By: Andrew Young
If you’re like me, every new year starts with renewed commitments and plans, followed by determination and hard work. But very quickly, the early morning workouts give way to late-night snacking and by the end of January, the treadmill is back to being the best place to dry out the ski gear.
Why does it always seem so hard to create good habits while bad habits settle in without any effort? How come it takes some of us years to get “on the wagon” but only an instant of poor judgement to fall off and get run over by this very same wagon?
I think part of the answer has to do with our innate desire for instant gratification. We want to see results immediately. We’re frustrated when the needle on the scale doesn’t budge the same day we sacrifice stuffed-crust for regular crust. Every time we do sit-ups, we secretly look in the mirror, expecting to see the first signs of a six-pack. We watch our savings grow as painfully slow as the mortgage principal deflates.
Similar to interest in our bank account, our habits compound over time with progress starting off very, very slow. Sometimes we don’t see any results at all in the beginning. This makes it very difficult to stay motivated and persevere.
But when we do persevere, eventually we hit a breakthrough moment – and we start to see real lasting results. James Clear, in his book “Atomic Habits”, equates this to melting ice: imagine you’re in a room with an ice cube and the temperature is -10°C. As you raise the temperature of the room to -9°C, then -8°C, then -7°C, the ice doesn’t change – you don’t see any results. So, you continue to raise the temperature to -1°C and then past 0°C…suddenly it begins to melt. A 1-degree shift, seemingly no different than the previous ones, unlocked a huge change.
Complaining about not achieving success despite your hard work is like complaining about an ice cube not melting when you heat it from -10°C to -1°C. Your work is not wasted; it is just being stored. All the action happens once you pass the melting point.
When you set your mind to work on self-improvement, you naturally expect to see instant growth. But it’s the day-to-day small habits that compound over time and lead to powerful results. James Clear illustrates this difference between expectations and reality, which can sometimes create a “Valley of Disappointment”
This is one reason why Ascend Fitness gives their clients the gift of a 12 month membership. It creates enough time and space for health and fitness changes to become habitual. With longer commitments and coaching every step of the way, we help our clients move past the Valley of Disappointment.