I realize the title 10 rational approaches for accomplishing your life ambitions isn’t really sexy but I’m not that sexy… I think I just insulted myself… but I prefer to keep it honest and real when I write.
Like the theme of this site, below are 10 common sense approaches to achieving things you want to achieve that are not so common. My best advice is to pick one that resonates with you and give it a shot. Then maybe move on to another and do the same.
Table of Contents
RATIONAL APPROACH #1: IDENTIFY AND ACCEPT THE TRADE-OFFS
Whether you want to lose 20 pounds, start your own business, learn a new language, or do something entirely different. When you say yes to one thing you’re saying no to another.
For example, I’m trying to become conversational in Russian (fucking difficult) for a trip I have coming up to St. Petersburg. The only day I can meet with my instructor is Tuesday morning from 9 am to 10 am.
In order to do this I had to give up a personal training client (income) as well as my normal rock climbing session and socializing with some buddies of mine.
And because I’m trying to become conversational by December of this year I had to schedule in some practice time during the week. The time of day that is most convenient for me to practice is about 30 minutes before bed. I had to give up watching Mad Men or reading some nonfiction to do this.
I can’t do ALL the things and neither can you.
RATIONAL APPROACH #2: I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
There are some things I can do on my own and some things that I can’t. For instance – working out, eating healthy, and taking care of my body in other respects are not a problem. Teaching myself photography, reading daily, and meditating – no prob there either.
Trying to learn a new language, playing an instrument, and picking up golf – not so easy for me. And to be honest I really don’t know why. All I know is that when it comes to these things I need extra support, accountability, and mentorship.
You can hire a coach, recruit a friend, or use cool apps to help you with the big 3 above. Find what works for you and run with it. This may take some experimenting but be patient, keep exploring, and eventually, you’ll find a system that works for you.
If it helps, I like working with a coach and checking in with them regularly as well as keeping a calendar and using the Seinfeld technique to show me how often I’m showing up and doing the work consistently.
RATIONAL APPROACH #3: PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS AND MAKE IT A REAL PRIORITY BY PRACTICING THE ART OF INTENTION
An inspiring video can do the trick sometimes, some Biggie Smalls in ya ear, and even some encouraging words might get you to workout today but trying to rely solely on motivation to achieve big things doesn’t work very well.
Motivation is a very fleeting emotion. It comes and it goes like your crazy Uncle Bernie who asks for money and eats your food. There are some things you can do to influence it but the fact is you will not always feel motivated.
Sometimes you’ve got that mojo humming and sometimes it’s just not there. While motivation is important for success there’s something much more important and something that you’re actually in control of… Your intention.
In a study conducted by the British Journal of Health Psychology, researchers discovered what made people more likely to exercise over a two-week period.
They took 248 adults and split them into three groups.
The Control Group was asked to record how often they worked out over a two-week period. Right after being asked to do this they were given three paragraphs of a random novel to read.
The Motivation Group also kept track of how often they worked out over a two-week period but right after being asked this they were asked to read a pamphlet on the benefits of exercise for improving health and reducing the risk of heart disease.
The Intention Group was also asked to keep track of how often they exercised over a two-week period but they were also asked to come up with a specific plan that answered the question below.
During the next week, I will do 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on (day) at (time of day) at (place).
After the experiment here are the results.
- 38% of the Control Group exercised at least once per week
- 35% of the Motivation Group exercised at least once per week
- 91% of the Intention Group exercised at least once per week
So no more talk about not being motivated to workout. Start practicing intention instead. Every Sunday write down the days, times, and where you’ll be working out, working on your business, or learning a new language that week. Carry it around with you as a reminder or set up a reminder on your phone.
RATIONAL APPROACH #4: UNDERSTAND YOUR EXCUSES AND WHAT THEY REALLY MEAN
This step is short and sweet. It’s just about being real with yourself. I’ll help you get started by identifying the 2 biggest excuses I hear and use myself.
- No motivation = I’d rather be doing something else or don’t understand why I really want to do this in the first place.
- No time or I can’t find the time = I don’t want to make time or am not willing to make the tradeoffs I need to make
What excuses are you making and what do they really mean?
RATIONAL APPROACH #5: DISCOVER YOUR DEEP REASON
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a Precision Nutrition coach and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from them is that it’s important to establish why the heck you’re doing something.
Craig Weller, a PN coach and former Navy Seal likes to refer to finding your why as your “Deep Reason.”
This is gut check time. A lot of people say they want to get healthy, drop body fat, and get stronger, but they don’t really know why. Often, it’s just because they think that’s what they should be doing.
I’ve had clients tell me to my face that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to reach their goals. I’ll then ask them to do something like take the creamer out of their coffee and I get a response like this.
“I can’t do that, there’s no way. I must have my creamer.”
Ask yourself now; do you really want to put in the hard work? Do you really want to consistently workout, make better food choices, and do the work that’s necessary to achieve your goals?
If you don’t, that’s ok. You’re not ready yet. That doesn’t mean you’ll never be ready but now you’re not. Now, if you’re not sure if you’re ready this may help a bit.
THE 5 WHY’S TEST
Here’s an exercise that I’d like you to participate in now. RIGHT NOW meaning do not read on – do the dang thing.
- Step 1: Get familiar with your values. Think about these things. What do I want to be? Who do I want to be? What is important to me? What is right? What really matters in life?
- Step 2: Ask yourself why you purchased this guide and why you want to participate in it.
- Step 3: Whatever your answer in step 2 ask yourself WHY.
- Step 4: Repeat this process 5 more times.
Here’s an example.
I purchased this guide and am participating in it because I want to lose 20 pounds.
- WHY? Because if I lose 20 pounds I’ll feel better and look better
- And WHY will I look and feel better? Because I’ll have more energy and feel more confident.
- And WHY do I want to have more energy and confidence? So that I can run around with my kids and not get exhausted and feel more confident to experience more life.
- WHY is running around with my kids and experiencing more life important? Because when I’m able to play with my kids more it puts me in a good mood and when I’m experiencing more of life I’m excited about what tomorrow might bring.
- And WHY do I want to be in a good mood and excited about what tomorrow might bring? Because when I’m in a good mood life feels better and more enjoyable. When I’m excited about tomorrow I feel less stressed and in control of my life.
So you see, there’s a lot more behind wanting to lose 20 pounds than just losing 20 pounds.
More often than not the real reason you want to drop weight, reduce body fat, or get stronger is because you want to feel more confident, in control, and excited about your life.
When you’re at your healthiest all aspects of your life are better. You’re relationships, your productivity, your confidence – EVERYTHING.
So what is your “deep reason” for wanting to become the healthiest version of yourself?
- Look better naked
- Get the attention of someone
- Feel more confidence
- Have more energy
- Play with your kids without being winded
- Run a marathon
Think of your values and what’s important to you. Just be honest – There’s no wrong answer here.
If you need help with this exercise or would like some feedback. Submit your 5 whys to me here.
Do not move on until you have completed this exercise. If you do move on without doing it, the ninjas I have assigned to watch you will let me know and I will fight you.
RATIONAL APPROACH #6: CONQUER YOUR FEARS HEAD-ON
Ghost coffee = scary!
This is an exercise I stole from Yoda himself, Tim Ferriss.
Divide a piece of paper into thirds. Label one column “all the things that could go terribly wrong.”
Label the second column “things I can do to prevent those things from going terribly wrong.”
Label the third column “How I can recover from those things.”
This simple exercise will help you get a clear and rational view of the challenges ahead of you and how you can prepare for them, deal with them, and overcome them.
RATIONAL APPROACH #7: SET SOME STAKES AND CREATE REAL CONSEQUENCES FOR NOT FOLLOWING THROUGH
To help keep me on my foreign language learning game I’ve booked a trip to Russia. The fact that I know I’ll be traveling there acts as a constant reminder that I need to practice every day. The last thing I want to do is head all the way there, struggle to communicate, and not get the most out of my experience.
I’ve heard of others setting up automatic withdrawals from their bank account to go directly to a charity that they despise. Making bets with friends that won’t let them get away with not following through. As well as setting up embarrassing notifications to go out on social media.
The idea is to set up some real stakes that help you stay on your game.
RATIONAL APPROACH #8: SIMPLIFY THE PROCESS AND DISCOVER THE MINIMAL VIABLE PIECES YOU NEED TO SUCCEED
Trying to tackle something new can often feel overwhelming. It may seem like you need to do A..B…C…D…E…F…G…H…. and all these other things in order to be successful.
In reality, most things are pretty simple in theory but more difficult in practice.
For example, improving your health and fitness is actually pretty simple but not very sexy… Move more and eat better.
What usually happens next is a wide world web search of the perfect workout, the perfect diet, and the discovery of a bunch of contradicting information that makes getting started very fucking difficult.
So let’s simplify the process.
HOW TO MOVE MORE
How do you like to move your body? Walk, run, climb rocks, hike, dance, play basketball? Then do more of that stuff.
After that then being focusing on simplifying the training process by starting with the basic movements that provide the most benefit.
- Overhead presses
HOW TO EAT BETTER
Eat better by identifying what foods you already enjoy and improving on those
- I like hamburgers
- I like ice cream
- I like pizza
Great! What are small adjustments you can make to the foods you already enjoy to make them a little bit healthier?
- Lettuce wrap instead of a bun with the burger
- Try making a healthier ice cream alternative at home
- Eat 1 slice of pizza when I would normally eat 2
RATIONAL APPROACH #9: RIG THE GAME SO THAT YOU CAN WIN
There are 2 steps to this process.
CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Planning and knowledge don’t always work. I’ve laid out detailed nutrition plans for myself and for others, outlining exactly what to eat and when to eat it. However, they only ever work if the environment is changed.
Make doing the good things easier and the not-so-good things not so easy.
Let’s say you’re really stoked about trying to eat healthier and improve your fitness. You’re totally motivated and committed to making some big changes but have you made these changes easier on yourself to implement?
I have a rule, if there is food in my house, desk/work, etc… then it will eventually be eaten. Remove temptation by performing a kitchen makeover. If you know the break room is where all the donuts and candy is steer clear (or secretly throw it away ? ). If you’re often tempted by the vending machine don’t keep dollar bills or change on you.
Try these things instead:
- Perform a kitchen makeover.
- Keep healthy snacks in your car or at your desk if you get hungry.
- If you have to, hide junk food in hard-to-reach places (like the garage or the top shelf). A friend of mine once froze her credit card in a block of ice in her freezer.
- You can also start using smaller plates or Tupperware. Research has shown that we will eat what’s put in front of us.
In his book Mindless Eating, Brian Wansik addresses this exact issue, It’s scary to see how small cues can greatly impact our behavior:
If you use a big spoon, you’ll eat more. If you serve yourself on a big plate, you’ll eat more. If you move the small bowl of chocolates on your desk six feet away you’ll eat half as much. If you eat chicken wings and remove the bones from the table, you’ll forget how much you ate and you’ll eat more.
MAKE SMALL CHANGES AT FIRST INSTEAD OF MASSIVE ONES
The small change you’ll make consistently is much more powerful than the massive one you’ll do sporadically.
I set myself up for success by making it nearly impossible for me to fail. I start by making very small changes instead of trying to overhaul my life.
Russian is a tough language to learn – So I signed up for 1-on-1 lessons with an instructor once per week and have committed to practicing 10 minutes… and 10 minutes ONLY 5 days per week. I’m starting with only 10 minutes per day because I’m confident this is something I can and want to do. Any longer and I don’t know man.
When trying to create change in your life going all in doesn’t always work. Sometimes it’s definitely needed but when it comes to eating healthier small changes over time are what stick.
If you don’t like veggies you don’t have to eat them with every meal. Try introducing them with one meal for now. If that’s too much try just one piece of broccoli
If you’re drinking 3 sodas every day and finding it difficult to quit cold turkey try drinking two.
Now that your mind is right let’s jump into the how-to.
RATIONAL APPROACH #10: JUST DO SOMETHING
I was talking with a coaching client of mine and she expressed that she has always wanted to visit London but hasn’t been able to make it happen yet because of money and getting the time off from work.
So I probed a bit and asked her how confident on a scale from 1 to 10 she is that she can save $5 every week for a trip to London.
She told me she was a 10 but at that rate, it would take her 6 years to get to London.
I was then a dick and said, “Who cares. At least you’ll finally go.” It’s not the $5 you’re saving it’s that you’re actually getting started toward it. More than likely that $5 will increase at some point and she’ll end up going to London much earlier.
Point is. Just do something!