The Mistake You’re Not Learning From

We hear these kinds of phrases all the time:

“Learn from your mistakes”

“It was a learning experience”

“I am ok, because I learned something from it”.

Totally true.

In fact it will be true for the rest of your life. But part of progress is making different mistakes. New ones. Not repeating the same ones. Progress is fighting new battles.

I was sitting around watching Breaking Bad Season 3 where Mr. Chilean Laundromat boss has invited Walter White over for dinner to offer him some friendly partner  to partner business advice. When Walter asks what that advice is he says:

“Don’t make the same mistake twice.” 

Pretty sound advice when your business partner is a drug dealer of epic proportions.

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More times then I care to admit, I have let the same mistake be repeated in my own life. Like the time I had to pay for towing, again, because I didn’t just sit down and renew my roadside assistance.

There comes a point when you have to stop getting the same shit wrong. You need to win your battles on your way to winning the war. Sometimes you will lose the battle, but it can be what’s needed to teach you something. Bryan Chung posted a comment on a Facebook post of mine that I particularly liked. I was asking why someone can be doing everything “right” and still not make progress (besides the obvious that what’s “right” might not BE right for them!) He said:

“They’ve replaced their actual goal with the goal of completing rituals. Battles won but wars lost.”

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It’s one thing to make mistakes, its another to keep making them. Getting out of your comfort zone and all that jazz is really great in theory and really hard in practice. You literally have to chase the unknown just to stay on top of that growth factor. And every part of you might fight against it. You start feeling resentful. You start saying “but” more. You start breathing out more forcefully when someone criticizes, challenges or questions your beliefs or actions.

Maybe you just squirmed in your seat reading this.

But THAT, that moment right there is THE moment to say “If I don’t want to make this mistake again I will act now”.

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You’re behind your computer and no one can see you. Perhaps this is a great time to admit to yourself a nagging “mistake” you keep repeating for no good reason.

There is no shame in admitting you are wrong or stubborn about something in your life that is hindering your health or progress. Say it out loud now and get it over with. You can’t effect change without acceptance of what is right now. Once you can say “this is what is happening”, well then you can start figuring out how to change what is going on right now. The future can then take care of itself a bit better.

The Alchemist is one of my favorite books. I got it a few months ago, and am on the third read. On this topic it said;

“The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.”

That is the simplest assurance you can give yourself of a successful future. “I will pay attention now.”

Below is a list of some common battles I see people stuck fighting when it comes to health, weight loss, fitness etc. If a situation or habit seems to keep popping up in your life, don’t find ways around it. Challenge it.

1. You’re still bingeing or having “cheat meals”, all the time. You have low level cravings and think about food all the time. Food and planning your food is a major part of your day, and it never seems to get easier, and you can’t admit you are stuck in a cycle (that’s for “disordered eaters”).

2. You are religious about tracking diet and training, but your progress is not appearing. You do everything right, but you are not getting what you want aka getting leaner, losing fat (most common). You seek out new and stricter programs.

3. You don’t REALLY track your training. You have an “idea” of what your training is, perhaps you even printed out a program or excel sheet, but you can’t consistently look back and say what you’ve done and the progress you’ve made.

4. Blowing off sleep even though you keep saying you should get more, you never do.

5. You still can’t get ________ (insert training goal here). Have you ever ACTUALLY focused on certain areas that you say you could improve on, but never map out a simple plan to?

6. Negative body talk crops up a lot (subtly) even though you claim to “really be working on it”. You subtly seem to be more of a victim of your diet and training routine, than a beneficiary. You know you should “love” your body, but you have no idea what this means to you personally.

7. Injuries and dysfunctions, imbalances, asymmetries, etc are a big deal in your training. You always seem to be having to fix something and getting injured.

Here’s a personal example:

I spent the last semester (December to May) averaging 5-6  hours of sleep a night. I personally, can directly correlate that with worse skin, irritability, low-level constant exhaustion, etc. Of course I told myself that I had to get to sleep earlier. But I never actually did. Bear in mind I was training hard as well, and trying to keep up with work and school (which is why I was averaging on the low end). It wasn’t just sleep of course, but once school was over and I got 8-9 hours a night, I found I didn’t spend the weekend asleep. I used to have to sleep in Sat and Sun mornings, sometimes till 1 PM. Thank god for patient kids. Now that I get more sleep in during the week, I can actually get up at a normal time on the weekends to have time to clean the house, do the laundry and all those weekend “jobs” as well as actually play with the kids and do enjoyable stuff. Staying up an extra hour every night didn’t translate into time saved and made me less productive on the weekends, more irritable and “stressed” feeling. Of course I knew that, sorta. But it was the kind of solution you sneakily ignore in your own head, cause well, sometimes we feel we have SUCH GOOD REASONS for not changing.

Here’s a couple things to think about if you recognized yourself in the list above:

> Admit that you are not ready or willing to change what you say you will. Maybe it “sounds cool” or like a good idea but you don’t actually want to lay out a plan to do it. That’s ok. Some of the things I have ended up doing were a result of saying “I want to..” enough so that I was finally compelled to formulate a plan, but often things  we think we “should” do are an additional mental burden because we are not actually planning to work on it. If you can honest about what you will invest in RIGHT NOW, you can get rid of the mental burden of those things you won’t do anything about for the time being. This gets rid of guilt and frees up focus for the things you will act on.

> Make a plan for one thing at a time. No really. ONE thing. Choose the simplest component you can bite off now. For example, I have said I want to do a freestanding handstand for awhile now, but I really didn’t lay out a plan to do it. I sat down and did it the other day:

1. Read a gymnastics progression for handstands (I have been able to do a wall one for awhile, but fixed a couple form issues).

2. Practice handstands at least every other day and build up to 1 min hold (I am now at a firm 1 minute hold).

3. Practice absolute stillness in my handstand. So I can’t rack up 20 seconds wobbling (I can NOW! I started this blog post 2 months ago). The goal right now is holding it perfectly straight and still for 1 min.

4. No aggressive kicking up to the wall. I want to control the ascent and descent so eventually I can do a straight leg pike to handstand (check back in a year ;))

> Change your vocabulary. Refuse to use excuse language. Resist the urge to “explain” to yourself or others why certain progress isn’t happening, or why you are limited. Decide that you won’t talk about a problem unless it revolves around the solution you are formulating for it.

> Use “I am”. Corniest suggestion ever, but since I have been doing it for two years now (thanks to Oliver Vadnais) and have seen  and felt a change in my own attitude, professional growth, opportunities and jobs, bear with me. Don’t say “I will…”, “I want to be….” “I will try….”, “I hope….” or any of those. Use only “I am” and “I do”. I first used this when I got the job at the high school and was freaked out about being a strength coach and felt extremely inadequate and unknowledgeable. I wrote a little list of what I aspired to be and it included “I am a strength and conditioning coach. I am good at what I do. ” Of course I wasn’t, but what happened? I started acting like I was, and THAT made all the difference in how I searched out education, improved my skills, and took pride in my work. I was a strength coach. I acted like one. I became one.  I am not “the best”, but do you see my point? I have suggested this little tactic to my diet coaching clients as well. I have several of these lists lying around and read them daily. They list the “who” I am focusing on being.  The focus changes, as it will over the years, but give it a try. It all starts in our head anyway, and this is one of the simplest activities you can do to make this concept real to you.

“At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

Paulo Coelho

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  1. Good timing on this great article. I needed this.

    Thanks. Jt

  2. This is a tremendous post Joy Victoria! It is overflowing with gems. I am going to use your work in this essay to power through 2013. Thank you and keep up the fantastic, hard work.

  3. I keep making mistake 1&2 (1 being that i binge on healthy foods, I have orthorexia, I’m not eating cake) that you listed … The reason I keep making this mistake is I don’t know how to not make the mistake. I don’t know what the solution is. It’s not like when I forget my wallet so I realize to not make this mistake again I need to find a way to remember my wallet. I have not idea how to break out of the cycle because I don’t know what the solution is…any ideas?

    • Shay, have you considered throwing out all the “rules”, and not giving your mind and body a break from such strict conditions regarding diet? People often call this intuitive dieting. If healthy foods are not the problem (you know how to make good choices), than maybe you can try upping protein for satiety, switching meal timing (when do you get cravings?) or being flexible with your carb sources (including foods you like more often). Often being very strict with our diets, makes us more resentful and less likely to adhere because we are not working with your body, but forcing it to a method that we think it “needs”.

  4. Hey Joy miss your posts. When are you doing a new blog post? Can you do one on what is healthy eating and eating for performance? i want to get stronger, stay healthy, have a better immune system. I keep making bad food choices since doing it it fits your macros and now i’m suffering for those food choices. I have bad skin, horrible ache, sleep bad, and feel like shit all the time. I need help I want to be strong and look and feel amazing

    • Ameena,

      IIFYM is not leeway to eat crap. So stop thinking it is :). All food is macros whether you choose to count or not, you still need to make proper food choices to get your balance of nutrients.

  5. Hey joy is it fine to train everyday? I like to train hard but don’t want to be over training?

    • Joanne, if you are not dieting, and getting your rest, you certainly can, that just depends on your goals. Cycling the intensity of your training from day to day is a good idea. Do some research on undulating periodization (fancy name, simple concept).

  6. Ryan Scribailo says:

    Awesome article Joy! I got a lot out of that. I will definitely be picking up The Alchemist.

    Have you ever read The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer? It’s another really good book that talks about learning to live in the present moment. I think you would really like it.

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  1. […] The mistake you’re not learning from by Joy Victoria (<Click)- Sometimes just a change in mindset and approach can help you stop spinning your wheels with your workout routines. You very well might be training hard, but the other stressors in your life just aren’t helping at all. Joy is an amazingly smart woman with a wealth of knowledge, and is strong as shit to boot. This article gives you some of the mistakes she kept making that negatively affected her body and training, and offers some ways to sidestep these recurring pitfalls many of us make. […]