July 15, 2012.
That was the first day I walked into a gym after never wanting to pick up a weight again.
I would exercise here and there, but it was never anything momentous.
I stopped exercising completely after a really bad day in my P.E. class in high school. I told myself I would never step foot in a gym again.
But then I found a reason.
I realized that I lacked a certain “something”. I didn’t know what it was. After a couple of unfortunate experiences, I realized I lacked physical presence.
I was tall, but I was lanky. I looked like I would easily buckle if put in a fight (which wasn’t true at all) and that I couldn’t be relied upon for protection.
As much as people say “personality counts”, we are still a very visual species. We rely on external cues to keep us aware of where and who we are in physical space.
Every day as you go throughout your day, you are running quick assessments about everyone and everything in your environment.
“He seems friendly.”
“She looks mad, better stay away from her”
“If there was a fire in here, what’s the best exit?”
My visual cues portrayed that I wasn’t the top dawg. I wasn’t “the alpha male”. I was easy pickins for someone who wanted to start a fight or seriously harm me.
People liked me, but I wasn’t really respected. And if people don’t respect you, good luck.
In order to change that, I started going to the gym.
I was terrible at first, like we all are.
My form was bad, I was doing the wrong exercises, I was using the wrong machines, I was eating the wrong foods.
I could have quit there.
But I persisted. I kept going.
I had training partners. Many times, they didn’t show up. I didn’t feel like going most days. I had days where I thought it was a waste of time.
But I persisted. I kept going.
Slowly, over time…I got better and better and…better. My form improved. My muscles responded. Exercising got easier. More enjoyable even.
Now, who I am is a vastly different person from who I was.
It only happened because I decided to just. start.
The REAL Truth About Change
As mentioned in the article on why most people don’t keep their New Years’ Resolutions, many people are excited about starting something and about the possibility of transformation.
But when push comes to shove and grind time happens, they’re nowhere to be found.
A person starting a change will run into two obstacles.
- Change is uncomfortable
- It requires effort
We will break these two down.
1. Change is uncomfortable
The human body is kept in a state of homeostasis 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Homeostasis is your body’s way of keeping your bodily temperatures, functions, and processes at a constant equilibrium.
During physical exercise or strenuous mental activity, you will push your body outside of this equilibrium.
Your body then sends a signal to your brain saying:
“Hey! We don’t like this! This is stressing us out!”
This is received in the form of physical or mental agony.
You will either let this agony dictate your life or you will use your self-discipline to transcend this agony.
The former is how regrets are made, the latter is how champions are made.
2. Change requires effort
In order to change, you need to start. In order to start, you need effort. In order to summon effort, you will need willpower.
Willpower requires a pressing demand on the brain’s resources. Human beings have the distinction of being lazy creatures. Laziness is inherently a virtue. Without laziness, we would not have a wide array of the conveniences in our world.
However, our laziness also leads us to procrastination.
Procrastination leads to never starting.
The Truth About Professionals and Amateurs
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” – W. Somerset Maugham
We think of people who achieve incredible feats as super humans. We think of them as people who have what we don’t, when in reality all they did was remain consistent and persistent.
When it comes to work, hobbies, chasing dreams, anything else, there are two types of people in this world: the professional and the amateur.
The Professional Mindset
The professional doesn’t wait until he gets inspired to do his work. He doesn’t wait until he “feels” like it.
He just puts in the effort, he puts in the reps. Even when…they’re shitty.
For him, it’s about the practice, not the results.
The Amateur Mindset
The amateur relies on external validation. He relies on outside factors like people telling him he did a good job or for the weather to be 70 degrees with a clear sky.
He needs potions, tricks, hacks, all kinds of voodoo in order to do his work.
He needs “motivation”.
When it comes time to show the work, he is nowhere to be found because he doesn’t have any work to show.
The Main Difference Between the Two
Everyone wants to be a professional. Everyone wants to make more money, lose weight, ride off into the sunset with the girl of their dreams, and live a more expansive life.
However, many people will not because the road is too hard. It’s painful to just start and be a pro.
Professionals make progress. Amateurs make excuses.
Professionals use their time wisely. Amateurs waste it.
Professionals manage their internal state. Amateurs let the external world manage it.
Professionals are precise. Amateurs are sloppy.
Professionals are concerned with execution. Amateurs are concerned with perfection.
Professionals close. Amateurs start and never finish.
Getting Better Requires Ditching the Amateur Mindset
If you want to achieve your goals, you need to get rid of the amateur mindset.
The amateur mindset is one of grasping, of drifting, of dabbling. It is ultimately selfish. The amateur can’t give because he has nothing to give.
If you wait around until you’re motivated, you will be in the grave long before that happens.
Motivation does not produce results. Discipline and consistency do.
During my own physical transformation period, there were times when I had every excuse in the book not to go to the gym.
I wasn’t sick, I wasn’t injured, I just didn’t “feel like it”. I was “tired” (even though I got good sleep the night before).
I just didn’t want to drag my ass to the gym. There wasn’t any other reason.
A professional doesn’t mean you’re a “master”. You take what you do seriously.
You take it seriously by starting and continuing until your goals are achieved.
You take it seriously by being a closer.Motivation does not produce results. Discipline and consistency do. Click To Tweet
How to Just Start…Whatever
So now you know the importance of starting. Here’s some tips you can use to help you do just that.
1. Utilize Your Willpower
Willpower will take you a long way in this journey. It will get you through the tough times when you have no one to rely on, not even yourself.
Unfortunately willpower is a finite resource. You only have a certain amount of it for use each day and it tires out as you make decisions (also called decision fatigue).
You avoid using up willpower by streamlining your actions. Make it easy to make good choices and harder to make bad ones.
Then you can use your willpower on the things that really matter, like getting important work done.
2. Build a habit
The only way you will stick with what you start is to make a habit around it.
When you get up first thing in the morning, do you make your bed or check your phone? You probably don’t think about it because it is habitual.
You can only build a habit by repetition. Starting and repeating an activity will soon make it a habit.
But in order to make a habit, you first need willpower and momentum.
Starting is Hard, Finishing Is Easy…Peasy.
It’s easy to fantasize about starting but actually doing the thing is difficult.
But once you have started, you go through the period where you suck, you start building up momentum. Momentum will carry you the rest of the way to your destination.
When you’re staring down mountainous terrain like you would on a hike, starting the hike seems impossible because you’re already thinking up millions of scenarios that will never happen.
Coming back to the gym example, I have so much momentum in that area that I don’t even think about going to the gym. I just do it. There is no friction.
Summon up your willpower to start. Continue to use your willpower until you make your action a habit. Automate it and move to the next thing.You will never regret starting, but you will regret never finishing. Click To Tweet
Let me know in the comments, how are you planning to start something and see it to its completion?