The Leap of Faith

Hello out there, LoW!

We have a lot of decisions to make in our lives every day. Some of those are smaller, simpler, more concrete decisions, like what to have for breakfast and what movie to see. Other decisions are most abstract like whether we should get married or what our best path to health looks like. They might not have obvious answers or perhaps several of the options look like they might be right. They are the decisions that are challenging to make because we don’t have information about situations we haven’t tried yet. We don’t know what we don’t know. We often ask others what their experiences are and yet we are so vastly different that their experiences might be completely opposite of our own.

So how do you know when you are on the right track with goals in your life? Is it something you can feel? Do you measure it and watch for progress? I find that for me, it is often both of those things. The right choice just hits differently. It feels like the right thing to do. My thoughts flow easily, solutions arise more naturally, and there is an overall sense of “HELL YES!”. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, it’s just that I don’t feel I have to brute force my way through something that endlessly feels like a struggle. When something is working well for me, I still need to put in the work, but the work has purpose and it feels good to work on. The work is moving the needle and pushing me towards my goal rather than stagnating or worse, pushing me backwards. 

If I feel like I am spinning my wheels or even going in reverse, sometimes I make the mistake of doing the same thing over and over again trying to force something to work when it obviously is not. You know that saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”? It’s pretty accurate. For example, I used to force myself to do workouts in the morning. Even though it made me dread workouts, I kept insisting on doing so because the “data” suggested it was ideal. But something is only ideal if it actually works for you. I understand now that a walk or Ruck first thing is ideal, and I save strength training for the afternoon. Trying to lift heavy stuff at 9am only left me feeling frustrated, no matter what the so-called data suggested. On the flip side, writing and creativity has to be in the morning, so it works out perfectly. That is one example how I feel my way through a decision. I used data to decide to do morning workouts only to find that my own experience did not match up. Nothing about morning workouts felt right or easy. On the contrary, I felt dread and frustration and my workouts felt like I was slogging through mud.

In comparison, when I do those workouts in the afternoon, my body is ready to work. I feel energetic and strong, and ready to conquer! By the time I finish my warm-up set any thoughts of not wanting to work out are in the rear view mirror.

It’s not always obvious or easy to feel through a decision, so I also measure progress. I know tracking isn’t for everyone, so you should always do what works for you. I track certain things because I want to know how I arrived at a certain place and what the movement looks like over time. If I want to know why I’m not seeing results from my workouts, I can look at the info I recorded and gather some insights. It might seem to me that I only missed a couple of days of mobility work. But when I go back to my notebook, it turns out it’s actually been a week. No wonder I am feeling stiff. I can tell if my nutrition is falling off because I see plateaus in my progress and I realize the 200 calories in snacking I’m doing every evening is having a detrimental effect. That doesn’t mean I hold a negative attitude about it, for me it is just curiosity, one tool to help me know what is right for me compared to the goals I want to achieve.

For me, tracking information isn’t about perfection. It’s not about trimming the end off my toothbrush to achieve a perfect hiking base weight (people do that!). It’s not about forcing myself to limp through 10,000 steps if something is hurting. It’s not about saying no to birthday cake when I really want a piece. It’s looking at where I’ve been compared to where I am going.

I just finished up a book by Russ Roberts called “Wild Problems: A Guide to the Decisions that Define Us” and it left me thinking about how we handle those abstract goals. The ones that aren’t easily measured. Some decisions require a leap of faith, like getting married or having children or settling on a degree. We can get so bogged down in data points, other people’s opinions, and pros and cons lists that we end up paralyzed. We don’t feel confident in our decision, we just feel pushed into a corner. Or we make no decision, and life makes it for us.

At the end of the book, there is a quote by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks that says, “The only way to understand whether a certain path is right for you is to actually try it for an extended period. Those who hover on the edge of commitment, reluctant to make a decision until all the facts are in, will eventually find that life has passed them by. The only way to understand a way of life is to take the risk in living it.” Sometimes I have a hard time balancing that. I definitely can get lost in the details, trying to gather every correct bit of information before I feel comfortable making a decision. It tends to hold me back. Sometimes, you have to go for it without knowing how it’s going to turn out. 

We understand that choosing one thing means we are crossing off a million others. Oliver Burke discusses that in his book 4,000 Weeks as well. The only option is to consciously choose a path and live it. That is true whether you are talking about fitness, career, family, or anything else. 

The times I have made a commitment to a path and known I was on the right one it just felt different. It’s pretty hard to measure something like that! But you just know. You do the work, and in doing so you can feel it propelling you forward rather than spinning in place. That doesn’t mean it’s never hard. It doesn’t mean you never get stuck. But you have the choice to find a way around, or give up. I’m learning better how to take the leap of faith.

Stay wild out there!


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