Photo by Alan Cleaver
“The one who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones.” ~ Confucius
When I was 18 years old I was overweight. Not incredibly, but very noticeably overweight. I had grown complacent. I had decided it was genetic, and that there was nothing I could do. But after realizing where I was headed, I decided to change.
At first these changes were not very visible. But with time, it seemed like I was simply losing weight without doing anything. Unknowingly, I had tapped into four great principles for long-term self improvement.
1. Focus On The Long Term First
Making a daily action plan is great, and can really keep you in check when you most need it, but sometimes the best way to get a broader perspective of something, is thinking in the long term. That way you can consider all the factors that go into accomplishing something, or failing.
It is insane how little things can add up over time. Let’s say you gain about an ounce any given day, doesn’t sound like much right? Over the course of a year, you will have gained 22 pounds. In five years over 210 pounds. I never noticed the weight coming, but it came nonetheless. Teach yourself to think long term, and keep close tabs on little changes towards or away from your goal.
Think about how small, tiny actions could impact your long term goals. Whether they are your spending habits, your eating habits, your productivity (or lack thereof) habits. Get in the mindset that your mission is a long term one, and start to make decisions based on that. Leave instant gratification behind, and pursue true satisfaction and happiness.
2. Identify Your Main Obstacles And Overcome Them
When you’re tackling anything in life, a great idea is to identify your main offenders. Find out what is stopping you from reaching your goals. Go into great detail, and include the little things that come from the same source.
One of the most common obstacles, is the victim mentality. Believing that you’re the butt of some cruel joke of the universe, and that you have little power to do anything to change it. So you do nothing instead.
If you struggle with losing weight, the appetite, or as I like to call it, the hunger is one part of a main offender. You might only eat when you’re hungry, but heck, I used to always be hungry.
The second half of that is, believing that the hunger is something you can’t change. In most cases, it has little to do with genetics… you are simply conditioning yourself to be hungry all the time, with the amount you eat. Especially when the food you eat does not help you stay full.
But it wasn’t just the hunger either, just like with anything else, you will very rarely face only one problem. There’s the unhealthy eating habits, the lack of exercise, victim mindset. And much more.
So the first thing I tackled, was my hunger. I started eating less, in 4 hour intervals, and focused on keeping busy so I wouldn’t notice, or give in to, the hunger. I would also try to eat more fiber, and protein.. After about 2-3 weeks, I wasn’t that hungry anymore. I would be full after 1 serving, and not be hungry for another 4 hours.
3. Identify Your Main Allies And Improve Them
What are you already doing that is helping you?
Take some time to really think about what you are doing that is actually helping you towards your goal, and separate them from the things that you think/assume are helping you.
What your last pleasant surprise(pertaining to your goal), and what got you there?
If you have experienced some unexpected progress towards your goal, take some time to think about what was really responsible for it. But remember that sometimes coincidences do happen, so if you are at an impasse, don’t worry too much about it.
It doesn’t have to be something you do either. Sometimes the best allies can be found in interests you already have, that you just haven’t taken advantage of yet. Like if you are incredibly passionate about a sport, but spend your time watching instead of playing.
I hate public transportation, and I rather like to walk… so I started to walk to school, then later the university, every day. It was about 30 minutes each way walking, and took about 15 minutes by bus depending on the wait, including the time it takes to walk to and from the bus stops. So for an extra 20 minutes per day, I got an extra 50 minutes of light exercise built into my daily schedule.
4. Focus On Sustainability
People who do extreme diets, also have a tendency for extreme rebounds. One of my friends lost 60 pounds in 2 months using one of those, “basically starve myself and call it a diet” diets, and went on to regain everything in just over 3 weeks.
The methods you would normally use for extremely rapid weight loss are usually not something you can keep up indefinitely. And for some, the only thing they have to fall back on, is their habits from when they were overweight. So if you want to do extreme weight loss and not rebound, focus on having a more moderate version to fall back on when you’re done.
One year after I started, I had lost over 70 pounds with no sign of relapse. I didn’t diet in a traditional way, I didn’t exercise excessively, I just changed some of my habits using these simple principles. Which really illustrates the power of moving one stone at a time.
Don’t force yourself into burnout. Don’t be just another dieter with a rebound. Find the balance between working towards your goal, and keeping yourself happy.
Are there any principles that have you served you well over the years?