As a culture, it seems that many of us want things very quickly. To achieve a goal as quickly and effortlessly as possible. To get results. To lose weight. To get fit.
I think this can hinder us from achieving our true potential. Little improvements over the long term really add up, and perhaps, if we invest for the long term, years from now we may achieve far greater feats and be both happier and healthier.
The first time I trained for an Ironman, I recall feeling so sore all the time. I remember constantly trying to stretch different muscles while at work or in public. Now, I am still tired and sore, but I have both learned how to take better care of my body during periods of really long training hours, and I am positive that my body is adapting to keep me feeling better during those periods of longer hours. Triathlon isn’t a main goal of mine — well, anything other than continuing to finish races. I like the lifestyle and the training, but I do not set faster time goals each year. Still, I do love to learn little things about my body and all aspects of training (which is why I share them here in this blog). I think it is amazing as years do begin to stack up, to be able to look back at some changes. Not something I can learn overnight, but rather things I learn each training cycle or after years of doing something.
For a different and inspiring perspective over far more time than I have spent doing triathlon, power lifter Ed Coan (who I cited yesterday) writes this for Tribe of Mentors:
Tim Ferriss: “Were there any counterintuitive or particularly surprising findings that you found when looking at your notes from 28 years of training?
Ed: “At the time I wrote the notes down, no. But when I look back at them, yes. The biggest surprise was that I took my time and made a little, tinny bit of progress four or five times a year. When you make a little progress four times a year over 28 years, you’re going to be pretty good at what you do. I never thought “Oh, I have to lift X amount of weight or accomplish Y.” I just thought “I’m going to get better, and this is what I have to do to get better. These are my weaknesses, let me correct my weaknesses.”
According to Wikipedia, Ed Coan is regarded as THE greatest powerlifter of all time. That is saying a lot! He was obviously far more focused on powerlifting goals than I am on the triathlon goals that I don’t actually set for myself…but I still think it is important lesson. If he hadn’t made those little changes over many years, might he have hurt himself, or burnt out, or otherwise not gotten to the point that he ultimately did in his powerlifting career?
For another perspective on changing slowly over time (though focused more on cultural change and affecting those who we are around), listen to this great double episode of Akimbo, the podcast of Seth Godin. Part 1. Part 2.