How progress is made

I stumbled across this rather excellent quote from Thomas Henry Huxley this morning, and it summed quite nicely the foundation on which I firmly believe progress is made.

“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. It is the first lesson that ought to be learned and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.”

I often hear people talk about the psychology of training or dieting, as if this notion were an adjunct to the physical challenges of exercise or hunger.

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Not every workout will go to plan

MMA Heavy BagI worked from home today and didn’t have access to the gym. So that meant mixing things up and improvising with what I have at home… which isn’t much!

The “plan” was to unhitch the heavy-bag and go through a series of lifting, pulling, pressing movements with it as many times as possible in 20 minutes. This particular routine is more about metabolic stimulation than it is strength and conditioning…

Anyway, after setting-up and trying a few of the movements, I knew I’d miscalculated. On the downside, the “plan” went out the window within seconds as I quickly realized there was no way on earth I could complete the sequence as written. On the plus side, it turned out to be a grueling workout!

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That’s how winning is done!

balboaThis scene from Rocky Balboa gets me every time. Every. Single. Time.

Heck, I even have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I proof-read this post!

Yes, I know it’s a movie, and sure, the words are explicitly intended to create a sense of drama and elicit an emotional response from the audience. But there are quite literally thousands (millions?) of movies, books and theatrical works that try to achieve the same result and fail. Of course, one’s reaction to any given dialog or scene is a deeply personal experience. But why is it then, that this speech from Balboa to his son stirs so much emotion in me?

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Goals + Motivation ≠ Success

running-skyWhen individuals fail to meet their goals, they often attribute it to not being sufficiently motivated enough to see things through. However, in my experience goals plus motivation seldom equate to success.

Consider this common scenario:

  • A goal or desired outcome is conceived, usually as a result of some external influence, and motivation to move toward that goal is high.
  • For a few weeks, concrete progress is made toward the goal and you start to see results.
  • Then, just as everything appears to be going well, life gets in the way: Work gets busy. Events come-up. You travel. Friends and family vie for your attention. Chores need to be done. You get injured. You’re not sleeping well. The list goes on…
  • Slowly but surely, motivation wanes and progress slows to a crawl or even stops completely.

So why is it then that, despite having concrete goals and good amount of motivation, you don’t accomplish your aim?

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