What I want to share with you today is about the closest thing to a "fitness secret" that I've ever read because it's incredibly powerful, and it's honestly the answer to why so many people (myself included) struggle to do what needs to be done, despite our best intentions. I write a lot about grit, self-discipline, and determination. These are all concepts that incorporate the idea of free will, and how we're capable of making our own choices.
Note: In this article, I'm referring to "free will" as our decision-making superpower. Our ability to choose the path that is in alignment with our goals and how we want to live our life. But we know it's not always that simple right? Dan John, one of my favorite strength coaches and fitness writers, wrote about the concept of free will in his book "Never Let Go" (which is also one of my favorite books I've read in the last few years). He used this analogy in his book and I want to share it with you. It goes like this: Dan John compares our free will to a can of gel shaving cream. Why gel shaving cream? Well with gel shaving cream, one day you have a steady stream of gel, and then the next day, boom. It's completely gone. No warning. So what does shaving cream have to do with free will? Imagine you start each day with a full can of shaving cream. Every decision you have to make throughout the day is slowly draining that can of shaving cream (free will) and you have no idea or no warning when that can is going to run out. So when you've made a hundred decisions about what to eat, what to wear, what time the kids need to leave for soccer practice, what to bring to the dinner party this weekend, what tires you need to buy for your car, how to deal with your difficult coworker, etc, etc... Before you know it, you're empty. No warning. Despite every intention of doing that workout, meal prepping your food, going for a long relaxing walk, etc...if you've already used all of your free will and hard decision-making energy to make other choices, you have nothing left for the seemingly impossible tasks like working out 5 times a week. So no wonder "you just can't even." The tricky part is, most of the things in our day-to-day life that consume our decision-making power, are somewhat out of our control (even though it's our free will!). We all have responsibilities we must fulfill. There's no changing the fact that we all have to #adult.
So what do you do? How are some people still capable of reaching their goals while others struggle to tackle their bare-bones responsibilities?
Here are 3 strategies for reserving your free will for the things that will have the biggest impact on your health and fitness goals: 1. Outsource
Personal Trainers, meal prep services, and anything delivered to your doorstep these days are all ways we can outsource some of our decision-making that can consume so much of your willpower. The fewer decisions you have to make about meal prep, which workouts to do, and when, the more likely you are to have the free will to show up and execute. Let someone else do the work of developing your plan. Then just show up and execute. It sounds simple, but it goes a long way.
Obviously, as a coach, I understand the value and impact of coaching. This is why when I needed help getting my nutrition aligned with my physique goals, I hired a nutrition coach! Could I have figured it out on my own? To an extent. But the amount of time and energy I was pouring into the process was taking away the energy that I needed to do other things like focus on my training, grow my own business, and have some free time left over to be a normal human being! So to me, being able to outsource some of these decisions that were literally occupying so much of my brain space (the ol' paralysis by analysis), allowed me to reach my goals while also freeing up time elsewhere. Completely worth it.
Growth mindset researcher, Carol Dweck, Ph.D., says that "willpower needs help". Help comes in a lot of forms, but here I'm referring to social support. The more people you communicate your goals to and the more you can ask your inner circle for help, the more likely you are to follow through. Don't go at things alone!
In a world where most of us are wearing many hats and having to stretch beyond our normal abilities, it's important to remember that asking for help is a sign of strength.
If you're struggling with willpower and find yourself tempted to fall into habits that don't align with your goals, calling upon a support system is mandatory. Whether it's help from a friend, partner, coach, or coworker, look for people in your corner who can remind you why staying on track is so important.
It might also be important to get support from those you live with when it comes to building an environment that's conducive to healthier habits. For example, agreeing to keep junk food out of the house or limit takeout if you're trying to eat healthily.
The shaving cream analogy highlights that the more decisions we have to make, the harder it will be for us to follow through on other big tasks. So simplify. This means focusing on one goal at a time. It can also mean weeding out extra stressors in your life that maybe aren't necessary.
Are you doing too much? Where can you save time? What can be streamlined?
I'm sure you've heard this is why Steve Jobs wore all black every day. Fewer decisions, more free will where it has the most impact on your goals.
Wrapping it up...
This idea of free will has been one of the most valuable insights I've gained as a Coach, but also in my own training pursuits. When I'm feeling overwhelmed with all life is throwing my way, I go back to these three basic principles. Outsource, support, simplify.
As a Coach, in an industry where there are literally millions of different solutions clients could pursue to reach their goals, I keep it simple.
I'm a guiding light that provides a clear plan of action and makes sure you have all the details covered so you can turn your attention to the other areas of your life that need your focus more. All you have to do is show up and execute.
This is why I created the True Grit Strength Training Club. I wanted to deliver a cost-friendly way of providing a year-round training plan and nutritional guidance that makes it easy to just log in, follow the plan, put in the work, and get back to the other areas of your life that are important.
I'm opening up the Training Club to its founding members on April 1st. If you'd like to join at the founding member rate, shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject line "Founding Member" and I'll let you test drive it for free for one week. I hope these strategies help you refocus and pursue your goals with a stronger purpose, discipline, and grit.
To quote Dan John, "Choose wisely, and not very often."