January 12, 2019

My Gym System

Reading the book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, I read about the system that he has to go to the gym. While in a normal day, he goes to the gym and exercises regularily, at fixed hour. But some days are harder than others, and on those days, he takes the process really step by step. He first start by putting on this shoes. If he does not feel like going after that, he stops here and that’s it for the day (as he tells it, those days are very rare). But most of the days, he’ll say “well, now that I have my shoes on, I guess I’ll go to the gym”. When he gets there, if he does not feel like exercising, he just walks around the gym for a while, then goes home. But again, most days, he’ll end up there, and exercise.

This example shows something that is very interesting to me. It illustrates that on most days, the most difficult is to get the first step done. Getting this first step done is in fact difficult because we see it as a part of an even harder event, like going to the gym. If we say “I will go to the gym every day”, it is very different than saying “I will put on my sport shoes on every day, and then see whether I can keep pushing to the gym”. If the first step is as incredibly simple, we are almost sure to get it done, and then the hardest part will follow more easily.

I always saw the trigger of the habit needing to be an action that you are already doing. But would it not be easier to create a new action, that is so simple that getting it done would be incredibly easy, and which then serves as the trigger for the following action ? We know how hard it is to keep on with new routines, so craft them carefully to make them as easy to follow as possible, and to allow them to have failure, meaning you can have a day where you are so down that you don’t even want to get out of bed, but you still can follow the routine, since you planned for such a state of mine.

To start then, I’ll have a go at designing a “going to the gym” system. Here are a few options that I want to take into account:

  • I don’t want to go
  • I am okay with going to the gym
  • I am feeling excited about going to the gym
  • I am extremly tired
  • I am feeling well
  • I am travelling
  • I am sick

Also, I have to take a decision about when I want to actually go there. The first option is to stay the course, and keep going after dinner. I have started using this system already, so it would be easy to keep on going. But it is late at night, after a day of work, when I have exhausted a good part of willpower. the second option is to go early in the morning, when I wake up. The upside is that I get more energy for the day, and that my willpower should be replenished. The downside is that I have a really hard time for now to get up in the morning, and that would mean getting earlier than I do now. I am playing the long game on this, so I will stay on the evening schedule for now, while I keep using this system and making it a habit.

Here is the system that I developed, keeping those options into account. This system is more complex than the previous ones, because more is taken into account. It may be too big, we’ll see with time.

Of course, this system is not perfect, and just having the steps to follow one after the other would probably enough, just choosing the proper ones. But expressing it this way allows me to get it more standardized. I’ll keep this system for now, and see if I can follow it properly.

On of the main issues that I see with this system is that knowing that I would still be in the system by doing less would lead me to do less. However, I have two points against that. First, maybe I would do less at the beginning, but would end up doing more later. Second, doing less than I feel I could do would not be actually following the system, since it calls for doing it while you can_keep_going.

What seem, to you, to be the up and down sides of this system? Does something seems wildely wrong with this approach according to you ?

Copyright Marin Gilles 2019-2021