“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
The secret to getting started is breaking your overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”—Mark Twain
I’d hazard the guess that you’re a pretty busy person. You’re probably always on the go, working your way through your never ending to-do list. Between your schedule and obligations, it can feel that there isn’t enough time to focus on, well, you.
With this comes a feeling of overwhelm. You know you want to change your lifestyle to be a bit more healthy. You know you need to change. Time just seems like it’s a constraint that is suffocating you, rather than actually just doing its thing, ticking by elusively in the background.
Feeling this stress can make change really hard. You’re already in high-alert, trying to cope with all the shit going on in your life.
“Why would I want to start changing my diet and exercise routine when I can’t seem to manage everything going on in my life right now?”
It might seem counter intuitive, but the answer is actually quite simple.
When overwhelmed action is the antidote
It might seem a little out of place, especially with how chaotic your life might seem. The thing about action though is it’s a way to cut through the noise.
Once you do something, you feel how it affects you. More likely than not, you’ll probably feel good for taking action. Feeling good because you took action, you’re going to be more likely to carry that momentum going forward.
So let’s take action.
Pick one thing to practice
Try not to look at the entirety of your lifestyle choices, and highlight the mountain of change you must summit. Zero in on one thing to practice for the next two to four weeks.
Here are some daily practices you might consider:
Drinking enough water
Getting to bed at a decent hour
Meditating/deep breathing for five minutes
Eating enough fruits and vegetables
Going for a 30 minute walk
Going from zero to one is the hardest part.
To go from zero to one, you should zero in on one thing.
This focused attention is powerful. It’s like meditation manifested as physical action in the hustle and bustle of your life. It’s a signal that you can feel and sense despite all the noise around you. It’s the order in the chaos.
Make sure it’s sustainable
Whatever you think you can commit to doing, look at it through a brutally honest lens. Reality-test your assumptions. Most people take on too much at once, not too little. The result is this feeling of making massive progress quickly, then fizzling out because of fatigue, followed by a potential period of sliding back further than where you once started. Sound familiar? I know I’ve been there!
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
“Can I sustain this practice for the foreseeable future, despite potential obstacles that may come up?”
“Does this practice align with my priorities and values?”
“How can I shrink this change so that I can realistically stick with it?”
Adjust using outcome-based decision making
Your journey to success, however you’ve defined it, isn’t a linear path.
It’s more like a choppy line, full of plateaus, taking some steps backwards, but always (hopefully) moving in the right direction.
And this is the thing we need to focus on: trends over time - not moments magnified into more overwhelm. Moments are parts of life, not our life as a whole.
If consistency is one of the main variables for success in any program, then that means we need to figure out how to stay consistent. How do you do that? Get better at practicing outcome-based decision making and responding objectively.
“How’s this working out for me so far?”
“What results am I actually getting here?”
“What do I need to change or adjust to keep moving forward?”
“Can I understand clearly what this information is telling me?”
This is one reason why I’m a big fan of tracking resistance training programs. Most people go to the gym without a plan, and wonder why months go by and they aren’t getting stronger or building muscle.
Turns out they’ve been cranking out dumbbell rows with the same weight, sets, and reps for the last three months. Whoops.
Will writing your sets, reps, and weights down on a sheet of paper make you magically bust out more push ups? Not directly. But by seeing what you previously did, and knowing the purpose of the program, you’ll have a greater chance of knowing if you’re moving in the right direction. You can observe your trend.
This practice isn’t just for working out. No matter what you choose to do, whether it’s increasing your steps, drinking more water, or adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, you want to constantly reflect on how things are going. And always remember: Feedback, not failure.
What to do next?
Pick one thing to practice. Zero in on one thing. Overwhelm doesn’t do well in the face of more options. Make it easy on yourself, and start with something small and realistic.
Make sure it’s sustainable. The last thing you want is to commit to something that’s completely unattainable, or will stretch you too thin.
Use outcome-based decision making. Figure out a way to objectively track your progress, or at least spend time reflecting honestly with yourself about how things have been going. Embrace all information.
It’ll teach you a ton.
What have you been overwhelmed with lately, and how are you going to take a positive step forward today?
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, grab a copy of my Fit for Life Method, 5 simple habits you can follow to become the healthiest version of yourself. It’s all yours when you join!