Are We There Yet?


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?”

Nobody Knows!


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”

infinite road

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.


photo source: photosightfaces: runner, elisaboba: mountain, westpark: road, kennymatic: one way, Kay Gaensler: US 101

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54 thoughts on “Are We There Yet?

  1. I think this is amazingly important, insightful, and something I need to tattoo on my brain. I’m getting close to a continual mindset of, “Who cares – do what you do now because you’ll do it forever for health and you’ll lose weight as a side effect.” But the inner fat kid sometimes still implores me to try fad diets to lose weight quickly, though. Just gotta shut him up.

  2. Great article! In my own journey, I followed workout routines that others laid out for me, and as a result I didn’t approach it with passion. It was simply a means to an end. It wasn’t until I discovered what I loved doing (one heavy deadlift, and I was hooked) that I started working out for the sake of working out. It isn’t drudgery now. Today, I go to the gym and wonder how much weight I can heft over my head, and I happily notice the difference in my shoulders a few weeks later. The journey can be work, but that doesn’t mean it has to be miserable.

  3. Such a great article with many very valid and important points. In the past, I was really good at keeping up a tough pace when it came to eating habits and exercise, but, the way I was doing it, it just was not sustainable. My focus was mostly on short-term goals like wanting to look good for my brother’s wedding, losing “x” amount of weight by a certain date, or fitting into an outfit I really liked. I’ve matured since then and, gladly, I just can’t do it anymore.

    Nowadays, I am not fixated on numbers and figures and rushing to get “where I want to be” (wherever that is!). I don’t allow myself to obsess over the numbers on the scale, the calories I consume every day or how many inches I’ve lost since last week. I concern myself with my long-term goals, like being a healthy, energetic mom when I have kids, or never again feeling embarrassed about doing something or going somewhere because of my weight and how I look. I’m going slow and steady, and I DO see results! I can see and feel my progress at the gym and in my eating habits every single week. It’s sustainable and gradually becoming a way of life, a “during”, not an “after”.

    Like you said in the article, I’m celebrating the small victories and enjoying the journey.

  4. This article resonates with me. I’ve heard that similar question from a few people who want to know how I “got there”.

    Person looking to change: “Aren’t we there yet?”

    Me: “No, and if we are then it’s time to change up our goals.” 🙂

  5. The book Celestine Prophecy (Might not be correct spelling) was a truly amazing book all the way through until it got to the end which was just so sudden and bizarre. But when i look back, i think about all the great messages in the first 3/4 of that book and see the ending as nothing more than a stopping point for the story which continues in another book. The journey was most definitely better than the destination.

  6. I took a trip with my team this summer to play against another team several hundred miles away. The games went all right, although we lost both, but my favorite part was the trip itself. The hours in the car with my teammates and sleeping on someone’s floor in a big pile and getting lost trying to find dinner in the city were actually far better than the games. It was a good reminder that it’s the adventure that counts!

  7. This year, I will be thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. (Some of that is thanks to your inspiration, Steve, and the good folks here at NF–so thanks!) In proposing my sabbatical to my college, I found myself constantly tense and focused on doing the job that would GET ME THAT SABBATICAL. Then, there came a long time of waiting to hear if it had been granted. (My college was only offering one this year.)

    I started to realize in that time that the waiting was not getting ready for the journey, but was part of the journey. And once it was granted, I started in on (or, rather, continued) the planning process, which seemed terrifyingly overwhelming–until I started to look at it not as preparation for the quest, but the continuation of the quest that was born when the desire first struck me.

    All the old trail hands concur on very few issues, but one they do all seem to agree on is that, if you’re looking to the Canadian border as the “finish line,” you will not make it. It’s all about the walk, the sojourn, the experience. Getting to the end is actually usually a very difficult time for people to readjust after months on the trail.

    A piece of me started to worry that the journey might not be long enough: that it would all be over too quickly. Now I’m reminding myself that the journey will continue long after I cross the border, and it’s open to just as many possibilities and joys.

  8. Life style changes are always more fun than diets/fads. I’m crazy for doing this, and actually goes against everything in this article, but I have given myself a deadline with exercising. However it is to get as strong as I can. No weight measurement or anything like that, just the need to be there by July 12 when I do my first mud run. Then after my third one on August 2nd, my whole workout routine will get scaled back dramatically for a while to recover. I just started lifting about 2 weeks ago and am hooked! 🙂

  9. I think this quote from Stephen King from the end of The Dark Tower series definitely applies (spoiler free):

    “You are the grim goal-oriented ones who will not believe the joy is in the journey rather than the destination no matter how many times it has been proven to you. You are the unfortunate ones who still get lovemaking all confused with the paltry squirt that comes to end the lovemaking…. You are the cruel ones who deny the Grey Havens, where tired characters go to rest…I hope most of you know better. Want better. I hope you came to hear the tale, and not the ending. For an ending, you only have to turn to the last page and see what is there writ upon. But endings are heartless. An ending is a closed door no man… can open.”

  10. Great article Steve, but you answered your question right after you asked it. Journey was one of the best game play experiences I’ve ever had. Especially true if you play through with one “partner” and are both new. You spend the first third playing around, getting to know each other, the second third watching each others backs and learning teamwork, and the final third clinging to each other for survival. The ending was cool, but it was the Journey that mattered. The last few scenes are so emotionally charged the first time you play and even after its over you look back on all that was experienced with a smile on your face. Good call Steve.

  11. This idea of finding an end point has been a huge speed bump for me in trying to get healthy. I have done the P90X program and had great results, which all went away in a month after it “ended”. A few months ago I finally realised the life long changes I have to make to be the person I want to be and I am happy to do so.

    I am not a PlayStation guy and unfortunately was unable to play Journey, however I find the same appeal in Skyrim. I have sunk hundreds of hours exploring that world and not looking for an end

  12. I believe that 75% of weight problems arise from poor eating and undiagnosed food sensitivities. Everyone should try a 3 week elimination diet; eliminating wheat, soy, corn, dairy, sweeteners, eggs, and peanuts. Then see how you feel. If there is an improvement in the way you feel then re incorporate one item at a time to identify your problem food. Everyone’s genetics are different but 75% of people have a problem with one of those foods. Check out the Australian Food Intolerance Institute.

    After that is established then avoid all traces of the bad food for you. Cut back on all grains/starches…especially wheat, corn, and potatoes. 2-4 servings is all you need.

    Working out 3 days a week with strength cardiovascular and stretching is all you need per week.

    The goal is to do this for the rest of your life.

  13. Three years ago I started my journey to achieve good health and longevity. I expected to loose a certain amount of weight in the process. I have not lost the weight as I expected and at times I have vert discouraged. However, I remind myself of just what is said here. The changes I have made are for a lifetime, when reduce to the “ideal” weight it will be a bonus.

  14. Ugh this article is shaming me so bad. I’ve totally had the are we there yet attitude and I gave up this week because I got stressed out that I wasn’t losing weight like they do on TV. I need to get my attitude back in order and figure out how to make the journey more enjoyable. Cheers!

  15. Once again your timing is perfect. It seems when I am thinking about changes and goals I receive your nerd fitness email and its as if you have been reading my mind. Last November I turned 65. OMG. When I looked in the mirror I remember saying “when the hell did this happen? It was then that I realized that there was not a hell of a lot I could do about that mirror image, but there was a lot I could do about the quality of my life during this final part of the journey. No walkers for me! And so I slowly started to initiate a more paleo type of diet, bought myself a treadmill and took a look at your beginner training weights at home. So, in I jumped. My plan was to use treadmill each day at slower walk for 15 minutes to start. Then also do upper body training one day, then lower, leaving a day in between to “rest the muscle”. Oh my! I started off doing 3 sets of 10 each squats and lunges. I could not walk or sit (on the throne )for the next four days. The pain! And so I will now be smarter and learn how to walk first before I run. Perhaps just 1 set of 10 to start. :)). Thanks for this great article. I think that once we realize there are no quick fixes and that it has to be the “quality of life” as our main long-term goal. K

  16. This is a fantastic article. I’m going to keep it for the days my focus is out of whack. Little by little I’ve been reducing my carb and fast food intake. I’m not weighing myself a lot because I have a lot to lose. I’m trying to be motivated by the choices I’m making. Soon I’ll need to step on the scale with more regularity so I can see if what I’m doing is getting me closer to my goal.

  17. Steve – Am I wrong in thinking you’ve read the Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg? The second half of this post reminds me of it.

  18. As im sure many here would have seen for me a show that shows how great a journey can be is firefly. Because even though it is rather short it shows how amazing a journey can be and that you will want to experience the journey over and over again (lost track of how often I have seen it) regardless of the fact it reached its destination so fast.

  19. There’s this commercial with Blake Griffin where he says something along the line that he was once told to “Fall in love with the process of becoming great.” I think that same concept is infinitely applicable, and fits right in with this article.

  20. It’s intriguing how people tend to focus on the “loss” and over look the “gain”. Most people have weight loss goals but a small minority have a list of “gains”.

    By gains, I mean what value does your physical transformation bring into your life besides looking good? It’s ok to have weight loss goals but it’s important to focus on what you gain from your transformation journey not what you lose.

    Look at Saint’s story. He started his journey because he didn’t want to go down a path that would lead to a life decidedly less epic than he wanted. He DIDN’T start his journey to get a six pack.

    I believe that you need to articulate your true underlying purpose or a reason you deeply care about for starting your transformation journey.

    Like Steve said, enjoy the journey. Its actually a good thing if you face adversity along the way because it helps you grow as a person.

    To be honest, my transformation journey wasn’t fun in the beginning because I loved my junk food and TV shows. I slowly trained my self to adapt a new lifestyle and began to enjoy it.
    I have dropped over 70 pounds to date and have kept it off. And you know what, my journey isn’t over. I’m still carving my body but at this point my journey is much bigger than just transforming my body.

    I’ve immersed myself to a point where I’ve actually quit my day job – even though I don’t have another income stream – to build a community where transformations happen.

    My transformation journey has taught to believe in myself, live my true passions, and take some risks. I’ve grown leaps and bounds as a result of this journey which beats the destination any day.

    I wish more people experience the joys of this incredible journey.

  21. Wow – you took the words right out of my mouth!! I’m a fitness trainer and “preach” this to clients all the time!
    I’m often saying “enjoy the journey , not the destination!” I’ve forwarded this article to all my clients – thank you for such a great website. This came as perfect timing for one client in particular:)
    80% of all weight loss comes from mental toughness not physical toughness!
    It’s the Grit not talent that gets us to the podium!!
    enjoy the view as you climb that rock.

  22. Very nice article, I enjoyed it thoroughly. It sounds cliche, but it’s so true that it’s really all about the journey, not matter what the nature of your venture. I’m involved in a couple of big projects at the moment, one of which is producing and releasing my own album. I’ve found that the process flows least inhibited when I’m just focusing on the next step. If I think about the big picture too much, it can be totally counter productive… in fact it can be downright restrictive. Focus on the small things, the little victories, and eventually all the little victories will add up to one BIG accomplishment. This concept applies universally I think. After all, from the moment we take our first breath we’re on a journey. The destination is only an illusion, just another part of the journey. Thanks for the insight. Cheers.

  23. Awesome. I felt really stupid filling out the NFA survey, because in the ‘describe your level 50 you’ I kind of floundered. I said I honestly have no idea what my level 50 is anymore, because it’s killing me to try to pick x, y, or z and say I have to accomplish those things to define my worth or success. I’m just focusing now on the whole carpe diem thing and discovering what truly brings me happiness.

  24. Last year I was over exercising putting in miles and miles of running thinking that was the best way for me to lose weight and stay in shape, but my body started fighting me and I could NOT control my eating. I had trimmed down for a while and was feeling good in my clothes until I realized that I was gaining weight again despite my continued workout regimen and I was always super exhausted with that cloudy feeling in my brain. I finally decided to Google “Paleo” in November after hearing the term for the first time in September, and I found Nerd Fitness. This has opened a flood gate for me to information that’s helping me feel more in control of my life again. I’m changing my habits to be more sustainable for life rather than, as this article highlights, for a specific ending point.
    Every day now I work on visualizing how all of my food, exercise and activity choices will help me improve and maintain lifelong health and fitness both mentally and physically.
    I have to say that reading Staci’s story was a huge help when I first discovered this website. When I was done reading her story I felt really good about digging into Paleo even further.
    Thank you Steve, Staci and all of Nerd Fitness for all that you do to help and inspire people to Level Up in life!! I journal a lot and I’ve actually titled it on my computer as “Paleo – Level Up!! daily journal” because of Nerd Fitness. 🙂

  25. Steve! This article (and others like it) is the reason your website can stand side by side with any other on the web. Great message and fantastic honesty. I think your vision for the fitness industry is truly great. Please don’t stop with the great work!

  26. I wish you would have touched on one point that I feel should be adressed when talking about this topic: Weight-Loss journeys might not always have an exact goal, but shouldn’t there be quite the difference between how you eat & train when losing weight and how you eat & train when maintaining weight?

    I’m at the point where I reached and exceeded my arbitrarily set goal weight of 143lbs (down from 185 at 5’7”) over the course of 10 months, losing a good 4.4lbs per month. One of the big motivations for me during that time has always been the idea that once I have reached my goal, I can take the foot off the gas for a little, i. E. eat about the same, work out the same, but simply add roughly 350 cal to my daily intake which sort of is “arriving” and somewhat rewarding myself there. To think that I may never truly “arrive” seems quite daunting to me.

  27. Honestly, the journey is far more rewarding than the fruit.
    Everytime I try something I had never thot I would, like a pull up, then how the guy the in mirror LOOKS, doesnt matter anymore
    The feeling of accomplishing a performance goal is far superior than waiting to shed those last five pounds to get to the IDEAL body

  28. Thanks, Steve!
    Having a Service Dog, and various disabilities, hinders me from having the THERE that I want NOW! When I realize that I am HERE now – and that I can utilize my service dog, Gabriel, to help me get ON A JOURNEY, then I am able to take my time, smell the roses, pick up poo along the way…and come home to a good night’s sleep, only to wake up tomorrow to walk a little further, keeping Gabriel from the squirrels, and enjoying the sounds of the journey! Some days, I don’t like my journey very much, but those are the days that I go onto the forums, and find my journey mates…or snuggle Gabriel…and find a new reason to continue moving forward. Perfection used to be my goal, but I don’t think I’d like that ‘town’ if I could ever get there…so, I’m enjoying the progress, and seeing where it takes me every day!

  29. Steve- March 12, 2013 I set my self the goal of losing 100 ponds in 1 year. That year will be up in 2 weeks and I didn’t make it. What I did do was lose 80 ponds over the last year! This Blog today was timed so perfectly for me. I learned so much this past year but top of the list is “this journey will NEVER be done”. I have found success in reality and living life. My family can sustain this new life, it is a never ending, always changing, crazy journey and I want to thank-you for sharing very wise words today. Why don’t more people get this?!

  30. Sorry that i post this question here, but are there some ways to join the “Academy” by purchasing a membership via paypal? I dont use a credit card. I dont wanna miss out on a membership because im a skinny dude searching for ways to actually gain muscle weight efficiently. I hope you dont mind my bad english skills.
    I’d be happy if you answer me.

  31. In 2012 I took part in something called the Gold Challenge tied in with the Olympics in the UK. To raise money for charity I decided that over a year I would run 2012km and I really sucked at running! The whole thing ended with my first marathon which seemed like this HUGE end point but by the time I crossed the finish line, although I was really proud to have done it, it was the journey there that made the difference. Hitting those weekly and monthly goals, going out on days when I REALLY didn’t want to, abstaining from nights out when I knew I had to get some miles in the next day…the marathon itself was a mere 2% of my total mileage and one day in what was a year long life changing experience. I’m glad I did it, but for the most part I leave running to other people these days…

  32. Love being reminded of this lesson that there is no “there”.

    It reminds me of one of my favorite mentors from afar, John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball head coach, who said that after he retired, he didn’t miss all the games and the tournaments and championships, but instead what he missed was the practices.

    He loved the Cervantes quote of, “The road is better than the inn.” He was a huge proponent of the “Consistent progress; not perfection” model of coaching. And I would recommend any of the books written about him, or by him, to anyone who is on board with this concept as there are many highly valuable lessons to be had from what he learned building perhaps the greatest sports dynasty ever.

    As for the video game mentioned, Journey, I’ve never heard of it but I’m pretty new to gaming and have been glued to Madden 25 for the past two months. Talk about a game where you want to “be there” already. This post reminds me that it would be helpful for me to fall in love with practicing more so than winning games.

  33. how about the movie “Into The Wild”? that movie is about nothing BUT the journey !!

  34. great comment! I agree 100%!

    Just this summer I realized that I really couldn’t, like you said, “do it anymore”. I realized I couldn’t just be working like a robot anymore. I realized “what’s the point of life, if you don’t even enjoy it”. I realized I had to find what I liked, what I was passionate for, and go and have a life that im proud of, a life that is me.

    Nick (15)

    btw Great post steve!

    Really inspires me to move forward in life and to enjoy life and not just think of outcomes. Because in the end, if you don’t enjoy the process to the outcome, how will you ever reach the outcome?
    my cousin’s bf once told me, there’s only one gear in life, FORWARD. No park, reverse, or neutral.

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