Flexibility in Practice: When to Avoid an “All or Nothing” Approach
There are many instances in life where giving it your all is the only way to go. Passion, tenacity, and grit are not just admirable traits, but the ones that truly can facilitate extraordinary accomplishments. However, the more emphasis that is placed on achieving perfection, the less flexible we tend to become when things do not go our way. When we refuse to give ourselves the ability to adjust the plan, it can often lead to a phenomenon I like to describe as the “forget it!” effect.
In a perfect world, we would all have perfectly crafted weekly meal prep from only fresh, local markets, attend the gym 5+ times a week, get 9+ hours of sleep, RX every workout, and find world peace in our free time. Unless you’re secretly a superhero, this can be very difficult for an individual trying to balance their health alongside the other stressors from work and family.
Now, consider this example: Its Sunday afternoon and you’re grocery shopping to meal prep for the week. You’ve already planned out all your meals for the week and are excited to get the ball rolling on improving your nutrition. You decide you’re going to attend the 5:45 AM CrossFit class 3x this week to get a head start on your day, and you’ll be in bed by 8pm Sunday evening. As soon as you get home, you realize the chicken you bought to prep is rancid and your family is hungry so you decide to order a pizza. You decide to run back to the store to get more chicken and by the time you get to cooking it’s already 6PM. You committed to this meal prep so you stay up until 10pm getting everything ready. By the time you get to bed, you’re upset you won’t get enough sleep, so you decide to skip out on the 5:45 AM class. The next morning you wake up frustrated you missed your workout, you spend the entire day irritable and get home that evening. You look at your meal-prep in the fridge and decide “forget it!” - next thing you know you’re blacked out in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
If this sounds like you - don’t panic. I’ve been there too, and there is a way out! When wrenches get thrown in a seemingly perfect plan, it’s normal to want to jump ship. However, by being realistic in your approach, being flexible in your methods and knowing when the “best” option isn’t there, there is always a “better” option you can combat adversity with grace! Here are some tips and tricks to set yourself up for success.
Set realistic and manageable expectations, build consistency over time. Find a reasonable number of days you know you can get to the gym and stick to it. Maybe you’d love to get in 5x a week, but right now you really can only fit in 2 sessions. Consistently prioritize those two classes, and when you can fit in another while managing other stressors - get it in!
Be flexible in your methods. If your goal is to be more active and you can only consistently get into the gym 2x a week, that does not mean it is the only physical activity you can do! Taking daily walks, biking, hiking, swimming, etc. are all ways to be more active on days you cannot get into the gym.
When the best option isn’t available, there is always a better option. Say in the example above the individual really wanted to meal-prep all fresh food for their week. Unfortunately, their Sunday obligations ran later than usual and they know they won’t be able to cook, prep and get a full night’s rest. The “forget-it” effect would dictate that this individual either stays up late to prep and say “forget it!” to sleep and class OR they decide to say “forget-it” altogether and end up getting fast food. A better choice would be to understand that the best option is not available at this time, and purchase a pre-made rotisserie chicken, some easy frozen veggies, and minute rice. This would allow the individual to still get in nutrients and be well rested for that 5:45 AM class!
There are so many more examples this can be applied to - dealing with injury, starting a new diet or program, approaching a difficult workout, and more. However, the lessons we learn in the gym are often metaphors for life. Always strive for greatness, but be willing to take the small steps to get there. A lifetime of building will make a much larger tower than knocking it every time you misplace a brick.