The sheer volume of information available about training is overwhelming. You can read every post on your favourite blogs. You can read dozens of books on the topic. You can hire the best coaches in the world. But all that is useless unless you take action. There’s a point at which the flood of information becomes paralysing. You are being pulled in ten different directions at once. You know what I mean here: “I want to run a marathon”, “lose fat”, “get stronger”, “do gymnastics”, “master the kettlebells”, “own the Olympic lifts”, “get a tan and flex my biceps on stage”… And I am only scratching the surface here. You simply have too many things to choose from.
Having so many options leaves many people feeling lost and unfocused. Yet, to make extraordinary progress at anything, you have to pursue one goal relentlessly. Regardless of the goal you have in mind, ask yourself: “Is this what I really want?” If it is, don’t worry about other doors closing. If it is not what you really want, well, scrap it. Notice the important part of the question: “I want”. It’s not “you want”, “they want”. It’s “I”. Pursue what you really want.
Does this mean that you will be happy for the rest of your life doing the things that you love? Absolutely not. Let’s be honest here. Some decisions are terrible in hindsight, horrendous even. After traveling along a certain path for a while, you might realize that you’ve been on the wrong road heading in the wrong direction. You might realize this at a point when it is extremely difficult to change course. It might even feel impossible.
But if you’ve sincerely pursued a goal that was once important to you, and later changed course, there’s no shame in that. At least you gave it a shot. It’s better than conforming and sticking to the predictable route.
Sometimes you just have to make a decision and choose a goal to chase. Yes, do your research and weigh all the options before deciding. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Then, choose one goal and get after it. Otherwise, life will pass you by while you are thinking about all of the options. Before you realize it, you’ll be 90 years old and bitter about the safe choices you’ve made. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes mean that you went for it.
So how to keep your focus on what’s important? I won’t lie here; it won’t be easy. Honestly, keeping your focus on one goal might be the hardest thing to do. To successfully focus on one goal means that you will have to successfully ignore the other hundred goals that everyone else is pursuing. You will feel as if you are going to miss out.
For example, my current goal is to improve Jefferson/straddling deadlift so my training is super simple: deadlift and press three days a week, that’s it. At the end of each session, my mind goes through the following pattern: “I should do more single leg stuff, carries and conditioning”. And that’s if I am lucky; normally, the list is twice as long. So the other day I made a deal with myself: follow this program to the T for six weeks and beyond that I can do whatever I want again. But for now, focus on this program and only this program. As soon as I start adding more “stuff”, it’s not “the program”—it becomes “the program and stuff”. And once that happens, it’s hard to judge the success of the program because I added too much “stuff” to it. Makes sense? I think so.
Even if you follow the wrong program for a while, it’s not the end of the world. But if you never experiment or get out of your comfort zone, you’ll end up like the most people in gyms, doing the same thing over and over and over again. You know the type: a guy or a girl who’s looked the same or had the same strength levels for years. Or even worse, he or she keeps doing the same thing, always pushing heavy and getting injured. Their motto for recovering from an injury might as well be “do more”. Or the person who always does the same aerobic classes because “it’s fun”, but she or he has looked the same for five years. They never try anything new.
So, what’s the secret to keeping the focus on the goal? Courage. It takes bucket loads of courage to ignore all the temptations that whisper in your ear when stepping into the local gymnasium.
I know you want a more practical solution, so here it is: monk-mode. Don’t read training articles or magazines until you are in the final stretch of your program. Go into training information monk-mode and ignore everything. It’s easier to resist temptations when there are no temptations to resist.
So back to your training goals. These steps may seem obvious, but only a few of us are successfully following them:
1. Choose ONE goal.
2. Choose ONE program that supports that goal.
3. Direct all your focus to that ONE program.
4. Follow through and finish the program you chose. This is surprisingly hard for many.
5. Re-evaluate. Was it the right goal for me? Did I do well? How could I do better? Do I want to continue pursuing this goal? Is it what I want?
6. Either continue or choose another goal.
Putting your head down and getting after it beats eternal contemplating. And I say this as someone who is occasionally guilty of this navel-gazing.
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