Looking at the feedback from Phyiscal Presence (a program the uses movement and exercise strategies for mood and focus), we learned some things. Meaningful progress showed up in a few major themes:
- Increases in exercise consistency
We eliminated barriers to getting started and used shorter, more tailored workouts. The result was more consistency, better health outcomes, and more exercise happening overall.
- Stress management
We were able approach stress management as a skill. This moved the conversation away motivation and emotions — and toward controllable, predictable factors. It felt liberating to be able to do this. Even when you don’t use these skills, knowing that you have them in your back pocked is reassuring.
- “Things are going really well. But I can’t tell you exactly why.”
This hilariously vague piece of feedback was the most common type. It was something I heard from at least 10 people — half of our cohort. It’s… broad, right? Here’s the thing: the volume — and style — of feedback made sense in the context of how we were approaching things. That’s really what I want to talk about today.
The Tree of Your Daily Life
If we think about the way that your life flows through decisions throughout the day, we can imagine a branch shape. Most days get you to more or less the same place — but with some important differences.
Early progress is easy
If your daily movement or nutrition habits are not so developed, then you are in luck! It is easy to make progress. Shockingly easy! Not only do you not need fancy or complex systems, they would probably slow you down.
In this stage, small things add up in a major way. Increasing your step count by 1K/day counts. So does adding more fibre or pretty much just touching a weight. All you need is consistency.
It’s so simple that it’s actually counterintuitive for most people.
Later progress gets harder
Once you’re getting toward more advanced levels of exercise and nutrition, you experience diminishing returns. Small improvements require more and more work. If you are a competitive athlete or fitness model, so be it. For everyone else, the trade-offs in time, stress, expense, and outcome are not always worth it.
I’m not saying don’t go there
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that you never pursue higher levels of fitness. I’m just saying that by going after them with tunnel vision, you wind up slowing down progress on the whole. There are other types of fruit on those branches.
The above list includes exercise and nutrition. It also includes:
- Daily movement
- Sleep and regeneration
- Belonging and relational health
- Saying no
- The meta-skills that contribute to improving all of the above.
There’s more. But this concept will get you going.
In all of these areas, low-level progress is easy and accessible. Far more so, anyway, than higher level versions. The quickest progress comes from addressing these things in parallel. Especially in places where they overlap.
“Saying ‘no’ is a form of self-care.”
I’m going to share a story from Rachel, one of our members. The quote above is hers. Just a few days ago, a Zoom meeting went long and began to eat into her lunch hour. She made an executive decision: she turned her video off and went downstairs to make a sandwich. Above, chaos reigned! A tech issue sidelined the other folks. It was tough for her but she decided not to come to the rescue. Instead, she ate her lunch peacefully. She was like a monk. A sandwichy monk!
Well, the tech issue only felt important at the time. It got resolved. Rachel also got her lunch. So, when the day itself ran late, she felt nourished and her mood was good. It was a stressful day but she handled it like a champ. This made for a restful sleep. And that made it easy for her to wake up to join us for a Zoom workout the next day. This kind of momentum feels great!
You can easily imagine the tree branching off in another direction. Rachel feels obligated to help. She misses her lunch. She gets cranky. That makes it hard to focus. A long day gets longer. She finishes feeling tired and wired. Sleep sucks. She misses her workout. Crankiness continues. Frustration comes to the party.
Neither exercise nor nutrition would not have saved her from that path. Not alone. Fortunately, she had a broader suite of skills to draw from. A happier Rachel, by the way, is part of someone else’s web of relational health. So, Rachel’s community (to which I belong) does better when Rachel does better.
“Things are going really well. But I can’t tell you exactly why.”
That’s why I think they went well. We did a lot of easy stuff in our program. We did it consistently. And we did it together.