Planning to plan to fail: The true keys to success

I have a pretty consistent history of being inconsistent with exercise.

I’ll start some sort of workout and a couple days, weeks or months later I’m back hitting the snooze button on my physical fitness.

Mastering the plan of planning to master

Before you start offering to send me your workout plans, know that my lack of consistency doesn’t have anything to do with not being able to make a plan.

I’m amazing at making plans.

When I was a kid I would create elaborate schedules and details about whatever activity, event or things I was trying to do.  I was basically creating spreadsheets before I knew what spreadsheets were.

By the time personal computers came around I was already proficient in doing all the stuff they were supposed to do to make life easier.  Back in my 20’s I could schedule — down to the last detail — my training programs.  Computers just added fuel to my organizational fire.

If there had been a black belt for making exercise plans, I’d have been training the guy who wanted to get it.

The Disconnect: A history of failed attempts

So, if my plans were so awesome, why wasn’t I successful?

In my 20’s I thought the problem was related to a lack of having the right process.  I researched a lot of different plans for different things, always trying to figure out another method.  From ancient practices of Indian Dervishes to modern sports science, I was always looking for a better way to do what I wanted to do.

However, always trying new things wasn’t really the answer, because it didn’t help with my core issue: a lack of consistency.  The thing is, ALL of those methods would have worked if I had just given them each the time necessary to have a result.

But I didn’t.  So they didn’t.

In my 30’s I started focusing on making more elaborate plans.  After all, if the methods were working for others, then I just needed to make sure I had organized my schedule so precisely that they HAD to work.  (I still hadn’t figured out that consistency thing yet.)  So, I would create these super detailed plans, even hybridizing some of the various methods I had learned before to create some new “super method” that would be the answer to my dreams.

Again, the same problem.

No matter how detailed and organized and logical a plan is, if you don’t follow it, nothing will ever change.  duh.

It looks awesome on paper, but it wasn’t practical because I didn’t take into account the fact that life almost never works out the way you want it to.  There is always a wrench thrown in to make things interesting.

The lesson?

Keep it stupid, simple

In my 40’s I realized that complexity wasn’t the answer.  I focused on going down to the core simple truths. Instead of figuring out the secrets of ultra running, I just focused on what it takes to walk.  Instead of fine-tuning a weight training regimen worthy of an Olympic trainer, I just focused on 5 core strength training exercises.

And it worked!  At first.

The simpler my plans, the easier they were to keep.  I started a simple walking plan and within a couple months I was able to walk 8 straight hours covering 30 miles.  I started a simple nutrition plan (Tim Ferriss’s Slow Carb, if your interested) and was able to lose a good amount of wait and normalize my blood sugar levels.

But I still wasn’t consistent.  And in the end, that is what killed my progress and made me back step.

But then in 2014 I was introduced to a video by this guy named Darren Hardy, where he gave a presentation on the habits of super achievers.  It really hit home for me.  I won’t give you the entire play by play because you can watch it for yourself.  (I’ll embed it or post a link at the bottom of this post.)

I was also influenced by a few other thought leaders such as Leo Baubata from Zen Habits, James Clear, a writer on habit and performance related topics, and others.

I took from each of these teachers and distilled their information down to a few core lessons.

The essential few

I came to realize that it really just boils down to a few essential things that can help create successful results.  Three things, in fact.

  1. Start very very small
  2. Be very very consistent
  3. Don’t stop.

Contrary to my earlier attempts to complicate my plans, the reality is that success is simple.

The hard part is following through.

But then I realized: if taking action is the hard part, then the real key to success is to make taking action as easy and simple as possible.

Makes sense, right?  The easier it is to do the thing that causes success, the more likely you are to have success.

My current plan

So, my current plan is this: stop making plans.

That isn’t to say I don’t have a “mission” with my life.  Or that I’m not trying to accomplish anything.

I definitely have goals.  And I have ideas on how to accomplish those goals.

But, as Bruce Lee said, it is like a finger pointing at the moon.  If you focus your attention on the finger then you miss all that heavenly glory.

(The plan is the finger, in case you didn’t get the metaphor.)

And instead of figuring out the best possible finger I can use to point out the direction, I’m instead going to focus on the process of slowly flying up towards the moon.

The destination is the focus, not the path.

And in order to walk that path, whatever path you choose, you just need to put one foot in front of the other.

The Darren Hardy video I mentioned before has been taken down.  But here is another one you might like.  Enjoy!

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