Our success or failure in fitness is determined by our progress. If we’re making steady, tangible progress, we can be certain we’re succeeding. If we’re NOT progressing (whether we’re stagnating or regressing), we are, by definition, failing.
That’s some serious pressure. Pressure we put on ourselves. Pressure we put on our coaches. Pressure we put on our teammates.
When did we become so shortsighted? When did things become so black and white? When did we lose sight of the process?
The answer: we lose our way when we forget to look back and SEE the path we’ve taken.
Progress is often blurred in the moment. We want to better right NOW. That’s great. That’s what drives many of us: the desire to be 1 percent better every day. Many of us use mantras like that, but the very next moment, we whine and pout about the fact that we had a single bad workout or the scale didn’t budge from yesterday.
Progress is not linear. Unfortunately, it’s often advertised as such.
Never before has it been easier to compare ourselves to others because the lives of others are so public. Want to destroy any and all motivation you may have to get better? Tap the “Explore” tab on Instagram. Or browse YouTube for 10 minutes. The number of insanely strong, ripped and good-looking people on social media is enough to make you want to break down and give up.
What you won’t see in their pictures and videos, however, is the process. It’s easy to assume that these people have been and always will be better than you. But guess what? When they were where you are now, they weren’t publicizing it. They were chipping away at the process. The workouts, the meal prep, the setbacks, the long days, late nights, early mornings – you rarely get to see these.
There’s an illusion of nothing but success that surrounds many successful people. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Instagram hasn’t been around long enough yet to follow someone from the bottom of the bottom to the top of the top. It takes TIME. More time than most are willing to put into the process.
Want to know the single most powerful question you can ask yourself to stay motivated?
“What were you doing a year ago today?”
This is an extremely powerful question. I ask myself this a lot.
When I was struggling to get good grades in grad school, it reminded me that a year ago, I’d never even taken a formal exercise science class.
When I was sitting behind a desk wearing a shirt and tie, trying to stay awake between part-time shifts as a personal trainer, it reminded me that a year ago, I’d never actually been paid to train anyone before.
When I was struggling to learn the ropes of assessments and program design, it reminded me that a year ago, I could only dream of walking through the doors at Cressey Sports Performance, let alone working there.
A year ago, I wrote an article for Stack called, “Improve Your Squat Depth with 5 Easy Warm-Up Exercises”. Do I still practice and preach everything I wrote in that article? Not exactly. Not because the information is wrong, but because I’ve learned a lot and could approach things BETTER today than I could a year ago.
A year ago, I coached my sister at her third powerlifting meet. She was disappointed in her performance. I hope if she looked back today, she’d laugh out loud at the progress she’s made. Today, she’s put nearly 150 pounds on her total and is moving weights that seemed unimaginable when she started powerlifting in 2014.
A year ago, I’d recently helped coach at the second-ever Optimizing the Big 3 seminar with Greg Robins. Now, Greg and I have traveled across the country to present our brand of powerlifting methods. We recently did our first international workshop and we’re headed to Maine on April 3 (REGISTER HERE).
A year ago, it would have been nearly impossible for me to imagine being where I am in my career and my relationships. Had I been too results oriented, I could have easily said…
I’m not strong enough.
I’m not smart enough.
This is too hard.
This is taking too long.
I wrote this post for many of my clients and athletes who get frustrated from time to time. But I also wrote this post for myself. I need constant reminders that progress is often invisible in the moment, but it’s impossible to miss if you step back and see the bigger picture.
Comparing yourself to others, especially others who you’ll likely NEVER meet and NEVER compete against, is useless. You’re only competing against YOU. On YOUR timeline.
The next time frustration threatens to stop you in your tracks, ask yourself, What were you doing a year ago today? It will help you see how far you’ve come. Be proud of your progress, no matter how slow it may seem. Keep moving forward, no matter how slowly. It all adds up in the long run.