Yesterday we looked at the plight of Sisyphus, how crushingly similar it is to parts of our own lives, and why we need to keep focus on pushing that rock (Day 4 of the 31 days of Blog series).
As much fun as shoving big boulders is (what do you mean “get a life”?), there are days when sheer force of will isn’t going to cut it. The rock won’t push itself, so here’s a few tips to get back on track and get up that mountain.
Understand the WHY behind it
The biggest motivator, or driver, behind sticking to something is having a solid WHY. By solid, I mean that it makes sense to you and has real meaning.
This could be tied directly to the task at hand - I’m running today because I want to do a 5k in the summer - or could be more indirect - I’m working this extra shift because I want the money to go on holiday with my partner/family. These are solid WHY’s, they have logical cause and effect (run today=better prepared for 5k, work today=money for holiday) and are things that can have emotional/personal meaning to you (this run is a step to being healthier and living longer for me and my family, this holiday will be a great experience for my loved ones).
Now, of those two things (cause and effect, personal/emotional connection), which do you think is more power? It’s the connection. If you’re able to vividly think about or feel WHY you’re doing this thing over and over, it’ll be so much harder to give up on.
Giving up on a run is easy, but giving up on your kids, a dream or yourself is not so.
Understand WHY you’re doing this, go as deep as you need to, and let it help you make the tough decisions to keep putting one foot in front of the other when times are tough. You don’t need to tell anyone, and you don’t need to be afraid of asking yourself honest questions of why you’re doing something.
Just create links and be clear to yourself WHY you’re pushing the rock.
Be Grateful for the Good Things. And the Bad
You can have the same life and process, but completely different outlooks.
Focus on seeing all the bad points, finding intricate ways life and people have screwed you over and pretty soon your vision will have a negative filter on it - everything you see sucks and you have reasons to believe it’s doing you harm somehow. The opposite is also true, look for all the good things, how they work to your advantage and what you like about them, and you’ll have a much more positive and happy filter to see the world with. Even the bad points become things that can be overcome and learned from.
If you’ve got a roof over your head, can read+write, can afford food AND a treat for the day, you are the 1%. Globally speaking. It’s easy to forget, because things could be better - well, not necessarily better, depending of your definition of the good life - but certainly more luxurious. That makes it harder to appreciate all the little things and how good we actually have it.
Yes, I have it better than some people, and yes some people have it better than me. It’s hardly a competition, so just focus on your own lane. What are the good parts of it all? What can you be thankful for?
Pizza exists (never take a piece of sweet pizza pie for granted), you’ve got your health (even small scale, think about when you’ve got a blocked nose and wish it wasn’t so - remind yourself by breathing in some lush fragrances), maybe you got a compliment for something (I don’t care how general, bask in it), and maybe you get to work with some cool people (I’ve worked with hundreds of awesome people over the years, stuck in the same building with them for weeks at a time and only a couple of individuals have been rubbish to work with - even then they’ve had some excellent moments and given me some great stories).
Even the rubbish parts. They just need a little creativity.
Your job is boring and downright frustrating, but isn’t it better than having nothing to do all day, and at the very least better than other jobs out there? You caught a stomach bug, but isn’t it nice having a warm blanket or movies to watch? People don’t appreciate the good we do, but isn’t the reward in doing the right thing itself, just being a better person, regardless of applause?
This part can be tough - especially when everything seems laid out to grind our gears - but maybe we should be gratefully that we’re strong enough to handle it.
Give yourself some props - you’ve made it this far, you badass.
Be Curious/Look Deeper
In mathematics, there are these abstract objects called fractals. Fractals weird little things that get more complicated the closer you look at them. The easiest way to think about them is like a branch of frost or lightning bolts - the main part has little branches coming off it, and they have smaller branches coming off of them, and they in turn have even smaller branches coming off of them… repeated to infinity. (For some interesting visuals, google “Mandelbrot set” or the “Koch Snowflake” and see how far you can zoom in).
The same is true of everything. The closer you look, the more questions you ask, the more complicated it becomes.
Ooo a striped top. Does that style have a name? What are Breton stripes? The French navy - why did the Brittany seamen want to wear stripey tops? Is it always the same number of stripes? Why 21?
We’ve gone from stripey top to learning about the French navy and some historical facts. Pub quiz better step up its game.
This could be applied to training too.
Ooo bicep curls today. Why curls? Why this wrist/hand position? What muscles are they working? What joints do they cross? Does a stretch in the shoulder, from leaning back, mean the biceps will be activated more? What angle is best? Do I need to use dumbbells or are cables an option? What effect will they have? How else can these muscles be stimulated?
We’ve gone from bicep curls to learning a bit about our bodies, and experimenting in training it with more than “just do more curls”.
You don’t need to go super deep or become an international expert, just ask a few questions and try to learn more about what you’re doing. Becoming more engaged and interested means it’s easier to stick to - way easier than “I’m doing this task because I got told to.”.
Look deeper. There’s a whole universe in there, waiting to be explored.
Experiment - Same Goal, Different Path
Carrying through on the look deeper momentum, why not experiment a little? The goal might be immovable, but that doesn’t mean we’re on a fixed path.
There’s more than one way to eat a creme egg, and it’s the same for pushing the rock.
If you’re looking to get better at something my go to is always “do the thing”, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to learn and practice it. You could read, watch videos, ask experts questions, try out different techniques, work on certain parts and do the whole later.
If your goal is bigger quads, what exercises could you do? What exercises that you currently do, could you do differently? How does foot placement/knee angle/back angle affect these exercises? What happens with different rep/set/superset schemes? Are there completely different styles of program out there?*
*(you betcha - German Volume Training, Daily Undulating Periodisation, Pyramids, 20’s, squats vs leg press to name a few. If only there was a super handsome fitness dude you could email or contact via social media for more ideas...)
The key part of experimenting is to make observations, and measurements if necessary. This way we can see if it works or what kinds of effects it has, maybe ask some questions and find out more. The beauty of experimentation is that we’ll all have individual results based on our unique situations and predispositions. One thing will work wonders for you, and be a waste of time for someone else. We can try to predict what will happen based on other peoples similar experiences, but we’ll never really know until we try.
One note is that the more general the goal (spend more time with family, get bigger muscles, get better at my craft), the more options, paths and ways to approach it are available to us. Which can be exciting and scary at the same time. Best bet is to pick a start point, and dive in.
The more specific our goal (I want to bicep curl 50kg in 3 weeks time naturally at 70kg bodyweight), then the more limited our paths are due to the specific outcomes required to hit the goal - we’re not going to learn much Spanish by taking Chinese lessons.
There’s still room to play about with the format, we just need to look a little deeper and ask more questions.