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Are You Waiting for the Perfect Time?

Getting a fresh start isn't the magic bullet you thought it'd be.

"I'll resume healthy eating after my vacation... once the baby is born... after Dad gets out of the hospital... January 1... Monday."

Why doesn't a coaching or fitness or nutrition program feature a "pause button?" After all, what's the harm in letting clients take a break from a plan where they're:

  • leaving for vacation

  • completely swamped at work

  • pregnant, a new mom

  • injured

  • caring for a family member

Because: The process boils down to: If I miss some workouts, eat the wrong things, skip the homework... I fail. Aren't I more likely to succeed if I take a break, just until I have the time to do it right?

This is the "pause-button mentality."

It's normal, commendable, to want to do your best. To consider taking time to regroup and then resume (or start over) when life feels easier.

At the same time, this completely natural and well-meaning impulse is one of the fastest, surest, most reliable ways to sabotage your plans for improved nutrition, health, and fitness.

Starting fresh after you lose your way is a really comforting thought.

That's probably why New Year's resolutions are so popular, especially following the indulgence-fueled holiday season.

Give me that cheesecake/cookie/pie/cake - I'll pick my diet back up on Monday!

The idea of a "do-over" is so alluring that you don't even need a mess-up for the pause-button mentality to take over.

The "pause button mentality" only builds the skill of pausing.

Whether it's tomorrow, Monday, next week, or even next year, hitting that imaginary pause button gives you some sense of relief. It allows you a little respite from what can be a tough stretch. (Regardless of what kind of project you are working on, the middle is always a tough stretch.)

This perceived relief is compounded by the illusion that if we "start fresh" later we can find the magical "right time to begin."

It can feel absurd to try to improve your eating and exercise habits while you're in the midst of chronic stress/looking for a job/starting a new job/going on vacation/caring for aging parents/raising small children, etc.

That's why there are so many "21-Day this" and "90-Day that." What adult has more than 90 days to work on goals?

These intense "sprints" teach you the skill of getting fit/healthy in a very short (and completely non-representative) period of your life.

They also do not teach you the skill of getting or staying fit or healthy in the midst of a normal, complicated, "how it really is" sort of life.

This is why yo-yo dieting has become such a phenomenon.

It's not about willpower.

In most fitness scenarios, you learn how to get fit under weird, tightly-controlled, white-knuckle life situations. You build that one, solitary, non-transferable skill: slam the gas pedal, squeal down the road for awhile, burn the rubber off your tires until you run out of gas.

What you don't build is the ability to get fit under real-life conditions. The same goes for eating habits. That's why it doesn't stick. Not because you failed. Because the natural and predictable consequence of having a limited skill set is short-term progress followed immediately by long-term frustration.

A case study: Someone gets in shape by following a very challenging program when the conditions are perfect. Whenever life isn't perfect, which is most of the time, he/she hits the pause button and waits for a "better" time. ---- All the while losing the health and fitness so diligently worked for.

Life is just... happening. And it will happen again in January, or after the baby is born, or after Mom gets better, or at any other arbitrary point that you pick.

Accept that life has no pause button. Life keeps going; there is no timeout.

There is never going to be a moment when things are magically easier.

You can't escape work, personal, and family demands. Nor can you escape the need for health and wellness in your life.

What would happen if you tried to hit pause in other areas of your life?

The point is, perfectionism is not real. Completing a program is not the point. Being the "best" for a small window of time is not the point.

The "all or nothing" mentality rarely gets us "all." It usually gets us "nothing."

Instead, think: "ALWAYS SOMETHING."

Instead of pressing pause, adjust the dial. There is a big difference between tuning your dial to 3, 2, or 1... and turning the whole thing off. When you realize how doable (and effective) channels 3, 2, and 1 can be, you see that there is never a good reason to hit "pause."

Perfection never happens in real life. We are ALWAYS going to have to do the best we can with what we have. And that is okay. We can still make progress toward our goals and still improve our health and our fitness - whatever's going on in our lives. That progress doesn't happen if you press pause and wait for a better time.

Asking for a restart because you don't want to mess up or fail is deluding yourself that somehow next time will be easier. Next time will be perfect. No interruptions, no distractions... no life.

We may have "magical moments," of course. Short periods of time when things seem to click and come together. But, oh wait... something happens.

You press pause again. And maybe never come out of the pause zone.

Are you waiting for the perfect time?


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