Is There Such a Thing as Trying Too Hard?

Time really does fly.  Here we are at the start of February.  Time to take stock of how we’re doing on those resolutions.

According to the Franklin Covey time management firm one-third of us don’t make it until the end of January and only one out of five of us keep the resolutions we’ve made.

But do not fear – Fitegic Planner is here with her unscientific – yet incredibly accurate – opinion as to why this is.  It is my position that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, statistician, or millions of research dollars to figure this out.  It’s pretty simple.

We try too hard.

The television show The Biggest Loser has motivated millions to start on the road to attaining a healthy weight – and I’m certain that the show has resulted in a very significant number of people reaching their goal.  Many, if not most, of the contestants are “morbidly obese” meaning that their weight places their lives at significant risk.  The hope that this show has offered to those who might have previously thought there was no way out for them is priceless.

I think the popularity of the show also speaks to something especially relevant to American culture – we enjoy competition.

But this post is not for the purpose of discussing Biggest Loser.  Yet the show allows me to discuss the other side of the coin when it comes to American’s apparent love for competition.  The other side of the coin are those of us – I will go so far as to say most of us – who, while we love to watch competition, do not personally thrive as a “competitor”.

I’m a great example of this kind of person.  When my son played high school football you could not have found a bigger fan – and my husband has worried that people might think I’m being attacked when hearing me scream when, if they were to rush into the house to save me, they’d find that the Jets just made a touchdown.

However, put me in a game of touch football and you won’t find any killer winner instinct.  I play for fun. As a matter-of-fact I personally prefer solitary athletics like bicycling or jogging (can’t run anymore due to sciatica) over team sports because competing with others doesn’t give me a rush – whereas lowing my time or going a longer distance gets me high – just as long as the only person I’m in competition with is myself.

Now, New Year’s resolutions are not special – one can resolve to accomplish an objective or reach a goal any day of the year.  I’ve already talked about the difference between resolving to do something versus committing to do something – the major difference being that when we resolve to do something it happens in our head – we make a decision.  When we commit we deliberately carry that thought out by putting it into action.

Maybe you read that post and now you’re reading this post thinking I’m full of it because you did commit and you still find yourself right where you were at the end of last January – feeling like a failure because it’s been two weeks since you did that two-hour work out at the gym not to mention the fact that you gave up trying to limit yourself to that piddly number of daily calories because you felt like you were starving.

Don’t give up – you’re probably just trying too hard.

All you need to do is make a minor adjustment.

You see our love of competition includes the desire to WIN.  We see overcoming challenges as winning – and, of course, overcoming a challenge IS winning.

You might be experiencing a HUGE amount of resistance to what I’m trying to say here – it is almost “un-American” to think of ourselves as not “liking” a challenge or less than a competitor.

And there is certainly nothing wrong with setting challenging goals and meeting them.  Doing so brings meaning and purpose to our lives.  It is human nature to want to achieve and progress – and that means overcoming challenges and obstacles.

Losing 100 pounds was definitely a challenge for me and there were certainly many obstacles along the way to sustaining a healthy weight for 30 years.

But I definitely made mistakes along the way – mistakes I learned from.  One lulu of a mistake was when I set “maximums” for myself.  I’d plan – and even sustain for periods of time – extremely challenging fitness and dietary regimens.

And then I’d crash and burn.  Or my life circumstances put the brakes on.  Or both.

I learned to stop maxing myself out.  I started to set minimums.

What do I mean by a minimum?  Well, for years my fitness minimum has been some sort of cardio a minimum of 20 minutes a day at least five days a week.  My minimum dietary guide is 1700 calories a day (the level that supports sustaining my weight for my weight, height, at a moderate activity level) and my menu includes a minimum of two servings of veggies and two of fruit.

Does my personal Fitegic Plan include more challenging goals than those – you betcha.  But knowing I can (most) ALWAYS meet my minimum not only makes me “feel like” I am working to meet the challenge(s) of attaining my objectives and goals – I strongly assert that doing so is the major contributor to my both attaining a weight loss of 100 pounds and sustaining a healthy weight for 30 years.

Of course my minimums are designed to be effective strategies for sustaining a healthy weight.  It would be kind of useless to commit to strategies and tactics that didn’t meet those requirements.

Setting my minimums means I rarely see myself as “failing”.  How can I fail when my minimum efforts support sustaining a life-long healthy weight?

You see, setting a minimum means that I (almost) never have gotten completely off track.  Over the years doing “my 20 minutes” is as habitual as taking a shower in the morning.  And my calorie intake is very reasonable and doesn’t require much more than eating three satisfying meals and two small snacks.  Not exactly suffering – I can even sustain that on a holiday.

For me setting a maximum and then stopping because you can’t sustain it makes about as much sense as not going to work when traffic doesn’t allow you to drive the full 65 on the freeway.  When traffic conditions slow down – you just keep going.  At a slower rate for sure – but you still get to work.

 

So, if you’ve “given up” on your resolutions take another look at them.

Set realistic minimums and commit to them.  And go ahead and set challenges for yourself –  there is a lot to learn when you stretch yourself.  Stretching ourselves leads to personal growth – not just weight loss – plus it feels GOOD to do or achieve something new or that we once told ourselves we “couldn’t”.

But extreme (for you) challenge and competition are not the only ways to achieve objectives.  I contend that commitment, consistency, and perseverance are even more important than “giving yourself a challenge” or “winning a competition”.  How could they not be?  They are the same exact qualities used when the objectives are overcoming challenges and winning competitions!

You know who you are – if you’re a person who thrives on significant challenge and competition – go for it.

If you aren’t?

Let me put it this way:  Don’t think you have to train like a marathoner when 10,000 steps a day will do the trick.

 

 

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One thought on “Is There Such a Thing as Trying Too Hard?

  1. Love this advice! It’s true – slow but steady often wins the race. And as you become fitter…. you can get more done easier and it’s easier and easier to meet minimums or keep the same effort and make the minimums longer. And as you get better and better with the nutrition/cooking/shopping routine that gets easier as well… and you learn how your minimums come together with your food so you know what maintenance is like vs weight loss and can choose to do whichever you want to be doing.

    But really just one step at a time is all it takes, you can learn on the way, just start walking.

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