing on the deadlift that week. Similarly, if you really want to get that strict chin-up, then reduce the reps of banded/kipping/ring rows in the ‘WOD’ and do a few super-slow negatives each set.
I hope this has inspired some of you to reduce your scope and focus a bit more intently on what you want to accomplish. Take this concept and apply to other domains of your life. I have students in the drum corps world who are auditioning for indoor drumlines right now, and you better believe that they are doing nothing other than study, drum, eat, and sleep. Even if your job or family are your #1 priority (as they probably should be), you will still receive a greater return on your investment by gaining some Clarity and Focus in Exercise and Diet.
Thanks for reading!