At my job, everyone thinks I’m this workout guru.
It’s kind of embarrassing (but mostly hilarious) how amazed they are that I workout everyday at lunch! You see, everyday I come to work and I set my pink Adidas gym bag on my desk. And everyday, without fail, a coworker will pass by my office, point to the bag, and make a comment about how much willpower and determination I must have, and how they would like to workout too but it just seems too hard and they could never run that long or lift that heavy or whatever.
Of course, none of this is true. I am NOT a workout guru and any one of my coworkers could workout like I do (maybe even better!) if they wanted to. The problem is, they don’t understand how tackling a big life change like working out regularly works. In fact most people don’t. I certainly didn’t, which is why I failed to workout on a regular basis until about three years ago when I finally discovered the secret.
Wanna know the secret?
Everyday, I get on the treadmill and start running. As soon as the belt starts to move, I know good and well that I need to stay on that treadmill for at least 20 minutes at an intense pace if I want to get a good sweat. But here’s the thing — I’ve been working out nearly everyday for 3 years and I still hate the treadmill. I hate running! It has never gotten easier. But I need to stay on it for at least 20 minutes for it to be worth my while. So what do I do?
Easy — I don’t run for 20 minutes. I only run for 30 seconds. 40 times.
As the belt begins to pick up speed and I move my feet faster and faster to keep up with the pace, I tell myself this half-truth: “Only 30 more seconds, Courtney. You got this!” So I clench my teeth, pump my arms, and start flying on that treadmill for the full 30 seconds. I give it everything I got. And when that 30 seconds is up?
I push myself again. “Just 30 seconds, Courtney. You got this! LET’S GO!”
Everyday, I still coach myself through 20 minutes on the treadmill, 30 seconds at a time. Even though I’ve been going to the gym almost everyday for three years, the thought of sprinting for 20 minutes is still daunting to me. If I focus on the full 20 minutes, I’ll immediately think of the pain. I’ll start making excuses. I’ll rationalize why I can skip the treadmill and go do something else instead. But if I focus on the next 30 seconds? The bite-sized portion of my goal? Now that’s something I can do. Anyone can.
Any that’s the point. If you are wondering why you can’t make headway, why nothing you set out to do ever gets done, why you have no willpower, why you’ve been writing in your journal for THREE YEARS about finally doing “the thing” but you still haven’t done it …the answer is simple. You are biting off more than you can chew. No one just wakes up one day, snaps their fingers and immediately loses 20 pounds, or pays off their student loans, or has a successful business, or lands their dream career, or stops procrastinating, or whatever. You have to BE WILLING to coach yourself through your big goal, a proverbial 30 seconds at a time.
You know how you’ll read an interview of some successful business person or celebrity or athlete, and the interviewer asks them how they got to where they are and they say something to the effect of “Oh, well you know, you just gotta start small…”? What they don’t tell you is not only do you start small, but you keep going small. The big grand vision is the destination, but focusing on the bite-sized steps, done over and over again is how you get there.
How to (Baby) Step Your Game Up
So practically speaking, how do you do this? The general answer is to take your goal, break it into super small pieces that are manageable to you, and go all out on achieving that one little step. That said, there are a few different ways you can do this. Here’s are the methods I’m using right now to step my game up in various areas of my life:
The Mini Upgrade
I like to call this method, “the mini upgrade”, because you take a bite-sized portion of your goal, do it, then add more and more bite-sized chunks to it until the total effect of all those little steps is huge.
I’m using this method right now as I overhaul my diet. For months now, I’ve felt like I’ve wanted to do a full out detox but I haven’t gotten around to it. But lately I’ve been feeling really sluggish and have experienced weird bloating (TMI, sorry!) so I’ve decided I’m finally going to do it!
Now I could have just ran to Whole Foods, bought a bunch of veggies, and attempted to drink nothing but green juice for 21 days but I know that would be a complete fail! I am so not ready for that! Instead, I’ve committed to making one small change every week until I’m at the point where I can complete a full detox.
This week, I committed to drinking at least 3 liters of water everyday. Next week, I’ll commit to drinking 3 liters of water + no dairy or grains. The week after that I’ll commit to 3 liters of water + no dairy or grains + salad everyday for lunch. I’ll keep upgrading my diet in a bite-sized way every week until I’m able to complete my detox goal.
The One Track Mind
I call this method the “the one track mind” because you focus on a very specific aspect of your goal and do not do anything else until you achieve it.
I’m using this method right now to step my style game up and build my capsule wardrobe. I just cleared my closet out last night and realize that I have a TON of clothes I need to buy. If I focused on building my capsule wardrobe in one shot, I’d either run up my credit card and get back into debt (been there, done that, no thank you!) or get so overwhelmed that I’d just quit all together. Instead, I’m focusing on finding the single most needed item (a pair of slim black work pants) before I buy anything else. Once I find it, I’m zero in on the next most needed item until my capsule wardrobe is complete!
The Mr. Miyagi Challenge
Now I actually didn’t come up with this method. The Mr. Miyagi Challenge is something that motivational speaker and blogger friend, Stacey Flowers came up with.
Now let me tell you, Stacey is currently working on a MONSTER of a goal. She is paying off…wait for it…$160,000 in student loan debt! Now unless you win the lottery, this is not a goal that can be achieved in one shot. You HAVE TO bite-size something like that.
Well, Stacey is attacking this with her method of “The Mr. Miyagi Payment.” You know how in The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi teaches the boy to be a karate champion by first learning to wax his car? (“Wax on, wax off!”) The motion of waxing the car and doing other seemingly insignificant movements are what eventually give the boy the skill to kick butt in his karate competition. In the spirit of Mr. Miyagi’s philosophy, Stacey is conquering her student loan debt by not only making her regular student loan payments, but by making a small, extra payment of $5.50 or more everyday. In her own words:
Everyday, I will make a PAYMENT of $5.50 or more.
If I only pay $5.50 a day for one year I will have paid $2000.00 toward my student loan debt.
Obviously I need to pay waaaaay more than $2000 a year to get everything paid off.
However this payment is designed to keep my goal right in front of me and make sure that I am making progress daily.
What I’ve learned about success is that it is really a series of small AWESOME decisions that lead to one GREAT result.
Think about it, if you told yourself that you’d had to pay $12,666 a month, to pay off your student loan debt, wouldn’t you want to give up?
This type of thinking would be the equivalent of me trying to bench press 250 lbs, even though I’ve never lifted the bar.
These small payments are like going to the gym everyday and getting comfortable with the bar, knowing that I’ll slowly add weights so I can build the strength to reach my goal of benching [160K].
Talk to Me:
What’s the one thing you’ve been struggling to do? How can you “bite-size” it to get it done? Share with me in the comments!
This Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 8pm EDT/7pm EDT, I am hosting another Girl’s Night In with Stacey Flowers! During this chat, we will talk all about achieving goals, finding happiness in the midst of your hustle, and of course — paying off those student loans!!! I so hope you can come, we would LOVE to have you. RSVP here!