What you think you know about yourself may in fact be wrong. Just because you have had a few bad experiences with something doesn’t mean that you’re not any good at it. Just because you’ve hit the wall with how far you think you can take something, you’ve got another 40 to 50% to go. You have not taken it as far as you think. You’re just not there yet.
How often do we start something and try it once or twice and then quit?
How often do we say we want to get into shape, hit the gym for a few weeks and then life gets in the way? How often do we say we want to write the Great American Novel, begin, and then our efforts stall out? How long will we continue on with these charades? Our lack of stick-to-it-iveness is legion. It’s hard for us to stick to a new exercise regimen or diet plan or other behavior change. Very hard.
Adult behavior change is hard. In fact, it is one of the hardest things you will ever do. It requires effort, support, socialization, goal setting, and accountability, many of these most of us think we can do without. But the reality is we do not get nearly enough of them. Or, when they are offered, we push them away, thinking we do not need the structure. Only we need far more structure than we think. We wouldn’t be in this mess if we didn’t. The structure is what prevents the mess in the first place. The rules and parameters are there for good reasons. The rules and parameters are the structures that allow the behavior change to take hold and cement within us. They are the critical success path.
Take six-pack abs, something nearly everyone desires in fitness. Six pack abs must be earned. There is no other way to attain them. They’re desirable because they are so elusive, so hard to get. They amaze people. They wonder how you did it. Only the structure and roadmap to six-pack abs is straightforward. Do lots of core exercises: kettlebells, crunches, torture twists. And only eat these things here. Most people don’t want to do any of these things and so they never get close to the six-pack abs. The structure to earn them are the daily exercises and training, and the short list of exclusive things to eat. It’s a brief, simple structure, and 100% not easy to follow for nearly everyone.
There is divergence between saying what we want and our behavior that follows. We might say that we want to become entrepreneurs but never take the early steps necessary to become one. We might say we want to drop 30 pounds to our friends and family but never join a gym, never even step foot in a gym. We might say we want to find a new career, to better ourselves and our professional position, but never take the steps to make it happen. We might say we want to eat clean, but our household is still full of junk food. This jacks with us mentally because congruence is one of the foundational human drives. We need congruence between what we say and what we do, between what we say we are and what we actually are.
Be OK with sucking when you start.
So much of our lack of stick-to-it-ive-ness is our lack of being OK with sucking when we start. Of being easier on ourselves when we’re beginners. This includes behavior change. We are not going to be 100% perfect or great out of the gate. We will not align well with the new behavior at first. We will struggle, and nearly all of us despise this struggle. Yet the struggle is foundational to the change. We all know and accept change is hard, and yet we push back away from the struggle, not wanting to accept that it is necessary for the desirable change. We cannot have one without the other so we need to be OK with sucking when we start. We need what they call in Zen, the Beginner’s Mind.