I’m not a particularly muscular guy, so why on Earth would I take a challenge to do 15,000 push-ups and sit-ups? Maybe because it's time to make improvements for life?
Some close friends and I were setting new years goals on January 1st and we all committed to doing 50 push-ups and 50 sit-ups for 300 days during the year. Why 300 and not 365? Honestly, we weren’t in prime physical fitness shape and (as with any workout regimen) we needed to take occasional days off to rest and recover.
I’ll be honest, it was hard at first. The initial three weeks were the worst. Even in my best shape, I could only do 25 push-ups or 40 sit-ups at a time, but 50 was a challenge- much less doing 6+ straight days of these exercises even when my muscles were fatigued from the day(s) before and were begging me to stop. I pushed through literally, by breaking my sets into reps of 10-15. This, of course, made the exercises less difficult, but also reduced the fitness benefits …and felt like I was cheating on the motives that inspired our goal in the first place. But you know what? I grew stronger day by day and was making progress toward the bigger purpose.
Come February the workouts became easier – some days were still better than others. It’s now August and I’ve completed over 10,000 of each exercise. It’s hard for me to believe… 10,000!? 2016 Ross would have laughed if you told him he would do over 10,000 push-ups and 10,000 sit-ups in 2017. It boggles my mind how the determination to making small incremental steps each day can add up to big results. The first step is getting started and taking action.
It’s no coincidence that first quote on my list of inspirational quotes is in line with this topic:
“I didn’t like any of my early morning runs but I liked the idea of being a world champion.” -Muhammad Ali.
In fact, many of the quotes in that post also align with this topic on making improvements for life (#3, #4, #5, #10, etc.). It’s clear that small, calculated daily progress is key to the success of those that we look up to.
The lesson: small improvements (compounding 1% advances) each day sums up to monumental outcomes. The key to slow and steady progress is determining what you value about the end goal. Taking time to develop a vision for your future creates inner motivation for you to make incremental improvements even on days when you don’t feel like it. I remember in February when I achieved my 50/50 challenge 16 straight days in a row I couldn’t believe it! Just a few weeks earlier my arms were struggling through each rep and now I’ve done 800 straight. The feeling of accomplishment on that day and others that later grew the streak all the way to28 motivated me to keep going. Exercising each day didn’t feel like a chore anymore. It felt empowering. It felt rewarding. It felt like I could do anything.
As of today, I am on pace for nearly 16,000 of each exercise for the year. You better believe I’m going to hit that mark.
What are your dreams?
Now I didn’t write this post to pat myself on the back or to criticize those sitting on the sofa. I’m certainly not special. If I can pick up a small incremental habit and compound it into larger successes then you can (and should!) absolutely do the same. Cardiovascular fitness has always been a priority for me, but building muscle certainly hasn’t- until now. What are your dreams that are stuck on your someday-maybe list? How do you wish you were spending your time instead of working at a job that isn’t fulfilling or rewarding? What changes do you need to make in order to turn your dreams into reality? What skills do you need to master to create a new career for yourself?
What 1% improvements are you making each day to get you there?
Sit down and write 10 things that you would like to improve about your life. I generally start with an evaluation of my spiritual, emotional, physical and mental fitness levels.What is limiting my earning potential? How are my relationships with my spouse, family, friends or colleagues? How am I making the Earth better than how it was given to me? What is the biggest detriment to my daily happiness? What is limiting my freedom to live life on my terms? What is taxing my energy levels from hour to hour? What causes me to have vices to balance out each day?
I encourage you to take time and reflect on the ten improvements for life that you listed above. You needn’t go after all of them at once, but remember- small 1% changes each and every day combine to make large-scale improvements over time.
Make 1-2 small changes today to kick start new daily habits and a new trajectory toward your goals.
Small Changes – Improvements for Life
Identify an area or two that you’re ready to start improving today. Break down the causes and identify steps that you can achieve to remedy them.If any of the steps seem like too much to tackle on a daily basis then break them down even further. Remember, each day needs to stretch your abilities in order to drive positive progress but shouldn’t be so big that they end up wearing you out. Recall, my friends and I set our 50/50 goal to be 300 of 365 days to allow ourselves time to recover and to make flexibility for life’s uncertainties. If you try to do this every day and miss 1 or 2, it’s easy to just completely give up on your goal.Leave room for you to be human and for life to have some adventure.
Finally, who is holding you accountable to achieve your goals? Just last night I was watching Hard Knocks with one of my friends who is in on the push-up challenge and who was also struggling when we first started out. “Hey Grant, how is your progress on the 50/50 coming along?” He smiled back at me. “Easy peasy, man. Knocking them out each day and it feels great!” Doesn’t that sound like an answer you would want to give your friends and loved ones? Identify the baby steps to new and improved habits and make it happen!