Sunday, February 13, 2011

Are you Shoulding all over yourself?


This time last year I was finishing a strength workout at a small gym, and overheard a conversation between two guys I didn't know, but familiar faces. "Laurel & Hardy" seemed to be contently going through the motions, not sweating or even breathing very hard. They were doing some low-intensity isolation movements while discussing television shows, their need to 'eat better' and complaining about how busy they were and how they wish they had time to get into better shape.

I lost count after the 3rd or 4th "I know I really should, but...I really would, if only, but...I used to be able to _____, but now I don't have the time". I noticed that I was in the gym for around 45 minutes, and these guys were well into their "routine" when I arrived and after I left. It was a small gym, so there was no getting away from overhearing their conversation. Believe me when I say I wish I had my iPod!

Both of these regulars seemed to be otherwise healthy enough, and apparently lived within a couple miles from the gym in an affluent Orange County neighborhood. It seemed odd two healthy, apparently formerly competitive people so "short of time" -who likely spend considerable time and energy analyzing their Return On Investments-would be essentially wasting their time.

Justification & Excuses

We have all heard the saying "if someone keeps doing what they have always done, they will keep getting the same results". In today's world, it has become normative to hold the belief that we are all too busy to do much more than tread water. At what point do we allow our dreams to be crushed and swept away? When do we become "OK" with 'getting by' and the same old results (even if they are 'OK')?

What do we learn or gain from the process after it becomes "comfortable"? Maintenance? What ever happened to Overcoming SCARY barriers, walls? I am not writing about endurance training or racing necessarily, but life choices, succumbing to deals with the devil and comfortable lifestyle architecture. Life plateaus. We may be firing on all cylinders in one part of our lives, but completely neglectful of other equally important facets.

How often do we recalibrate -or even better, SHATTER- our perception of Possible? How often do we take a leap of faith? When does our passion and genuine gratitude for the ability to undertake said challenges fade away? I would suggest that we classify this "disease" essentially as evil, and I believe it is incumbent on ourselves to stay cognizant of the Dark Side, and fight battles in our war against complacency every day.

This ain't a dress rehearsal.

Avoiding risk and mindlessly going through the motions is dangerous. Great people rarely achieve anything significant without risk or vulnerability. Sure, you can go through life making right turns and avoiding risk. You can rioritize comfort over learning/growth/adaptation. But what kind of life is that exactly? It's too easy to succumb to the Evil of Complacency and fly with the flock, to swim with the school, with your mind and ambition set to "OFF".

Try Something New

Lately I have thought about mindless comfort, safety and positive reinforcement in numbers, and reality-checked that I have not or will not fall into that trap. I attempted to identify and INTERRUPT any and all patterns in my life. TIME OUT. STOP. Where exactly are we going? Is this where I want to go? We are all creatures of habit, perhaps more so than we perceive.

What is your 'acceptable' level of risk?

It's human nature to stay in our comfort zones, to stay there in our nice warm, dry, safe bubble of underachievement and predictable but frequent rewards, surrounded by others doing the same. The perfect analogies are sugar in our diet or commuting and working 40-50+ hours per week only to spend our "FREE" time sitting in front of the TV mindlessly for 20-30 hours per week.


What would it mean if we woke up and abruptly broke away from the pack? What if we recognized the opportunity cost of our DeathStyle and decided we could take our health skills, fitness, finances and personal relationships to the next level, leaving our former complacent and mediocre self behind? If we were to make this change, then go back in time, would be recognize our former selves? Yet it's the same DNA, same mind, same opportunity. Same choices.

What if we could 'go rogue' and PROACTIVELY accept an inconvenient, ambitious challenge of our own volition that disrupts our comfortable lifestyle? What would be the risk? What would be the reward?

Don't waste time and energy worrying about things you can not control.


The myriad excuses are baseless. With most people spending a heartbreaking volume of time watching TV or surfing the internet, time is available for the carving. Outside of time constraints, only one person controls what choices you make with meals, 'free time', time available for exercise and time spent with loved ones.

Konstatin doesn't make excuses (click on this). You go with what you've got. Just go.

Dennis Praeger has written extensively on this subject, and I heartily recommend "Happiness is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual". Praeger suggests it is our MORAL RESPONSIBILITY to be happy, to find a way to tackle life regardless of our circumstances.

Living vicariously through others is too easy in the internet age, and is certainly at an all-time high for mankind. It's easier than ever to find ourselves comfortably anonymous in the billion-strong choir of "Shoulda Woulda Coulda"..."too busy"..."already doing too much". It's bullshit.

Are you Should-ing all over yourself? Do you really in your heart believe you're "too busy"? Are you getting defensive?

Every day is an opportunity to remain in our Holding Patterns or break out of our comfortable orbit to learn more, do better, grow, and share. Whether it is a fixed-time experiment of one or a permanent change, you can never know until you take the risk and commit to change. We know what it IS, how to DO IT, but what does it MEAN to you? To your family? For many, the negative consequences of NON-CHANGE are more powerful motivators than intrinsic rewards or personal positive gain.

Ask anyone who has evolved from a life of lassitude and obesity with LDL levels of 200+, likely to die in their fit, healthy and vibrant. They know what it means to go back...Death. To their selves, their family, their children. They CAN'T go back. They WON'T go back. They will FIGHT to keep and grow their gains. The same goes for anyone (cough, cough) who has lost everything financially and fought back, lost their relationships and learned from mistakes, or lost loved ones or friends unexpectedly to disease, accidents or war. A rebirth, reawakening, a new appreciation.

It took WORK. It took PAIN. It took SACRIFICE. It is NOT EASY.

It is WORTH IT. To you, and to everyone you will ever interact with throughout your life.

Commit to 8 WEEKS of a new "system", no matter how scary or uncomfortable it may be. It might be what you choose to eat or drink. It might be the frequency and intensity of the exercise you are doing. It might be time you spend with loved ones. Make it simple, clearly defined and make yourself accountable every day, preferably in writing. Email yourself if that is what it takes, with a daily journal. Create a folder in your GMAIL or wherever to track the pain and results so you have a record of your experiment or the results. If it is Fitness-Related, an easy and free tracking online log can be found at You can access it from your iPhone, Blackberry or DROID very easily.

Give your self a chance to succeed.

Evaluate the results at the end of 8 weeks. Compare to where you would have been if you had remained in your holding pattern/paradigm/rut. Think back to your old excuses "Too Busy", "Already doing 'enough'", "my doctor said I'm fine"...and laugh. You have already likely adapted to the first changes in 8 weeks. You are either healthier, fitter, smarter, or your most important relationship has improved. Perhaps all of the above.

Now it's time to recalibrate again and identify an additional desired change for the next 8 weeks, while maintaining the first one, which is now "normal". Maybe you stopped drinking sugary drinks and committed to joining a CrossFit gym. Your energy is now at an all-time high, you're stronger and healthier. You love the new LIFEstyle and can't imagine going back. What other area of your life could use an injection of invigoration? Most would agree they want to increase their understanding and relationship with God, love and finances.

What is interesting is that some of the most profoundly impactful change-eliciting experiments require no additional time commitment in your schedule. What you CHOOSE TO PUT IN YOUR MOUTH has a cascading effect on not only our health and fitness but also our mood and ability to handle "stress".

Complexity is the enemy.

By keeping it extremely simple and chiseling a few things out of your life, while making BETTER CHOICES we can surprise ourselves with fantastic gains and adaptations. The time commitment might be less than imagined or feared, but the intensity and passion must be absolutely humming. Most overlook the power of the Minimum Effective Dose when administered consistently.

Instead of dwelling on "sacrifice", focus on a STREAK of Consistent, Good Choices.

Shock, Scare and Force yourself to grow, and to encourage your loved ones or even strangers to do the same. Hold yourself accountable and give yourself a chance to succeed. It's a daily battle in a life-long war against complacency, and it never gets easier, you don't hate it any less.... You just get stronger.

Break the Pattern.

Take a leap of faith while you can. Why the hell not?

Visualize the results and make it happen. Push through the pain and stay focused on the goal. GO FOR IT.

Accept the challenge.


Ryan Weeger said...

what a great post clancy. truly true.

Slater Fletcher said...

you ain't lived til you done died!

Always amazes me what people will hold onto because they think their "life" revolves around it...Likely the other way around that "IT" is surrounding their "life" like a choke hold. Everything in this life is passing away. Hopefully we can learn to let is pass and reach for the all starts with the choices we make.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." Jim Elliot

sean.clancy said...

Thanks RW. Well said, SL8.

I am lucky to have a strong circle of friends who are Passionate about getting dirty and grabbing life by the horns, roaring with mocking laughter at popular limits, boundaries or norms.

However we all know people we care about who have convinced themselves that they "can't" because they "don't", and hence Won't... spitefully. Their rut, their anhedonia seems to worsen with the encouragement of others.

Something happened at some point that crushed their dreams, created a phobia of failure, ambition or trying. Athletically, professionally, financially, emotionally, spiritually. Surely it happens to all of us at some point, but some of us rebound and some don't.

Focus on what you CAN control rather than what you CANNOT. Like PAST choices!

yadda blah etc.
off to the gym with my puke bucket
(which has cool nuun, feedthemachine & keen stickers on it now).