Remember being a little kid on a road trip with your family, and five minutes into it you’re already asking, “Are we there yet?”
Generally the response was something like “we’ll get there when we get there,” or “it’ll be just a little bit longer.”
Five minutes later, we’d ask again “how about now?”
Ever since I started running a website about health and fitness, I’ve noticed a key difference between people who find long-term success with getting healthy and those who don’t. When dealing with people who will NOT find success, I feel like a parent on a road trip.
These are the questions I get that make me feel like a parent:
- How long will it take to lose these 50 pounds?
- I’ve been at this for a month, am I there yet?
- How long do you think it’ll be before I have abs like Saint?
Today, I want to have an open and honest discussion with you about how long it will take to get healthy, to lose that weight, and to get that body you always wanted.
And I’ll answer the question, “Are we there yet?”
When people email me asking how long it’s going to take them to reach their goal, my response is always the same.
“Sorry but I don’t know!”
You see, there are about a MILLION factors that will determine how quickly you can reach your “goal,” for example:
- Your genetics
- How poorly you eat now
- How poorly you’ve eaten in the past
- If you already exercise
- How much you change your diet
- How you will exercise in the future
- If you will strength train
- If you are sleeping enough
- How much “grit” you have
- If you’ll give up when you have a bad day
- How busy you truly are
- If you will make this a priority
These are 12 off the top of my head. Every single one of those factors, and dozens of others, will determine if you can reach your goal and how quickly you will get there.
The problem with asking the question “how quickly will I get there” is that you are focused only on the end goal. We live in a society that is addicted to instant gratification; we don’t want to wait for anything.
We see The Biggest Loser and see dramatic transformations in a “week,” and then freak out when we don’t have similar success, not realizing the game is rigged.
We see celebrities and follow their workout plans and then get depressed when we don’t like Wolverine after following his 6-week ab workout in Muscle & Fitness, not realizing there are so many other factors at play.
We ask the “how fast can I get there?” question to tell ourselves it’s okay to put our bodies on an unsustainable pace until we reach that arbitrary goal. Then, we’ll get to relax, because we have “arrived.”
If you are looking to be healthy and stay healthy, I gotta tell ya: there’s no “after,” only a “during.” You don’t get to be “done.” And having the “are we there yet?” attitude is going to set you up for failure.
Stop worrying about “how long it will take?” and instead focus on “am I doing the right things to get me there in a safe, sustainable way?”
there’s no “after”
Although we have some AMAZING success stories on Nerd Fitness, the term “before and after” is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to getting healthy. Since there is no “after.” The key to success is finding a way to enjoy the “during.”
Our goal here isn’t to get people ‘shredded in 12 weeks!’ but rather to make people happy and healthy for the rest of their life. We want you thinking long-term lifestyle, rather than short-term gains.
When somebody is out of shape and unhappy, they convince themselves that if they could just “lose x pounds,” fit into “x size jeans,” or “bench 225lbs” then they’ll be happy.
This is scary thinking.
A few months back, I did an AWESOME interview with Molly Galbraith for the Nerd Fitness Academy, a former figure competitor and fantastic blogger. She discussed how she used to think she’d only be happy when reaching certain strength goals, or getting to a certain body fat percentage.
Not surprisingly, when she reached those goals, not only did she not feel satisfied or happy, she actually felt miserable:
- She was on a path that was unsustainable. Her body revolted, and left her feeling miserable, lethargic, unhappy
- She had reached her goals but felt no more satisfied than before, even though she thought reaching these goals would solve all of her problems. This made her depressed: “if I did this and I’m still not happy, what do I do now!?”
The problem with the “after” attitude is that life becomes one giant countdown until things get better. We stop living in the present and can only focus on that future “version” of us that is happy. Not only that, but we often push ourselves at an unsustainable pace to reach that goal (which can lead to injury, setbacks, and issues – a lesson I learned in Oregon Trail).
It doesn’t work that way.
I need you to stop dumping all of your eggs in the “destination” basket, and instead put your focus into building a journey that allows you to both improve yourself and enjoy the process.
Enjoy the Journey
At some point in your life, I’m sure your mom told you that “it’s not the destination, “it’s the journey that matters”…or maybe you saw it written on a bathroom wall in the world’s biggest truck stop in Iowa (I’ve been there, it’s quite large).
Listen, there’s nothing wrong with goals. Goals can be great. But I challenge you to find a way to enjoy the journey AND look forward to the destination.
Think back to the show “Lost” or “The Sopranos”: remember how angry people became when the ending didn’t live up to their unrealistic expectations, forgetting the 100+ hours of entertainment each show provided them along the way?
Dumping all of your emotional energy into “if I reach this goal then I’ll be happy” can be very dangerous, as Molly pointed out earlier.
Change your mindset, you must.
Goals are good, but putting unrealistic expectations on the result and underestimating the time required is a dangerous game to play.
There’s no magical amount of weight you’ll lose that will make you satisfied and allow you to go back to what you were doing before.
There’s no “look” that will let you say “I made it, time to stop.”
There’s no amount of weight you’ll lift that will let you think “okay, good enough. I’m done.”
If you reach a goal and are so thankful to be done that you quickly abandon all of the things you were doing, then your pace was unsustainable.
We don’t want you to crash and burn and crawl across the finish line for your “after.” You’ll quickly return to the “before” and get down on yourself for not being able to stay on target (when you were really doomed from the start).
Instead, our goal is to help you craft a journey that you love – a journey makes you happy and leaves you fulfilled. To build habits that are sustainable for the rest of your life. A journey that starts slowly but surely; a journey in which the YOU from TODAY is better than the YOU from YESTERDAY.
Embrace the process
Our goal for you is that you’re having so much fun on your new path and not struggling to maintain your new lifestyle that each day is an adventure.
Then, when you finally reach that goal you set for yourself all of those months/years ago, you’ll give yourself a quick celebration, and then you find another dragon to slay.
So how do we get there?
- Stop asking “are we there yet?” The truth is, we never really arrive. Instead, ask “am I better today than yesterday?” That’s the only comparison you can make.
- Stop worrying about reaching the destination at any cost, and instead put your focus on making the journey something you actually enjoy and can maintain.
- Go slowly. One habit built over two months (that you will stick with indefinitely) is better than 10 changes you’ll abandon as soon as you can.
- Put your faith in the process, and focus on what you can control every day. As long as you are heading in the right direction, you’ll get there.
- Celebrate small victories. One extra push up than before is a win. Eating one more healthy item this week is a win.
- Be thankful you get to take this journey. Be grateful each night for the opportunity to live.
I’d love to hear about a time when the journey beat the destination. A great TV or book series? An exercise goal? Let me know in the comments below!
PS: Speaking of The Journey, if you happen to own a Playstation 3, you owe it to yourself to download Journey, an absolutely delightful “game” that I loved from start to finish multiple times.