The great philosopher and social commentator Kevin Hart once said, “Everybody wants to be famous, but nobody wants to do the work.”
This is true not just with fame, but with any goal. Many of us would like to be an expert at something — a true master of our craft. Hell, some of us just want to be good at something or stick with our plan to reach a goal. But why is it so hard to lose weight, or save money, or finish that book, or be famous?
The secret is, they all require the same thing that has propelled Kevin Hart to the top tier of all-time successful comedians. It’s not just “hard work.” More importantly, it’s persistence.
In the fitness community, I work with people every week that are trying to reach certain physical goals. Whether it’s achieving their first pull-up, or losing a few pounds, or simply just trying to become stronger and more mobile, I find myself having the same conversation with them.
“Why is it taking so long?” They ask. “I thought I would have been there by now.”
My go-to response is as follows:
“If you’ve ever planted a garden, or even a flower, you’ve probably experienced a perfect metaphor for what you’re going through. First, you get all excited about your new plans. You have these great seeds and you’re going to have great plants and everyone will envy the new you and your garden is going to be GREAT! You’ve done the research and you know all the best methods. You buy the best tools to till the earth and build the perfect walls to protect your new plant. You bury those seeds in the ground and go to sleep feeling good about yourself. You wake up with the sun the next day and water your plant with delight. Each day goes by with the same process – you pouring water onto the dirt.
“That’s it. There’s no pretty plant, it’s just making a bunch of mud. Those days turn into weeks and still there’s no sign of your plant. You start to ask yourself why you are doing this. There’s no result and you’re tired of waking up early to pour water onto dirt. You are sure that something should have happened by now. Why wouldn’t it have happened by now? You’ve done everything right. You followed all the rules and used all the best practices you read about! All you’ve gotten from it is discouragement and that excitement you once had is long gone. Now it seems futile and you should at least spend that time doing something enjoyable.
“Then, you wake up one day, pissed off and not wanting to walk outside and grab your gardening tools (but you’ve made a habit!). When you go to your plant, you see a tiny green sprout sticking out. Progress. Small, but significant progress. Your motivation is back. What happens next is a hockey-stick curve of growth. Each day your plant grows taller and stronger. What seems like it should take weeks is happening in just days. You’re proud of your plant and your neighbors may even take notice. You make sure you’re watering it at the right times and defending it from pests.
“Then one morning you walk outside and a beautiful bloom sits on top! The next week it starts to bear fruit and if you take care of it, it will continue to bear fruit. Not only that, but the fruit has seeds, which will allow you to continue the process into next season. But first, you have to trust the process.”
Then, after my clients are properly annoyed with me, we go to work on a modified exercise so that someday soon they can get their first pull-up.
After that, I go home and sit at my computer and have the same conversation with myself when I face that blank page and ask, “Why haven’t I finished my book yet?”
Ask any successful person, in any field, what the key to long-term achievement has been and their answer will be the same: persistence. Don’t stop. Even when you’re full of doubt, depressed, and don’t want to do the work, trust in the process. Trust in yourself.