The Difference of Doing Things Differently

Different things work for different people at different times.

Whether or not something achieves the desired effect depends on where we are in that moment. For example, if I eat pizza everyday, cutting out pizza will have a huge impact on my physique, provided I don’t substitute the pizza with something equally energy dense(high calories/low satiety). However, if I eat pizza once a month, cutting out pizza will have virtually zero effect.

To give a strength training example, let’s say I want to deadlift more weight. I hear that strong hamstrings are the key to a strong deadlift. I start hitting my hamstrings really hard. After a month or so of beefing up my hammies, my deadlift weight goes up. Hooray!

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However, that doesn’t mean this strategy will work for everyone. It will work for a deadlift that is stagnant because of weak hamstrings. But if the problem is core, grip, glute, or back strength, then hitting the hammies won’t yield the same benefit.

Whether or not a strategy works depends on where we are at. It’s quite possible to read a good article, try out the strategies provided, only to have them not work for you. Doesn’t mean the strategies don’t work, just that they weren’t written for you presently.

There are tons of articles that say this:

You aren’t making progress, because you don’t work hard enough.

And plenty of other articles that say this:

You aren’t making progress because you work too hard.

And they are both right. They are simply written for different people. It just depends on which end of the spectrum we fall on.

This is important to remember when experimenting with different methods. It’s frustrating to work hard on something and not progress. Especially if we’ve tried many different methods from seemingly reliable sources, it can seem hopeless, like we are broken. We aren’t broken, we just haven’t considered our context when focusing our efforts.

Going back to the deadlift example, strengthening my hamstrings is an efficient approach to this end so long as I know my hammies are my weak link. Otherwise, I’m just guessing which is productive if I take an experimental perspective. There is nothing wrong with trial and error. To the contrary! This article is meant to encourage trial and error. However, the implication of this method is the objective collection of data from said trials i.e. utilize information from your errors without emotion.

A fitness journey is a super long adventure into uncharted territory. We have no choice but to explore to move forward. We will inevitably take a few wrong turns, but blaming ourselves for these wrong turns is not only counterproductive but is also unjustified. Learning a new skill requires practice, and a LOT of messups.The nature of trial and error is that there will be errors we can learn from. It’s not called trial and success after all.

Furthermore, just because something doesn’t work at a given time, doesn’t mean it should be thrown into the trash heap and deemed a waste of time. If we learn something from it, it wasn’t a waste of time, but a necessary detour. Furthermore, maybe we just weren’t ready for it yet, or it wasn’t advanced enough for us. We can’t know this until we look at our errors with an objective and analytical lens.

Let’s say I’m trying to build a habit of eating vegetables at lunch. There are a million different ways of going about this. I could plan my lunch ahead of time, I could set a reminder in my phone, I could bring my lunch to work etc.

What works with my lifestyle won’t necessarily work with yours. And we won’t know what strategies work until we try them out. For me, maybe putting a reminder in my phone gets the job done. This might not work for everyone. That doesn’t mean it’s not a valid strategy. After all, it worked for at least one person. More importantly, a failed attempt at this habit via this strategy doesn’t mean that the habit(or you) is flawed. It simply means we need to experiment and find a strategy that better suits you.

In summary, it’s easy to get discouraged when our efforts don’t turn out the way we hoped. However, trial and error is an inherent part of the process of getting better at any skill. It’s natural to feel frustrated. However, I encourage you to remember that if you’re figuring out what doesn’t work for you, you are well on way to figuring out what does. Simply put, there is no way of expediting this process. Try to be patient and forgiving with yourself and you’ll get there.

 

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