“It’s easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.”
– Clayton Christensen, famed Harvard Business School professor.
I still vividly remember the day when my direct supervisor told me he would never be lean and fit.
“I just don’t have the right body type. I’ll always be like this because my family’s genes suck.”
I had just started the beginning of my Coast Guard career at the time. After reporting to my first unit out of bootcamp, I was placed within the Engineering Department. It was a motley group of Machinery Technicians and Damage Controlmen, two engineering “rates” or career paths in the Coast Guard responsible for fixing things and fighting fires. My supervisor, a DC3, or Petty Officer Third Class, had started training with me in our on-base gym, and to his credit, he taught me a lot of the initial foundations of body building. Whatever I didn’t voraciously read about in terms of fitness at the time, he supplied with his experience and knowledge in lifting.
But one day when it was just us in the gym, and I had been challenging him to drop a few bad habits so that he could lean up, he confided he just couldn’t. He had adopted the narrative, probably from his family, that he didn’t have the good genes for it. He could get big, sure, but he’d never be able to figure out nutrition, or give up drinking, or see a six pack. Unfortunately, at the time, I was still young in the world of fitness and nutrition myself, so I was unable to convince him otherwise. Years later, though, I received a picture from him with six-pack abs, 30 pounds lighter, and with astounding confidence. What had changed? Where had the mental excuse “he wasn’t the type” gone?
He had changed his commitment, which had a trickle effect of improving his confidence that then had a compounding effect on his success. Partial commitment before had given him room to allow for failure and gave him a convenient excuse if he did fail.
Doctor Benjamin Hardy, in Psychology Today, states it this way: “By only being 98 percent committed to a goal or principle, you lack the ability to adequately predict your own behavior. You often enter situations where you don’t know what the outcome will be. You deal with decision fatigue in the heat of unideal decision-making situations, such as when you’re being offered your favorite dessert. By watching yourself repeatedly fail on your “commitment,” your identity becomes confused as does your confidence. With lower confidence, you’ll lack the wherewithal to commit fully to the decision or goal.“
When you give yourself an excuse to fail, you will invariably always fail. Whether through circumstances or decision fatigue, your willpower will crumble and so will your confidence. Don’t look for external motivation – it needs to be from within you. When you make the decision to be the better future version of yourself, you leave behind the past version and all the mistakes and excuses with it. This is called intrinsic motivation. You’re not waiting for a reward or doing it for someone else’s benefit – you’re doing it for yourself.
If confidence is the ability to see yourself going from point A to point B successfully, then actually being and acting confident is simply the ability to be the future version of yourself right now in the present time. How might you implement this for yourself today in regards to fitness and nutrition? It’s simple. You decide, right now, that this isn’t a 30-day, 12 week, or one year diet or fitness change. It’s a lifestyle change. That you won’t accept that you “just don’t get nutrition” or that you “don’t have the right genes”. That’s bullshit. Stop giving yourself excuses and choose the simpler route: just commit 100 percent, and then you don’t have to think about it.
If you’re an alcoholic, and choose to simply never drink again, you’ll never be tempted to take a drink when you’re out with friends. You’ve removed that element from yourself, and saved brain power, because the decision was already made. If donuts cause you to always get off track, simply deciding that they’re not worth it removes their power and ability to derail you.
Visualize your future fit self and act accordingly. What will you do when you’ve made it? You certainly won’t believe made-up excuses. My supervisor and now friend will never believe his own lies again because he proved they were false. What does the future version of yourself need you to understand today?