When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher had a rule that she would not answer “what if” questions from her students. So, on the first day of class, we were instructed not to ask any question that began with the phrase “what if…” Of course, fifth graders are a clever bunch, and we would try desperately to figure out some other way to reword the questions we just had to know the answers to.
“Mrs. Smith, suppose Christopher Columbus hadn’t sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and discovered the New World? What do you think would have happened if…?”
“Quiet, Billy. You’ll need to raise your hand and be called on if you want to speak. And you know I don’t answer what if questions.”
At the time, it was more entertaining than frustrating since it made for a great game of tease the teacher, and we really didn’t care that much. Plus, we figured our teacher was just a cranky lady who didn’t want to be bothered by young, inquisitive minds because it would distract us from adhering to her strict curriculum.
Of course, I now understand the real reason why she didn’t want to answer “what if” questions. There was no time for it! When you’ve only got a 45 minute class, and you have to fit everything into that short period, there’s just no time for exploring the realm of the hypothetical, which can coincidentally take a very long time for children. Well, at least that was probably one of her reasons.
And now, many years later, I’m experiencing a great sense of irony. You see, as a fitness coach, I receive “what if” questions all the time. Only these aren’t coming from fifth graders. They’re coming from my adult clients. And if I may be honest, I’m in the same situation as my teacher was. I just don’t have time to explore the realm of the hypothetical.
Now, that might position me as an impatient, stuck-up jerk, but here’s the thing. My clients don’t have time for it either, but many of them just don’t know it. You see, they think that getting an answer to this question that’s been burning in their minds for days, weeks, or months will be THE ANSWER they’ve been waiting for. If they only knew this ONE THING, then they might finally be able to achieve their health, fitness, and body composition goals.
But that’s not exactly the truth. Because asking hypothetical questions doesn’t get us very far. And some might argue that it doesn’t get us anywhere. Having wisdom and an understanding of philosophy is great, but it’s useless if you don’t practice it. And this is what I see so many people doing these days in their quest for better health and fitness. They’re searching tirelessly for some special, secret knowledge that supposedly only a few elite people are privy to – and coincidentally, are often selling for only three easy payments of $99.95!
And this search for knowledge is a scapegoat. It’s a form of procrastination. It’s giving in to what Stephen Pressfield calls Resistance – that internal struggle that prevents us from doing and being what we want and need to do to succeed. Because the fact of the matter is that most of us already know what we need to do in order to get healthier, more fit, leaner, etc. We have the knowledge for how to do these things, and have for a very long time. And if we don’t know, them we either know someone who already does or can find someone who can help without too much trouble.
And yet, we are still struggling to GET this stuff. To make it happen. And I think part of the problem is that we are stuck in an endless loop within the realm of the hypothetical, instead of spending our time and energy taking action on those things which we know to be true: that exercise is good for us, that natural food is best, that we need rest, that stress needs to be managed. We get fixated on what we could be doing instead of focusing on what we should be doing. You. Me. Right here. Today. You know… reality.
To make matters worse, as a culture, we’re so arrogant to think that because we’ve seen great advances in research, industry and technology, that we can trick our biology into doing things that are not human, and many times, not possible. We look for special hacks to solve our ever-growing, fundamental problems – mind hacks, body hacks, stress hacks, tech hacks, etc. As if some special food eaten at exactly the right time, a “secret” 4-minute workout protocol, or an app can reverse all the damage we’ve done to our body’s and deliver our fitness goals on a silver platter.
Obviously, that’s not how it works, and the people who understand this are the ones who have the wisdom to succeed. Of course, wisdom doesn’t always correlate with action because taking action is hard even for the wisest among us. But that’s what it takes. And maybe, that’s all it ever will take.
So, how do you get unstuck in your fitness pursuits? You start moving. You start taking deliberate, focused action – even if only a little bit at first. You stop asking all the wrong questions and start declaring what you will do – today, right now.
And then, you Make Things Happen.
“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” – Friedrich Engels
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie
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