It’s the #1 reason everyone has for not doing something they know they should – “I don’t have time to work out.”
Whether you’re looking to start a workout routine, adopt a healthier diet, or begin any new habit that requires time and effort the first reason people give for falling off the program is that they just don’t have the time to work out. You’ve probably heard or said it yourself. I have a saying that reflects this for most people: “The last habit you started will be the first one to go at the first sight of difficulty.”
Last weekend we spent time with some friends with two small kids – ages 2 and 4. When it was time for the 4 year-old to go to bed, he fought brushing his teeth like he was defending the Alamo. This got me thinking about adults brushing their teeth. I don’t know a single adult that despises oral hygiene to that extent. I’ve had plenty of nights when I was so exhausted that I couldn’t fathom taking 5 minutes to brush my teeth. But I did it anyway. Unlike the 4 year-old, I have about 30 more years of this habit so the likelihood of me going sans brushing is pretty unlikely. It’s an ingrained part of my day. It would feel weird not to do it.
We’re All the Same Species
I can’t remember where I came across this idea, but I was listening to an audiobook the other day and the author kept making note of how astoundingly adaptable we are as humans. There is such an incredible range of output and capability from within the same species. We have plenty of examples of humans enduring outrageous hardship in war. We also have examples of people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk accomplishing incredible feats of industry and invention in the same 24 hours we’re all given.
I don’t see many other examples in nature where an individual within a species can accomplish two, three, or ten times that of another’s capability. The range of speed for a Cheetah is 68-75 miles per hour. That’s a really narrow range. It’s not like one cheetah is only clocking in at 35 while another is hitting a blazing 120. Black bears can go up to 100 days without eating. Every black bear falls somewhere pretty close to that range.
You’re Capable of More Than You Think
Our adaptability is our clear strategic advantage as a species. In fact, our entire history can be summed up with two words: Discomfort & Adaptation. Too uncomfortable to hunt and gather? Boom. Let’s figure out agriculture. Summer getting a little too hot? Let’s invent air conditioning. No other species has adapted to circumstances like we have. But there is one key ingredient to adaptation: discomfort.
It’s tough to find actual discomfort today. What does this look like for most of us? A full inbox, too many social obligations, and carting the kids around to soccer practice. But, we’ve found pretty incredible ways to adapt to even these discomforts – Siri, dating apps, and virtual assistants.
You’ll Find the Time You Need
Think back to when you were in high school. Your curfew probably felt way too early. You didn’t have enough time to hang out with your friends. How great does an imposed curfew sound today?
Now think about college. An 18-hour semester was a really full schedule. Throw a 20-hour a week part time job or sports on top of that and you probably felt incredibly overwhelmed. Can you imagine how easy an 18-credit hour semester would be today?
Now think about your first job out of college. You probably gained a little autonomy, had daily – maybe weekly – deadlines, and managed your own schedule for the first time ever. You didn’t have a ton of responsibility, probably got some health insurance, and had some decent PTO. Compared to that 18 hour semester, a 40-hour work week and a full inbox felt insanely busy.
Think about the first promotion you got after that first job. You probably started managing people and became a non-exempt employee. Now, you leave when the work is done not when the clock strikes 5 o’clock. You answer emails from home, go in on some weekends, and can’t seem to find time to use your PTO. You probably regularly put in some 60 hour week. This is busy.
If you have kids, think about that first year. You probably slept 3-4 hours a night and still put in a 60 hour work work. You cook a separate meal for the kids, shop for them, cart them around to appointments, and find time for their extra-curricular activities. Looking back on time before kids, you have no idea what you with all that free time.
You Have Time
The point of this thought experiment is to look back on all the stages of your life. In each stage, you felt as though your current schedule and responsibilities were the maximum amount that you could handle. Then, you move on to the next stage of life and the discomfort forces you to adapt and realize that you can make time for things that are important.
So, it stands to reason that right now – in this very instant – you are capable of more than you are doing. Regardless of your life stage, you have the ability to adapt your schedule. You’ve probably done it 3 or 4 times throughout your life and you’re capable of doing it again. The difference between being forced to adapt and choosing to adapt is that you’ll always find a reason to not do the latter. Getting a new job forces you to adjust your schedule. Having kids certainly forces you to find time. Starting a business mandates you to become more productive.
When it comes to nutrition and exercise, the only thing that will force you to adapt is a major medical event. My hope is that it doesn’t take a heart attached or Type II diabetes diagnosis to force you to adapt. I hope you choose to adapt. I hope that you opt to wake up an hour early, scramble some eggs, and do some burpees. After 12 weeks you’ll realize that you actually do have time and that you’re actually more productive and judicious with the hours that you do have.
We’re all the same species, after all.