When we set goals but direct limited energy towards fulfilling them and avoiding distractions, we get limited results. Developing skills, learning information in school, following diet and fitness plans, and nurturing relationships require focused sustained effort to succeed.
Inertia is powerful
We enthusiastically embrace a diet or exercise plan, sign up for a class, or decide on a skill to develop and work through tasks enjoying the accomplishment. Then we hit a wall. We get bored. We get off schedule. We don’t see results. We question why we started this in the first place. Our natural tendency is to stop or slow the effort until we return to the inertia from which we began. We know a little more but we didn’t accomplish the goal, perhaps feel a bit guilty and defeated, and return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Massive effort is needed to push through barriers
When faced with the wall we have choices:
- Stop immediately
- Muddle through with little effort and eventually quit
- Break through or climb over the wall
The difference between me casually leaning on my car and pushing it is massive effort. I can lean on my car and my weight may shift it slightly but the suspension will ensure that it doesn’t move. However, if I lean hard into the car, shoulder pressed against the trunk, legs pushing with great force, face grimaced with strain, and arms tensed with energy directed into the vehicle I get results.
Nothing seems to happen at first and I continue to push but then feel the slightest movement in the car. I take short steps and force energy from my legs into the car and after a few short steps the motion of the car is more pronounced. I can take gradually longer strides directing energy into the car until I find that I am pushing less but the car is continuing to move. I can then jog while pushing the car as it moves under its own power with limited input from me. It took massive effort to transfer to start the movement and less to continue the movement.
Nothing happens until you put your head down, focus your energy, and keep pushing until something moves. You struggle with Algebra, until you don’t. You wrestle with reading or writing that book, until you don’t. You fight your resistance to the diet or exercise program until it becomes something your body seeks. THAT is when you see the biggest results. If you give up you gain nothing.
Diet and exercise example
I noticed this with diet and exercise. I worked out several times a week and embraced a healthier diet. While I felt better than without these choices, my weight range was still too high and my workouts were not challenging. It was better than nothing but there was something better than this.
I read (and watched a Google Talks video) about magician Penn Jillette’s drastic “potato diet” where he ate only plain potatoes for two weeks then added vegetable stews to trim 75 pounds from his 322 pound frame in just 83 days. The reason?
“The thing is, I don’t respect moderation so I had to do stuff really intense,” he said. “What I was most surprised about was I used to consider myself a happy guy. I look back on it now and I kind of, sort of wasn’t. I feel so great now. It’s night and day.”
Nutritionists and doctors got distracted on the pros and cons of the one food diet, the nutritional effects, and other health factors and completely missed the point. It wasn’t the diet itself, it was drastic action, not moderation, that was the kick start for his weight loss. He gradually adopted a mostly vegan diet and has worked to maintain his health and weight.
This is what got my attention. I was eating healthy and so obviously my diet would keep me in a 2 pound range but I needed something more drastic to get down to the healthy weight and then use my normal diet to sustain that. Additionally, if I wanted to see better results in my energy and strength I would need to intensify my workouts.
The results have been great. I have broken through my weight plateau on a lower calorie diet and work out until I feel I’m ready to be sick. As a result my body feels stronger, I have more energy at work, and am noticing the weight loss. The type of diet wasn’t important (though I am NOT a one-potato man) it just had to be easy to follow for a given period to reduce the likelihood of giving it up. I add variety to my workouts so they are not boring but do not diminish the intensity. Your diet and exercise program should not be a prison but should challenge you and reward your efforts. Find the ones that work for you instead of the latest fads. The difference maker is the intensity of the effort you exert.
Apply effort to work and personal goals
Have you set goals to develop professional skills or achieve goals? You’ve probably considered some things you need to do to achieve those goals. What drastic change do you need to propel you forward, develop strong momentum that will carry you forward towards meeting those goals? Do you need to block time, get an accountability partner or coach, or make an investment? Usually we can identify one task that if we apply massive effort to move it forward will cause us to move much closer to our goal and provide incentive to keep progressing. Maybe you are stagnant and you need to big challenge or a new path. Identify what you need to break the inertia and apply the energy to that effort. But, as they saying goes, “If you keep doing what you have been doing you will keep getting what you have always gotten.”
ABC News: Illusionist Penn Jillette on Shedding 100 Pounds