WHY CAN’T I GET THE THINGS I WANT?
You want to lose weight, you want a particular job, you want to make the team, you want a particular lifestyle.
Often many of us ask, ‘Why can’t I get that?’ It is also usually spoken in a tone that presumes that those that do have it; low body fat, good mental health, a cool job, the ability to run well, whatever it is, the tone presumes that they have it because of luck, or genes, or some by-chance thing. And that themselves, unfortunately, are the unlucky ones that will never get what they want.
The truth is that the reason you don’t have the thing is because you aren’t doing the things that those people do in order to get it.
You don’t run enough, you don’t manage your food intake, you hit snooze too many times, you pick the large meal when you really only need the small, you aren’t consistently showing up, you don’t consume enough of the information you should be, you don’t ask enough questions, you use excuses such as “too busy” to excuse yourself for your failures (or failure to ever start), you can’t be fucked trying for more than 4 weeks because you aren’t seeing enough progress, you are just plain lazy, you say you cbf after a long day of work (cbf is just another version of lazy), you want somebody to jump in and do it all for you, you stay up late on your phone resulting in a lack of sleep, you blame small genetic defects to again excuse yourself for your inability to succeed.
To repeat, you don’t do the things that those that have what you want are doing.
Those that have what you want don’t suck down magic kale and snail shell smoothies (or whatever the latest craze superfood is) every day, they don’t “intermittently fast” (they might skip a meal from time to time though), they don’t take fat burners, and they didn’t make it up the corporate ranks via daddy’s huge trust fund (some do, but not enough do for you to use it as an excuse for your lack of achievement). They did the things, more often.
It is all about reps, or “tonnage” as Jerry Seinfeld puts it. The more you do of a particular behaviour or action, the more that action becomes you, the more proficient you become at that action. I bet we could all claim to be the best tooth brusher on this planet! Why? Because the majority of us do it twice a day, every day. We are great and efficient and effective at it because we have accumulated a tonne of reps.
Of course there are outliers. The genetically gifted. But, they still did not achieve what they have achieved without putting in the work. It has been proven in most cases that ‘the born talent’ did not cause ‘the success’. It was in fact the early identification of a stronger than average skill set, which led to the parents leading the child to activities that foster the development of that talent. I became a fairly strong mid distance runner because I found myself quite good at it following my first ever cross country race in primary school. I didn’t win, but I did well enough to realise I was pretty good, and then because I also enjoyed it, I did more of it. The more I did, the better I got. Today I am a really good runner, because over time I ran a bloody lot! But! I am also nowhere near the most proficient runner out there. Why? Because there are a tonne of people out there that have put in even more reps than I have.
Writers become great writers because they write a lot, bricklayers become great bricklayers because they lay a lot of bricks.
Let’s use the fit and healthy example. Because this is surely the biggest “want” of the Western world:
If you are not willing to do the things that a healthy and fit person does, don’t ask why you aren’t as fit and lean as you would like to be. Just like a bad bricklayer doesn’t blame a lack of genetic brick laying ability for his shitty bricklaying, you cannot blame a lack of genetics for your lack of health. You lack health because you don’t learn and act and behave in a way which would cause you to become healthy. You don’t put in the effort. The shitty bricklayer sucks at laying bricks because he probably hates the job. He doesn’t care for the job, therefore he doesn’t try hard enough to get better.
This ‘effort and reps principle’ works the same with just about everything and anything. Playing guitar, striving for a high position job, becoming a pro cocktail maker. Put in effort over a long period of time and you will get results.
Putting in the effort and the reps will get just about all of us to where we want to go. Tonnage will get us there. But we must also understand that putting in the reps includes more than just action + time. It involves being open to learn more and more about your craft by auditing and asking where can I be better? When many people want to get leaner, they search for the Buzzfeed article or the cheap gym deal or the influencer that will tell them what they want to hear, the easy cure! But what the fuck does that teach you about you? It doesn’t teach you how to be truly healthy, it doesn’t teach you how to audit your own bad habits, it doesn’t teach you anything! It’s like a young, inexperienced stockbroker expecting to make it big right off the first stock trade he throws his cash at. It just isn’t going to happen. Only over time and experience and a gradual understanding of the market and research and learning and reps will he become a genuinely great stock broker. He needs to put in the reps.
Now where we tend to get stuck is that the workload required to achieve the goal appears daunting and hard. When in actual fact it isn’t. Often the work that is required to become something isn’t that drastic at all. We are atop mountain A, staring at mountain Z, completely oblivious to the 24 little mountains in between. We look at the elite athlete and forget about all the little things the elite guy has done for years and years to get to that point. The little things that you aren’t doing. The little things that individually are not that hard to do, but they just take time for change to occur.
To actually be lean and healthy (a very broad and subjective term mind you), your action does not include fat burners, chicken and broccoli, 1 weekly “cheat meal”, and over the top mindless slogging in the gym. It looks a little more like this:
- 10k average steps a day
- 3-4 mod-higher intensity gym/sport sessions a week
- 1 active activity with family/friends a fortnight
- 80% quality nutritional food, 20% energy dense food
- A couple of drinks a week (plus the odd blow out once every 2 months)
- 8 hours sleep average
- Regular open conversations and catch ups with spouse, a friend, a psychologist or a counselor
- Regular down time to check in with the self
- A manageable and enjoyable work:family balance
If you look at it this way, to be a lean and healthy person looks a little more achievable now doesn’t it? None of these tasks require supreme genetics, none of these require a kale smoothie either. They just require you to do the things. It might take time to include all the things, you might learn over time that some things work better than these things for you. You might realise that you don’t actually want that thing you thought you wanted. And that is okay too. At least you are now doing the things and not doing nothing, wishing you were one of those people that did the things.
Do the thing.