There are certain cornerstone actions, routines and habits that, once in place, ripple out and have a positive effect in all areas of your life. Combined, they each reinforce each other, combining to have a huge impact on the quality of your life, and what you can accomplish.
I call them Force Multipliers.
Being healthy and strong is great. In fact, being strong is one of the key ways to slow the ageing process. For that alone, you should exercise regularly. But you’ll also think more clearly. You’ll be less likely to suffer from things like depression. You have more energy and can be more productive. And you’ll become “the type of person who exercises“, making you more likely to eat better, save money, waste less time, and have a positive self-image. Plus, you’ll look better, which means you’ll make more money and you’ll get more attention from the opposite sex.
2. Eating healthily
Just like exercise, eating well is great because of the health benefits. Fat loss, muscle gain, more energy, less feeling sluggish for an hour after lunch. And on top of that: you’ll save money because you cook at home more. You waste less time browsing at the grocery store, or choosing off a restaurant menu, because you’re narrowing down the range of choices you have. (Should I get chips or chocolate? NEITHER!)
3. Living well below your means
Spending less than you earn is good for the obvious reason: that it prevents you from getting into debt and hurting your credit, paying money in credit card interest and overdraft fees, and so on. No arguments there. But there’s other advantages of having cash on hand. You can usually get a great deal on bigger purchases if you can offer to pay in cash, right there and then. You can take advantage of business opportunities that need a bit of capital up-front, or do things that have a smaller short-term payoff, but a big long-term payoff. You can afford to take a different job that might pay less, but makes you happier. You spend less time worrying about bills and juggling payments, freeing up mental energy to spend elsewhere. With money in the bank you’re less stressed, and you sleep better, so you become healthier.
With those three things in place, you’re giving yourself a great base to work from. A solid foundation in your life. And the great thing is that each one makes the others easier: they multiply together healthy, energised, strong, productive, and able to take advantage of opportunities when you see them.
I completely failed. I set a goal and fell so far short of it that it’s embarrassing to talk about. And Nike decided to rub it in my face.
I did what you’re supposed to: I set an ambitious goal that was a SMART goal: it was specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. I wrote it on an index card that I kept close to me at all times. I read a lot about the topic and knew exactly the steps I had to take to reach my goal. I tried to stay “motivated”.
And still, it didn’t happen. Not even close.
I wanted to run more, so I decided to run 3x per week, with the ultimate goal of being able to run a 10k race in less than 50 minutes.
How did I do? Well, here’s how.
I ran an average of 0.28 times per week, aka less than 1/10th of what I wanted to do, and the fastest 10k I did, I didn’t even break an hour, let alone 50 minutes.
So what did I do wrong, and how can I fix it?
Mistake #1: Made a huge, unsustainable change
I went right out of the blocks trying to run 3x per week from the beginning, which was a) a huge increase in the amount of exercise I was doing at the time, and b) a huge increase in the amount of sweaty laundry I created, both of which were an added hassle that I had to deal with. It was unsustainable, such that I’d run 3x per week for 1-2 weeks, then not run at all for a few weeks, feel shit about myself, get motivated again, then run 3x in one week, then take another month-long break, and so on. This cycle repeated itself a number of times until I just gave up.
What I should have done instead: eased into it by starting off exercising 1x per week, to make it easily winnable to begin with, so I’d feel good about myself, and begin to create a habit of running. Then slowly increase the frequency until eventually I was hitting the goals that I wanted to hit.
Mistake #2: No accountability
I wrote down my goal on an index card, and put it in my wallet. That’s what people recommend, right? That should be a daily reminder of my goal, right? No, not when you put it in a hidden part of your wallet that you never look in. And I didn’t tell anyone about this goal, so I didn’t have any skin in the game. There was no pain or forfeit if I didn’t make it. So it wasn’t a big deal.
What I should have done instead: told multiple people about my goal and had them check in with me on a regular basis to ensure that I was following through. Or even better, put some money on it and have friends and family bet against me achieving the goal, which provides a carrot (I win money and get to show off to people that I hit my goal) and a stick (I have to pay out and everyone knows I lost).
Mistake #3: I tried to do it alone
Not only did I not tell anyone about this, but I was always running alone. And I was the only one chasing this goal. I didn’t talk to anyone about it, I didn’t have a running partner to motivate me to go out, and I didn’t join any sort of running club. No-one would miss me if I didn’t lace up my shoes and head out the door.
What I should have done instead: joined a running club or found a running partner, or at least someone another runner I knew that I could talk to about running that would keep asking “Been running recently?” which would make me embarrassed to keep responding, “No, I’m a lazy shit”, so I’d actually go running.
Mistake #4: I picked something I hate doing
I don’t like running. It’s boring, it’s always cold and raining here in England, and you step in dog shit all the time. You have to avoid cyclists and old people and you’re always out of breath and you get injured all the time. Running sucks. I chose it as a goal because running is what you’re “supposed to do” if you want to get into shape and lose few lbs, right?
What I should have done instead: pick an exercise activity that I actually enjoy, like lifting weights, or cycling, or football, or boxing. Any of these would have been good as I would actually look forward to doing the activity, rather than dreading it.
So, I picked a goal and an activity where I:
tried to do too much too fast
on my own
with no accountability or stakes
at an activity that I don’t like doing
I don’t think I was ever really going to succeed.
So this year, with the same aim of exercising more and getting healthier, I am going to:
Here’s the thing. Say what you want about the News of the World, but Andy Coulson was a powerful, well-respected guy who had previously worked for the Prime Minister. Without this scandal, he would have been fine. Luis Suarez is undoubtedly one of the finest football players in the world, but this is the third time he’s bitten a player, and it looks like he could be facing a lengthy ban from the sport. And regardless of how you feel about payday loan companies, there’s no denying Wonga.com is the market leader, a growing and profitable company.
But the latest news for these people may ultimately be damning. I’m sure they’ll all survive — for now — but at what cost?
And every single one of these incidents could have been avoided with a moment’s thought. It reminds me of a quote I first heard from Ryan Holiday:
[Here’s] a Spartan anecdote from Plutarch about King Hippocratidas when a youth and his lover met him accidentally in a crowd. The two had turned their faces away and he said “You ought to keep the company of the sort of people who won’t cause you to change color when observed”.
Is there no-one at News of the World or Wonga.com who was sat in a meeting thinking “You know, what we’re about to do is really stupid. I should stop it.” Do they not have a Chief Dissent Officer? Or even a fucking conscience? The Suarez incident is slightly different, as it was a heat of the moment thing, but still, this is the THIRD time it’s happened. After the first two incidents, why not take a minute and think about why you’re acting the way you’re acting?
There’s a reason Google’s motto isn’t “Be good” — rather, it’s “Don’t be evil.” As with seeking happiness, we may not always know the right thing to do — but avoiding the wrong things is a good place to start.