I’ve been blogging about how to finish what you start, and I’ve been openly sharing the challenges I face with starting well but allowing projects to fall apart before they finish.
As part of my journey, I’ve realized that I let projects end prematurely whenever I face adversity — specifically when I start encountering a lot of tasks that I don’t enjoy doing. I’ve suggested that you have to overcome adversity and then later I realized that you can’t just overcome adversity… I think you have to learn to love adversity.
In today’s blog post I want to explore how to fall in love with adversity. And to do that, I’m reverse-engineering how I came to love working out.
I used to dislike working out. It was a chore; it was something I did because I had to do and I tried to find the workout that required as little from me as possible, so I squeezed it in when I remembered. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t very healthy and didn’t see huge results. Fast forward to today. I have a daily workout that I get up every weekday at 6 AM to do. I love it. I look forward to it. It energizes me. It’s MUCH harder than my earlier workouts (so the adversity has increased) but I love it.
So what changed? Here are a few observations:
- I saw the results that others experienced. Before I started on this workout, a friend of mine did it and it had a tremendous result. He was older and in worse shape than I was and he had massive results. It was an eye-opener to the possibilities.
- I started with someone else and forced accountability right away. Instead of just starting to do the workout, I found another friend who was looking to add a workout into his life and we made each other a friendly wager to workout regularly and pay the other if we missed one. The wager, along with regular feedback loops along the way, really helped to keep me on track and instill the routine early.
- I saw results in myself really fast. I saw some results within 2 weeks. And other results within 6 weeks. I realize now that those early results were instrumental in me keeping at it.
- Other people couldn’t do it. The workout was hard but I had no idea how hard until a couple other people tried it as well. They couldn’t do it. One guy threw up. Two other guys just quit. The surprise lesson to me was: I loved the fact that I was doing something other people couldn’t do. That motivated me in ways that I never knew were possible.
- The burn became a measure of growth, not of discomfort. The worst part of the workout is the half-way point. Everything is burning. I’m sweaty and disgusting and out of breath. And I realize that I’ve still got more of my workout to do. At first, it was an awful feeling. But I soon came to realize that those physical effects were clues of growth. Although it was uncomfortable, it was an indicator that my workout was working. That attitude adjustment was huge.
- I came to hate how I felt when I didn’t work out. There were times when I’d miss my workout. For example, I hurt my back pretty badly and had to stop for a couple of weeks. Or I went on vacation and didn’t workout while I was gone. When that happened, I suddenly realized how I felt when I wasn’t working out: I slept worse, I felt sluggish and stiff. I came to enjoy how I felt for the other 23 hours of the day on the days when I worked out.
- I could push myself in my workout. One reason I gave up on past workouts was because I didn’t push myself enough (partly because I didn’t want to but partly because I didn’t have the workout structure to do it). Now, my workout has built-in aspects that allow me to push myself, which is good because I’m pretty competitive with myself.
- Working out became a necessary part of my day. This one was a surprise to me: Workouts used to be an annoyance and a hassle. But later, I found them to be so necessary to my well-being that I became far more diligent in how I scheduled them. Rather than scheduling my workouts around other things, I started to schedule other things around my workouts.
- I focused on making the difficult parts of the workout. Within my workout are several exercises — some were more enjoyable than others. By focusing on the harder ones, I grew familiar with them and started to enjoy them, and the exercises that I once disliked became ones that I looked forward to.
Those are the ways that I came to love the adversity of working out. So how can I reverse engineer this to come to love the adversity of my other projects? Here are some ideas…
- I need to see results. This means setting milestones throughout a project, rather than just setting “start” and “finish” goals. I need to see those results on a regular basis.
- I need to be accountable. This means sharing my struggles with others and getting help. (Getting help is not easy for me).
- I need to remind myself that other people can’t do it. This was a surprisingly motivator from my workout and I think I can adopt it in my other projects by reminding myself that I have the skills and time to do what others cannot do.
- I need to remember that adversity indicates growth. I’ve said before that adversity increases throughout a project. That’s good news, actually. If I’m facing adversity, it means the project is moving forward!
- I need to learn to hate not finishing. I haven’t hated it enough in the past, which has allowed me to let non-finishes happen more often than they should.
- I need to see adversity as a way to rise to the occasion. When I face adversity in projects, I need to smile and think “great! This is an opportunity for me to prove to myself and to the world that I can do this!”
- I need to believe that adversity is a necessity. I should be worried when things are too easy. Adversity is an indicator of growth.
- I need to focus on the hard parts rather than the easy parts. The easy parts will work themselves out. The hard parts need focus.
Adversity. I love it in my workouts. Diamonds become precious stones under pressure. Calm seas do not make skillful sailors.
I can learn to love it in my projects.