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5 Things Lifting Weights Has Taught Me About Life

There is more to life than picking things up and putting them down.

Weight Lifting
Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

Shortcuts Create Imbalances

Results don’t come overnight and any shortcuts you decide to take come with consequences that will catch up to you later on in life. Trying to get too strong, too fast by ego-lifting or engaging in uneducated use of performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s) for quick results may get you ahead in the short-term, but will set you back in the long-term with injuries and health complications. The ethics and use of PED’s are for another discussion, but one of the most common issues with combining ego and uneducated use of PED’s is that the drugs cause the muscle to grow at a much more rapid rate than the surrounding connective tissue. Eventually, the muscle gets stronger and can lift heavier weights, but the connective tissue can’t keep up anymore and your muscle snaps from the bone. Now you’re on the shelf.

Life is about balance. There are ways to be more efficient with your time and there are better choices you can make to improve the results of your efforts, but seeking shortcuts to bypass hard work leads to dangerous imbalances which may cause a collapse in your efforts. In business, for example, you can take certain shortcuts to maximize profits on a single project but you risk compromising your relationship with your client, surrendering potential larger opportunities down the road. The same applies to family, relationships, and just about all areas in our lives – we can find ways to accelerate progress in one specific area, but how does it affect the balance of the entire working system?

The bottom line is that we must always be mindful of maintaining balance in the system – weaken one leg of the barstool and it topples over. Nothing is one-dimensional, there are no shortcuts, and success requires steady and consistent effort across the board to build and maintain.

Effort Means Nothing If You Aren’t Progressing

I admire anybody who puts forth great effort in the gym, but the harsh reality that I learned is that working hard means absolutely nothing if you aren’t working smart and actually making progress. Nobody cares how many hours you spend at the gym if you don’t have the body to show for it, just like nobody cares how much time and money you invested in your prestigious degree if you’re still unemployed and playing video games in your parents’ basement.

Effort is only valuable if it’s exchanged for results. Before we see results, we need to achieve progress. You won’t make progress unless you swim out to deep water and challenge yourself in ways you haven’t before.

Progressive overload the way to go, which implies gradually (and regularly) treading into unfamiliar territory, pushing your limits enough to make progress, but not too much that we risk detrimental effects. If you got seven reps last week, strive for eight reps this week. If you cooked dinner for your wife once last month, strive to do it twice this month. If you made $95K last year, aim for $100K this year. Get it?

Work smart to find ways to grow one small step at a time, always strive to be better than you were before, and push for a return on your investment. Consistent effort is key, but it is meaningless if you aren’t consistently progressing.

You Are Your Own Worst Critic

When I first signed up for the gym, I saw plenty of people who were stronger and in far better shape than I was and it was incredibly discouraging seeing people so far ahead while I was just getting started. I was soft, weak, and insecure. In my mind, people were staring at me and laughing. Needless to say, this paranoia was incredibly distracting and feelings of inadequacy prevented me from giving it my all.

The reality was the exact opposite was true. Nobody was staring. Nobody was laughing. Everybody was minding their own business, focusing on their workouts or socializing with one another. It was all in my head. We are our own worst critics and I found that most of our own limitation are self-imposed. We get in our own heads and beat ourselves up with negative self-talk, introducing negative energy and preventing ourselves from moving forward with our visions or giving our all due to fear of judgment from others.

Your only true competition should be with yourself. Focus on yourself and your brand and be the best that you can be at it.

Take Time Off

It’s easy to get immersed in our craft, especially once we get a taste of progress and success. The feeling of success is addicting, no doubt, and it’s a great thing until it begins to border on obsession and we slowly lose our smiles. It’s very important to challenge yourself, but it’s equally important to avoid burnout.

True success doesn’t come from a single defining moment – it comes from consistently making strides forward over an extended period of time, which is why it’s important to preserve motivation and promote longevity. With that said, never neglect the foundational components of longevity, such as adequate rest and recovery. This applies to all areas in life – too much of anything will burn you out, so learn to balance yourself. Find family time, find work time, and find “you” time. Like everything in life, find time to be away from it so that you can stay fresh, motivated, and passionate over the course of a lifetime.

Have Fun

I saved the best for last, and its really simple – you have to enjoy what you do. You only live one life, and everything that you do should bring you some level of happiness, pleasure, or satisfaction. When I was working out for over three hours a day, I began dreading the gym. I stopped going and focused on other areas of my life. When I returned, I had a better sense of balance in life. I let go of my obsession to meet certain goals and just focused on enjoying the process and having fun with it. Ironically enough, once I stopped obsessing, I began making better progress and feeling happier.

The same applies to your job, your relationships, and all of your fundamental pillars in life. You have to enjoy the journey, otherwise, you are just wasting your time chasing finish lines hoping to find fulfillment at the end of the tunnel. Don’t treat the journey as a means to an end, but an end in itself.

“If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”

Groucho Marx
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