anything is possible
I’ve been reading a lot about self limiting beliefs recently, mainly from the third person perspective loving the escape artist, and I have to admit it’s really starting to ring a bell with me. A year or so ago I would have never thought I could run a sub 1:30 half marathon, or smash a 6 minute mile by over half a minute. I was held back by self limiting beliefs that I only had a certain level of fitness or speed in my genetic make up and that all those people faster than I was just got lucky in the gene lottery.
While this must be partially true; there is clearly some genetic advantage to certain people doing certain tasks; I think we give it way too much weighting in our minds with regards to what our personal capabilities are 1.
I think cultivating the opposite viewpoint that anything is possible is a much better attitude in life.
How many times have you heard a grown adult utter such sentences as:
“Oh that sounds far too technical for me, I just haven’t got the brain for it!”
“Yea that’s fine for you, you are lucky you are fit, there’s no way I could run/cycle for that long a distance/lift that amount of weight (etc…)!”
“There is just no progression path at my job, and there’s no way I’d get a job elsewhere, so I am stuck where I am for now!”
“I’ll leave it to the professionals, I’d just mess it up if I did it myself!”
In fact I’d unhappily own up to saying or thinking similar things for a few of those in the past!
People thinking these sorts of things are completely mugging themselves of by:
- Enforcing a self limiting belief
- Giving themselves an excuse on why not to even try to better themselves
- Sticking with the status quo rather than challenging themselves
- Being happy with mediocrity or worse
Why would anyone do this? The main reason is simply that most people don’t like change are set in their ways. To get many people to try something radically new once they’ve reached adulthood is akin to making a cup of tea with the proverbial chocolate teapot. The second reason is that they are scared of failure. However we know already that there is no failure don’t we? If you missed the link to that one here it is again 🙂
Now I’ve been chirping about running a 1:30 half Maro but there are clearly people out there way better than that, and there is no real reason I can’t get better either.
peak performance vs tiny gains
It may surprise or even annoy you to find out that to break the 1:30 mark I did very little training. Here is the month leading up to the run on my run tracker:
To summarise, the longest run I did was 7 miles and the fastest pace was 6:52 (for only 5 miles) while on race day the pace was 6:43 for 13.1 miles. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying anyone can start from scratch and hit this sort of target in one month with little training: I have been running semi regularly for about 5 years now! So there has been a long and steady build up to this.
But there are a few key takeaways from this in my opinion:
- Pushing to your level of peak performance whenever you train is much more efficient and effective than more regular but tiny gains. I’ve seen this myself in practice over the last year and a half where my PB has dropped to 1:35, then 1:32 and now 1:29. I have also started to read a lot more about why it works better in practice as well. See this excellent post from beyond growth on tiny gains vs peak performance training.
- You don’t have to waste hours and hours on working out to drastically improve your fitness, as long as you are always pushing the envelope and out of your comfort zone when you do.
- Believing that you can do something is half the battle – In fact you don’t even have to have full conviction (although it clearly helps) that you can. I think a good mindset is to look at other people who have done a similar thing. Are they really that different from you? The likelihood is that they are also just a normal human being without any specific super powers, just like you, so if they can do it, there is no reason why you cannot.
So stop wasting your time with complex and time consuming training plans and simply hit it hard whenever you work out. As an example of what not to do (IMO) when training for a marathon check out this punishing and overly time consuming schedule Kapitalust is putting himself through. Good luck with that mate!
I will insert the obvious but necessary caveat here that only you know your own body, listen to it!!! You must avoid injuries at all cost otherwise you cannot train at all! YMMV and all that!!!
It is also worth bearing in mind that when we are talking about how tiny gains are inefficient here we are not talking about the aggregation of marginal gains which is a completely different thing and definitely a desirable strategy:
- Tiny gains – trying to improve on your performance linearly e.g. shave 1 second off your 10K run every time you do it (this will clearly take forever to see any tangible PB improvements)
- Aggregation of marginal gains – Make lot’s of small improvements in different areas of your life which all add up to a sum total greater than each individual gain by itself. E.g: improve diet + improve training schedule + get more sleep + stop drinking alcohol = Massively improved running performance compared to just doing one of these by themselves!
the point of diminishing returns
Now, while peak performance training will rapidly get you through the low hanging fruit stage of improving, you will obviously come to the stage where there are no quick wins left. This is called the point of diminishing returns. I fear that in my running I have already reached this point although I have no idea until I push myself further and see how quickly I can improve yet again.
Needless to say though, to improve any further it is very likely that I will need to take training more seriously and not just go for a few short runs in the month leading up to the next half marathon I do!!!
If you are starting out on any self improvement project your main aim should be to race through the low hanging fruit section as fast as you can until you hit the point of diminishing returns. By doing this you enjoy the benefits of the improved performance for longer as you’ve reached it faster. This is fairly simple logic but that is lost on many who think that small but regular improvements are easier and more sustainable.
pick an FI incubator project
Linking this all back to finances and financial independence, I think that attempting to do something reeeaaaallllly hard is a great way to train yourself for the long slog that is the road to financial independence.
You could pick anything that you deem a large and hard task, such as:
- Running a marathon
- Cycling the length of a medium sized country
- Over coming one of your fears by crushing your comfort zone
- Learning to play a musical instrument
- Deciding to refit your whole bathroom without any prior plumbing knowledge
These sort of challenges are what I like to call an FI incubator project, because they are training your brain and body to think BIG, think long term, become a planner, and work hard, which are exactly the sort of behaviours required to reach financial independence.
These FI incubator projects force you to come up with a plan. The plan needs to be a good one and it needs to be executed well, otherwise your project will likely never be completed. The parallels to FI should be obvious.
The key thing for me is that despite these things being large or long-term challenges, the timescales involved are of a magnitude less than those required to reach FI for an average earner. So it is much easier to get a mental model of how they can be possible into your brain.
If you are struggling to see how FI is possible, I would challenge you to pick another, practically impossible (to you) task with a much shorter timescale, and see if you can come up with a plan to get it done. Then go do it 🙂
If you’ve already run a marathon then challenge yourself with doing another one in an “impossible” time, or pick something completely new (climbing Kilimanjaro perhaps?!). Constantly challenge your limits and erode those self limiting beliefs. Once you start to surprise yourself and push past those previous boundaries, then the mammoth task of saving up enough money to last you for the rest of your life will not seem like such a daunting task.
walking the talk
Rather than just wang on at you lot about all of this I better nail my colours to the mast and put out some really challenging goals. You may have guessed by now but they will revolve around running.
I am going to run 3 half marathons in 3 consecutive weekends starting from February 21st, and I want to smash my PB in each of them. Current PB times with new targets are going to be:
- Tunbridge wells half: PB 1:32 / Target: 1:26:00 (Pace 6:29 min/mile)
- Brighton half: PB 1:35 / Target 1:22:00 (Pace 6:15 min/mile)
- Eastbourne half: PB 1:59 (Before you question this time, I was hungover! 🙂 ) / Target 1:30:00* (Pace 6:43 min/mile)
*Eastbourne half is a beast!!! Very hilly and windy along the coast as well, the winning times are around 10-15 minutes higher than the Brighton half, plus it will be my third in a row and the legs will no doubt be tired. Hence the longer target time!
To help me along the way I will need to hit some intermediate goals at shorter distances, to get the peak performance training up as much as possible:
- I will run a mile in 5:00 mins
- I will run 2 miles in 10:40 mins
- I will run 3 miles in 17:00 mins
- I will finish in the top 3 at my local park run (5km in anywhere around 18 minutes should do this, depending on who else turns up. It’s very hilly)
- I will run a 10K in 37:00 minutes (Pace 5:58 min/mile)
over to you…
I’d love to hear some of your FI incubator projects you have in the pipeline or have done in the past… Please let me know in the comments below! It would be great to get some other ideas.
If you can’t think of anything now then don’t worry about it. I will come back to this in a few weeks and remind everyone to see if anyone has thought of anything in the mean time. I think it would be really good to get everyone to write down a real stretch goal and then check in say once a month with everyone’s progress in the comments section so we can spur each other on.
So have a long hard think, if you think of anything straight away and are game for a challenge then just leave a comment below! If not, hopefully you can think of something in the next few weeks!
I will sign off by paraphrasing Paula at afford anything and say this:
You might not be able to do everything but you can do anything
Addendum: I had this post in my drafts before TEA posted this article which has similar themes and at the end of which he challenges himself to running a marathon. It’s great to see we’re both thinking along the same lines!
TEA says his excuse for not doing it sooner was always that he never had enough time due to work etc… but I see no reason why people can’t do this sort of thing well before they hit FI and quit their jobs, so get out there and do it people! 🙂
- And besides in the task at hand, running long distances, I am and always have been built like a long distance runner anyway, so I have no excuses on that front! ↩