It was almost 6:30 am on a Tuesday. The sun was starting to peek over the buildings across the street. Guided and cheered on by my personal trainer Nicole, I was about to complete my workout.
“You are an ALL or NOTHING kind of guy!” Nicole proclaimed.
I focused on the movement and while sweat rolled down my face I proudly thought to myself, “Hell yes I am. And that’s exactly how I’ve managed to pull myself up by my bootstraps and build the life I now have.”
I felt a surge of energy and powered through the last couple dumbbell curls while balancing on the bosu ball.
Few things in life are more satisfying than having someone else independently arrive at the same conclusion as your own. And when you are a middle-aged man and that someone else happens to be a cute, super fit, infectiously enthusiastic, over-caffeinated-pixie closer to your daughter’s age than your own, well, it can be hard to keep your ego in check.
Finished and eager to hear more of her undeniably accurate and wise-beyond-her-years observations, I placed the weights on the rack and turned to face her. She stared straight at me unblinking for a second, cocked her head to the side and smiled.
“And that’s your problem!”
She continued, “If you miss a workout or you can’t exercise for exactly as long as you planned or you deviate from your diet for one meal – you stop until you can restart perfectly.”
My head pounded from the truth bombs being dropped.
She screwed up her face, sized up my reaction and delivered her coup-de-grace. “Instead of ‘All or nothing’, maybe you should strive for ‘Always something’.”
Suddenly my ego was back in check.
I wish I could say that from that day forward, hearing that bit of wisdom changed my life. But this isn’t a fairy tale and stories don’t always have happy endings – especially when the protagonist is stubborn and in denial.
But the truth of Nicole’s observation has stayed with me. And lately I’ve come to appreciate exactly how I have allowed my perfectionist tendencies to hold me back. My “All or nothing” approach has led me to long, exhausting but productive periods of ALL followed by equally long but ineffective periods of NOTHING. A classic case of a strength also being a weakness.
Need proof? You need look no further than the timeline on this blog. My last entry was June 5th. What have I been doing since then!? Well, quite a lot actually.
- Redesigned the site
- Scheduled and completed two Epic rides
- Posted pics to Instagram twice weekly
- Spent time rehabilitating my sprained ankle
- Started a strength building program
- Started counting calories
- Worked on RV updates and repairs
- Educated myself on WordPress administration and how to setup an opt-in email list
- Planned future blog posts
But the one thing I did not do was the only thing I needed to do…WRITE!
And it was all because of my “All or nothing” approach. I had solicited feedback on the blog and it was correctly pointed out to me that I wasn’t able to reach out to my readers because I neglected to provide them a way to sign up! This was true. I became obsessed with fixing that gap before I published another post. Sooo, what did I do? Of course, I focused ALL of my effort on learning how to make that technical change and did nothing to generate blog content.
It’s a freakin blog! It’s nothing without content to share! And oh btw, I still haven’t got the *&#*&) comment form working.
Sigh, another failure to throw on the heap.
We each have our own personal lessons and development opportunities. This is one of mine. Even now the flawed belief unconsciously influences my thinking. “Be strong and vigilant,” it whispers, “and someday you will overcome this problem once and for ALL.”
NO! NO! NO!
It is this thought pattern that is the actual problem. And frankly, I have thought it in some form or fashion for most of my 50 years. I can remember as a child spending hours coloring a crayola masterpiece, but if I so much as went outside the lines I had wanted to stay within…I’d violently rip the page from the book, crumple it, and fling it away. I can’t remember a time when that was not my approach. I was an ALL or NOTHING guy…even as a child.
And it’s caused me to fail at most endeavors that required me to make steady repeated progress over time. I still haven’t mastered the tenacious consistency implied by “Always something” – and it’s becoming clear that my ability to complete the Epic Escapade is dependent upon my doing so. Fuck me! I knew this challenge would require some substantial changes from me, but did they have to come so soon!
So now what?
Well, now I continue moving forward but with a plan focused on making steadfast progress on the following priorities:
- Increase my fitness (1a), health (1b), endurance (1c), and skills (1d) to ensure I can ride (without getting injured) all of the Epics and Epic Ride Centers.
- Sharing my journey with those of you inspired by the idea of embarking on an Epic Escapade.
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits says his research shows that most people will have an 85% success rate adopting new habits when they focus on just a single one. But how boring is that. Besides we’ve already established that we’re not after perfection. So in the interest of being the guinea pig, I am hereby publicly committing to imperfectly pursue the following actions:
- Begin exercising 3 days per week (1a)
- Begin counting all calories consumed daily (1b)
- Begin biking over 50 miles per week (1c)
- Practice bike handling skills over 1 hour per week (1d)
- Continue posting on Instagram twice weekly (2a)
- Begin publishing two blog posts weekly (2b)
I will report on my progress in one month (and yes that will count against the two blog posts per week goal!).
Till next time, commit to taking the next imperfect steps toward your own adventure….and let me know how it goes!