Change takes time. Your mind does not really comprehend the flow of time. That’s the main reason why you struggle.
You live in the current moment. When you go back to past thinking about certain events, you don’t treat it like history, but you re-live it once again. That’s why you still hold on to old traumas.
When you dream about the future, you expect it to materialize right now. Or, very, very soon. This is the only time horizon in the future that kids (and your subconscious) understand.
But the change takes time. The true power of The Slight Edge in my life laid in conveying this point through my thick skull.
The other point is also very important: time passes anyway. No matter if you do something about your life consciously, in an organized way or not, time flies. Change happens. However, if you don’t choose your actions, then you won’t change your direction. The change will be something that happen TO you, not THROUGH you.
While it’s an intellectually entertaining idea and one that makes a lot of sense, it’s also very hard to internalize because of the immediacy of the human mind.
Why Do You Give up?
I explained the main reason in “The Art of Persistence” – because you expect results too soon. Oh, not consciously, no! You are not dumb!
You know that acquiring cash to buy a house takes years. You understand that losing fat that’s been accumulating for years takes months. You comprehend that healing a neglected relationship with your spouse takes more than a few dinners.
But your subconscious brain doesn’t get it at all. Tell a small child something will happen “soon” and you quickly discover what they think ‘soon’ is. You will be asked about the same thing in a minute or the child will forget about the whole thing.
Your logical brain fully understands that change takes time. Your emotional brain is the problem here. Lack of expected results quickly becomes resentment and you have a really hard time sticking to your disciplines. They become dreaded chores, not vehicles to success and happiness. And you quit.
Prepare for the long haul. Your life’s timespan is measured in decades, not days. This is how The Slight Edge works, in decades. Here is the chart from the book:
The chart shows a simplified version of reality to illustrate a principle: “keep doing what you are doing, and you will end up a failure or success, depending on what you are doing.”
However, the reality of the Slight Edge has a time axis attached to it. Have a look at my progress in the last few years:
It’s wrong. Adding a time axis to it doesn’t make sense. 2012 is waaaay far away in the past. It should looks like this:
Here are the lessons from this chart:
1. Change takes time.
The simplified chart is overly optimistic. You may think that it’s just enough to keep going for a few weeks or months to get the proverbial success you want from life. While it’s true that you will get some results in that timespan, the true reward will arrive within years, not days.
2. Personal philosophy is the key.
Without The Slight Edge, you are sentenced to bounce inside the ‘philosophy’s channel.’ This phenomenon was briefly discussed in the book. You use the same mechanisms that drive you to success to get yourself out of failure. When you are heading toward rock bottom – and see it clearly – you suddenly activate your brain and start putting in a consistent action that gets you away from a dreadful fate.
But when you no longer see the danger, complacency creeps in immediately. You abandon your disciplines and you’re heading to the bottom like a rock again. You choose today’s comfort over tomorrow’s comfort, because without a solid personal philosophy your emotional brain dictates your actions; it doesn’t understand the future and cherishes the present comfort.
3. Complacency is the worst curse.
Part of The Slight Edge philosophy is to always strive for more or better. There is nothing wrong with wanting better health, relationships or more business and money.
However, complacency raises its ugly head when you reach the level of ‘so-so’. Your health was in shambles, but you lost 30 pounds, so you can go back to your affair with chocolate. Your business was almost bankrupt, but you worked hard and saved it. Now you can stop saving and spend some of that hard-earned money.
The problem is that you stop doing what took you out of the hole and go back to your old ways. You switch from the upward curve to the downward curve and you don’t even notice till you find yourself at the low point again.
It’s because you are not used to considering things in the meaningful time horizon. Once the pain is gone, your mind stops at the present moment.
Every year when I write The Slight Edge report I’m stunned by how much my life has changed in the past twelve months. I barely notice those changes on everyday basis. I often delve over small failures, fatigue and all the other unpleasant sensations of the present moment. Then I look back at my life a year ago and I realize how much of the positive difference my daily disciplines brought.
Keep going. Keep doing what you are doing and what works for you. Do it whether you are in a painful situation or not. Be very suspicious of comfort. A pinch here and there will not kill you, but comfort has an uncanny tendency to snowball.
So, no matter how you feel, do your workout. No matter how you feel, attend your classes. No matter how you feel, do your job. Show up every day.
Stop looking for results today or tomorrow. Design your disciplines, so they are a reward in themselves. Keep them simple and relatively enjoyable.
I hate exercises. Seriously, I dread each time I’m going to elevate my heart rate and break a sweat. Yet, every single day at least twice a day I do my short intense workout. But I designed my workout to fit my lifestyle and life preferences.
I can force myself to do a short and insanely intense exercise like a series of consecutive pullups. On the other hand, I never run longer than 1.5 miles and I never intend to. I cannot force myself to run for an extended period of time (read: over 5 minutes). Not on a regular basis anyway.
I derive other benefits from the type of workout I do. Every time I try to beat my previous record. I strive for something more, so the workout feels less like a chore. And pretty often I break one record or another which makes me feel like a winner. I’ve beat over 200 personal fitness records in the last 5.5 years.
Make your daily disciplines a part of your lifestyle.
Show up every day and do it without reasoning with yourself.
Do your daily disciplines the same way you brush your teeth or fill your gas tank- without much thinking or debating.
It’s just something that needs to be done.
Then your upward movement will continue, and next year you will be amazed by the change that happened. Remember, change takes a lot of time. Slow and steady wins the race, with the emphasis on ‘steady.’
Keep doing the right things for the long haul. If you persevere, one day you look back and absorb the lesson on a gut level: It really works! It is really worth to do what’s uncomfortable and progress! Then you will become a true Slight Edger.
5 thoughts on “The Reality of The Slight Edge”
I don’t even know how I got on your email list, Michal, but this is really, really good stuff–stuff I need to hear every day until it sinks deep into the gray matter. At 55, I don’t like to hear that “success measured in decades” business, but I know it’s true, and sticking with this mindset has been a problem for me . . . for decades. I pray God gives me enough remaining decades to see the upward turn spread across every area of my life.
Just bought The Art of Persistence and looking forward to pouring through it. Thanks!
You subscribed at the beginning of this year. My book was included in a big giveaway. You got my book about personal mission statement.
Enjoy the book!
Dear Michal: First of all I wish to tell you that you have made a big difference in my life. I am mexican and live in Mexico. 82 years old and have written 10 books. My life mission is to make a difference in education but so far it has been like a Sisifo experience. A few days ago I read again Power Up your Self Talk and it renewed my inspiration to keep on fighting. By the way, this year I began to write my greatfulness diary using cursive writing that I learned when I was a child and changed it to print writing. It has been a wonderful experience. Best regards. manuel
Manuel: Thanks a lot for this cordial comment. It means a lot to me.
Good writing, Michal. I look forward to getting to know you better through here and ISI.