People think I have endless willpower and discipline.
They consider my strict diet and consistent exercise regimen, and my ambitious professional and personal pursuits, and they think I’m just exceptionally driven. But I’d argue my propensity for achievement is less about tenacity and more about creative problem solving.
I’m good at recognizing true barriers to goals and seeing non-obvious ways to get around them. This is precisely the idea behind this site: finding alternative ways of reaching badassery. (hey-o!)
One strategy I’m particularly fond of is replacing a roadblock I’m experiencing with a pleasant little “buffer.” This method has worked for me time and time again, and with some customization, it’ll work for you, too.
Here are a few examples from my life to get your wheels turning.
Dodging the Unnecessary Snack
I’m a ninja in the mornings, but I start crashing in the afternoon. I should get more sleep and I’m getting better at that, but the fact remains: I’m dragging by 3:30pm.
Sometimes I realize I’m tired, but most of the time I don’t pick up on the sleepiness (I subconsciously deny it or fight it). I do routinely notice, however, one of its symptoms: the desire to eat.
You guys, I HAVE an afternoon snack. Every afternoon. And somehow, 30 minutes later, I think I need another one. But really, it’s common to want to eat when you’re tired. Your body needs energy, so it calls out for food, a source of energy.
What keeps me from snacking is my couch.
Instead of eating, I grab a book and hop on the couch ASAP. I don’t need food; I need rest. I don’t usually fall asleep, but just reclining back, and shifting my mind to something less stimulating than the 87 browser windows I have open on my computer gives me a little break and–shit you not–rejuvenates me. I insert this “rest buffer” between feeling like I need to eat and actually getting a snack, and nine times out of ten, I find the “hunger” I was experiencing has magically disappeared.
Waking Up Crazy-Early to Work Out
Though I’m both an early bird and a gym rat, the idea of waking up before the sun and hitting the gym right away sounds pretty awful to me. I’ve tried it in the past, and I know some people have success with it–they wake up and are out the door in 10 minutes–but I think it totally blows. If you tell me I have to work out as soon as I get out of bed, I’ll hit snooze 10 times and skip the gym. I’m not getting up for that shit.
Before I started working remotely, though, I was a before-work exerciser, so I did have to make it the gym at some (early) point in the morning. Per usual, I started tricking myself. I established this pleasant little buffer period between waking and gymming.
When my alarm went off, I didn’t roll around in bed dreading the whole process of getting up, changing into workout clothes, gathering my stuff, and heading to the gym, because that’s not what I planned to do anyway. I planned a nice little morning for myself instead, to be enjoyed pre-gym.
This involved coffee, a little snack, and some reading and writing. Ahhhh…feels so much better. That’s something I can get out of bed for. And by the time I’d head out for the gym, I was fully awake and happy.
Avoiding the Nighttime Eat Fest
My bedtime ritual is not complicated or demanding–change into PJs, wash face, brush teeth, moisturize, done–so I guess the reason I dread it is because I’m already tired. I’ll be finishing up dinner, and I think about this process ahead of me, and I groan in my head. And this twisted part of my brain rationalizes that if I eat more, I can delay the nighttime routine. (Eating is always/never the answer, you see?)
This was happening on a subconscious level to me for a long time, and I used to feel powerless over it. I’d refill my plate or make some sort of dessert, even if I was totally full, and it pissed me off that I couldn’t seem to control myself. It finally dawned on me that what I was really doing was creating a way to postpone getting ready for bed. So I simply found a better way to postpone: a buffer (good guess, you guys!).
I started making it a point to read blogs or watch TV or whatever after dinner instead of eating more. This way, I was no longer experiencing the jarring feeling of going from highly pleasant process (eating dinner) to less-than-pleasant process (washing my face and whatnot), because I had a delightful little activity–a nice buffer–in between.
What obstacles do you need to get past to achieve your goals? Is there an opportunity for you to replace a roadblock with a buffer? What other strategies do you use to do difficult things?
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